After months of intensive training, Duke raced against some of the best programs in the nation in the Blue Devils’ first regatta of the season.
Duke traveled to Princeton, N.J., to compete in the Princeton Chase on Lake Carnegie Sunday. The Blue Devils took three varsity-eight boats, four varsity fours, and a novice eight to compete in the women’s open division three-mile race. Top-five finishes from the V8 boat as well as the V4 and 2V4 boats showed Duke has what it takes to compete with the nation's best coming off the Blue Devils' first-ever appearance at the NCAA championship.
“We’ve made up a lot of ground on Princeton, Yale, Brown, and [Virginia], and I was really happy to see our three eights place in the top five with those teams,” Duke head coach Megan Cooke Caracagno said. “That’s fast company. This is a good place to check in with what we are doing, and where our heads are at.”
The Blue Devils placed second and fifth in the women’s V4 race. The top V4 boat, consisting of junior coxswain Meagan Lew, sophomore Isabel Ruby-Hill, junior Jessica Findlay, senior Elizabeth Horne and sophomore Shannon Tierney took second at 17:04.080, about 38 seconds behind Princeton's A boat. Although Duke had trouble building intensity in the first half of last year's race, the Blue Devils' top V4 held a commanding lead ahead of the Tigers' B boat that finished third at 17:16.402 this year.
Duke’s 2V4 boat wasn’t far behind, taking fifth at 17:18.276 behind the Princeton 2V4 and 3V4 boats. After hitting the first split behind Princeton’s 4V4 boat by .446 seconds, the Blue Devils pulled through in the last minute to beat the Tigers by just 0.382 seconds.
The other Blue Devil fours had decent performances in the 27-boat event. Duke’s 3V4 initially was off to a strong start in 15th place by the first split, but caught a snag in their pace by the end, finishing 16th at 17:54.165—just one second behind 15th-place Central Florida’s 2V4. The Blue Devil 4V4 ended up 20th with a time of 18:16.167.
Duke's top V8 boat put in an impressive showing, placing fifth out of 59 boats at 14:41.829 behind A boats from Brown, Virginia, Yale and Princeton—traditionally top-five programs. At the first split, the Blue Devils were lagging six seconds behind Yale’s 2V8 with a time of 8:26.122, but managed to steal the fifth-place slot by just 0.308 seconds ahead of the Bulldogs.
At last year’s Princeton Chase, Duke’s top varsity eight barely secured 17th-place with a 15:31.2 finish.
“I want to come back here in a year and try to hit top three,” Cooke Carcagno said. “Maybe [we’ll] take a run for first in a category. For right now, we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Blue Devil’s 2V8 had a consistent performance, securing a 17th-place finish with a time of 15:21.628. Duke’s 3V8 had a slow start behind Virginia’s 4V8, but ultimately pushed ahead to take 27th at 15:40.005.
Duke’s sole novice boat was pitted right against North Carolina. After initially holding a lead of 0.359 seconds at the split, the Blue Devils fell behind and took 9th place at 17:48.487, fewer than four seconds behind the Tar Heels.
“Fall is getting stronger with everything,” Cooke Carcagno said. “[There’s] no moving backwards with what we’ve accomplished. Team goals since the beginning of the year remain the same: being a top 10 team, getting another bid to NCAA… and doing all this with zero negativity.”
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Duke will have one more shot in the fall at winning events Nov. 13 in Charlottesville, Va., for the Rivanna Romp before hitting the meat of its schedule in the spring. After spending a winter training, the Blue Devils will have five major races in the spring, leading up to the ACC championship May 14 and what Duke hopes will be a second straight NCAA championship appearance.
“We will have to push ourselves to hit these goals,” Cooke Carcagno said. “But we can do it.”