Then-No. 14 Duke continued its dominance thus far in the spring racing season with an impressive sweep at the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invite on Melton Hill Lake in Tennessee. Duke’s six crews won all 18 of their races March 19-20. The racing was conducted in a round-robin style, with a variety of matchups between different crews throughout the weekend, designed to create plenty of cross-regional racing. The Blue Devils showcased their speed against crews from conferences such as the Big Ten, ACC and SEC.
“It was a really good day for our team," head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno said of her team. "We came into the event pretty tired, we've done a lot of really hard training over the last few weeks and it was a good opportunity for us to get down the race course and figure things out about our race plan.”
The Blue Devils did not try anything too fancy at this regatta and their emphasis on solid, fundamental rowing won the day. As the season shifts into championship racing, the Blue Devils will surely look to add more detailed elements to their race plan geared toward each particular crew’s strengths, but for now, the focus is on rowing together. Rowing is a unique sport in that individual talent holds little importance in comparison with synchrony and rowing technique. The speed of a crew is almost entirely reliant on the connection between the coxswain and the rowers, and the overall crew’s ability to move together as efficiently as possible.
“Moving well together is a huge priority for us right now, we're getting into more finer detail selection," said Cooke Carcagno. "Overall, we have some pretty strong groupings, but now its kind of figuring out the nuts and bolts of each crew and just really looking into where we can gain a couple inches here and there."
“From a technical standpoint, [the focus] is always rowing cleaner and better," Cooke Carcagno added. "But that cohesion is what is really going to get us down the race course.”
Another interesting takeaway from this squad’s performance at the Oak Ridge Invite is their depth. Not only did Duke’s Varsity 8 post fast times, but all six of the team's crews won their events and posted times that would have pushed the category in front of it. Duke’s Varsity 8 won decisively Sunday with a time of 6:26.453, beating second place by more than four seconds, while the Second Varsity 8 posted a time of 6:38.785, a speed that would have been more than competitive in the Varsity 8 event, considering that third place Navy’s Varsity 8 posted nearly the exact same time.
In the four-person boats, Duke’s depth was even more apparent. The Varsity 4 for the Blue Devils won Sunday with a time of 7:14.718, and Duke’s Second Varsity 4 posted a time of 7:29.187, which won the event and would have placed third in the Varsity 4 event. Although times are not directly comparable across races due to changing weather and water conditions, these numbers are still indicative of an incredible performance from all of the Blue Devils. Duke’s top-to-bottom speed this past weekend gives the team much to be excited about moving forward.
“From every single boat in the boathouse, I thought they did a really good job of executing," Cooke Carcagno said.
“We have front-end speed for our program and I think we have good depth, which as a coach are the 2 things you really want to have at this point in the season,” Cooke Carcagno added.
The Blue Devils are returning much of their talent from last season, and are looking to continue their success in the coming races and into the ACC and NCAA Championships.
Cooke Carcagno’s message to her team is simple: “Enjoy the success, but the hard races are yet to come.”
Up next for Duke is the Big Ten/ACC Double Dual in Columbus, Ohio April 2.
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