Amidst a field of competition that is getting better every year, Duke’s perseverance and commitment have been the key to continued success.
The Blue Devils earned the bronze medal Saturday at the ACC Championship hosted by Clemson on Lake Hartwell. This is the 10th time that Duke has accomplished this, and the impressive performance was capped off with an outright victory in the Second Varsity Four event.
The regatta’s weather conditions were favorable, providing the opportunity for all crews to row cleanly. In this fast-paced environment, the Blue Devils posted very impressive times. The Varsity Eight rowed 2000 meters with a time of 6:29.505, placing third behind Virginia and Syracuse. The Second Varsity Eight finished with a time of 6:31.047, trailing only Virginia and Syracuse, while the Third Varsity Eight and Varsity Four both finished second to the Cavaliers with respective times of 6:45.170 and 7:12.901. Duke’s sole champion of the weekend was its Second Varsity Four, which posted a winning time of 7:11.587.
"It is a perfect example of the depth and winning culture of the team," head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno said of her team’s performance. "We worked really hard to make sure we aren't just fast in one boat but that all of our boats are pushing toward the finish line together. I'm really proud of the team. I think they did a great job."
In addition to the overall team success, Duke’s victory in the Second Varsity Four marks the program's second gold medal in any event at the ACC Championship, with the previous gold coming from Duke’s Varsity Four in 2019. This Second Varsity Four crew was coxed by freshman Audrey Kline, with the four rowers being Rivca Chaver—who stroked the crew—Sydney Cikovic, Shae Simpson and Noelle Fuchs.
“I think they were definitely under-seeded so it was really fun to see them beat their seed," Cooke Carcagno said of the Second Varsity Four. "It is important to remember the competitive nature of our team and how good our athletes are and how close they are in their ability. The Varsity Four and 2V4 have been trading seats all year long. It was like we had two Varsity Fours."
The ability of the two four-rower crews, or “fours” to compete with each other throughout the season was clearly instrumental to the success of both, providing constant competition and pushing both to get faster. Since eight-oared boats typically move faster than four-oared boats by nature of having more rowers, it must have been very important for these two fours to have each other for competition and reference.
"There wasn't a day that those two fours haven't been trying to pass each other by and beat each other," Cooke Carcagno said of the two fours. "They are lucky to have each other to compete with and that has been paramount to our success in that category."
Moving forward down the racecourse that is the season, the Blue Devils look ahead to the NCAA Championships in Sarasota, Fla., featuring the nation’s fastest 22 teams May 27-29. Duke earned an at-large bid Tuesday and will look to improve upon last year’s program-best finish of 16th. The Blue Devils will be racing in the regatta’s three categories of Varsity Eight, Second Varsity Eight and Varsity Four, with respective seeds of 15, 14, and 12.
“It is no small feat to go to the NCAA championship at this level of college rowing in the United States," Cooke Carcagno said of her team’s selection. "It's more competitive now than I've ever seen it before. I’m very impressed that our team has gotten this bid and continued to stay at the forefront of women’s rowing right now."
Given this high-pressure event that features college’s best rowers, Duke will no doubt look to ramp up its effort and tenacity to get an advantage against the other crews.
“I think we are rowing pretty well and are pretty technically savvy," Cooke Carcagno said. "I think NCAA’s will be determined by how hard you pull. At the end of the day, the pressure and tenacity that we provide our boat on the racecourse is going to dictate most of our performance at this point. We've done a really good job but I think we can do more, and that’s just simply pulling harder, and I think we can do that."
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