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Duke rowing wraps up fall season with successful showing at Rivanna Romp

Head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno's squad showed out at the Rivanna Romp this past weekend.
Head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno's squad showed out at the Rivanna Romp this past weekend.

Head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno says the team is very vocal about what its goals are: win an ACC title and place top-10 at the NCAA Championships.

But to do the former Duke would have to usurp Virginia, which has taken the conference crown 20 times in the championship’s 21 years of existence, including 11 in a row.

It’s a tall task, but one the Blue Devils showed last weekend that they’re capable of accomplishing. 

Duke impressed across all of its final three races of the fall Sunday at the Rivanna Romp in Charlottesville, Va., placing second in the Frosh/Novice 8+ race and finishing with two boats in the top four of the Varsity 4+ race. But the most promising outcome for Cooke Carcagno’s squad came in the Varsity 8+ race.

There, the Blue Devils’ A boat crossed the line just three seconds behind Virginia’s A boat, finishing at 13:37 compared to the Cavaliers’ 13:34 on the latter’s home course.

“If anyone's going to handle that course really well, it's going to be the home team,” Cooke Carcagno said. “And to see our top boat within a length of those guys, I thought that was a really good sign.”

Furthermore, Duke’s B boat placed third in the 22-boat race with a time of 13:49 while its C boat took sixth at 14:00, showcasing the Blue Devils’ depth across the board.

“The following B boat and C boat also had really respectable times against that A boat, which just shows me that we have a lot of good players, and we have a lot of really good options that can continue to contribute to our top end speed,” Cooke Carcagno said. “So that was really, really exciting to see as a coach—you never want to see that top boat out by itself.”

Even disregarding the results, this year’s fall slate was already set to be a step forward from last year, when Duke wasn’t able to compete in any official races in the fall due to COVID-19. Thus, any competition serves as added preparation for when the season truly gears up in the spring.

But to accomplish the goals the Blue Devils have set for themselves, Cooke Carcagno says these next several weeks will be essential. With final exams and winter break upcoming, the team doesn’t have much more official practice time together before next semester, meaning much of the responsibility of staying focused on their goals will fall on the athletes themselves.

“The team really falls into the leadership hands, and the leaders amongst the seniors and our captains have done an outstanding job so far,” Cooke Carcagno said. “And now they kind of take the role of guiding the team to the next level. So the team really has to kind of provide a lot of ownership right now. We're in eight hours, we're in final exams, people are gonna go home for the holidays—it becomes a little bit more of an individual sport. But I would say with the momentum and the leadership of our captains and our seniors, I think we're going to be in a good spot.”

Naturally, Duke’s first action in the spring will come against its arch-rivals again, with a scrimmage against Virginia set for Feb. 26. Until then, the Blue Devils will just have to ensure their goals of being the best team in the ACC and one of the top 10 teams in the country remain in the back of their mind.

“We've done a good job, everything that we're doing is good,” Cooke Carcagno said. “I just think the next few months are critical for achieving that mission.”

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