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Freshmen star for Duke rowing in fall finale at Rivanna Romp

Duke's Novice Eight led the way for the Blue Devils at the Rivanna Romp
Duke's Novice Eight led the way for the Blue Devils at the Rivanna Romp

“Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” While the Blue Devils were certainly not on Tom Stoppard’s mind at the time, the sentiment was loud and clear Sunday at the Rivanna Romp in Charlottesville, Va.

In its final act of the fall season, Duke’s sole Novice Eight boat blew its opponents out of the water with a time of 13:22.0, beating out second-place novice team Virginia A by 38 seconds and third-place Navy A by 88.7 seconds. It was a time that would have made the Blue Devils competitive even among varsity teams—Duke’s fifth-place Second Varsity Eight posted a time of 13:18.9, more than 10 seconds ahead of sixth-place Navy’s Varsity Eight.

This was only the second competitive collegiate race that the freshmen competed in, and their first competition as a novice team. All members of the first-year boat started their season on the Third or Fourth Varsity Eight at the Princeton 3-Mile Chase Nov. 6, in which they placed 30th and 37th, respectively. Although the first-year rowers got their feet wet a week prior, none of them competed on a full novice team.

Despite Princeton only being a week before, the team entered Sunday with a blank slate. Head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno noted that the most notable difference was the way the team raced.

“They raced with the intention to win the event—and that was the biggest noticeable difference,” she said.

Cooke Carcagno also pointed to the obstacles first-years faced prior to the race—“typical stuff” like sickness and injury, but also the burdens of adjusting to college life and athletics.  

“The entry to college racing—it's really, really eye-opening. They really rose to the challenge today, and they did a good job representing their teammates. These are all the qualities they're going to bring when they’re pulled into the varsity team this spring and for the next four years,” Cooke Carcagno said.

The Blue Devils also had strong finishes in the Varsity Eight, in which all three boats in competition placed in the top 11. Duke A cruised past the finish line in third place, marking a time of 12:57.6, while Duke B followed close behind in fifth place. While Virginia’s first-place Second Varsity Eight and second-place Varsity Eight finished within 0.6 seconds of each other, Duke A finished 8.1 seconds behind first. Similar results were shown in the Varsity Four, in which Duke placed three boats in the top eight but was beaten out for the top two spots by Virginia A and B. 

Virginia is formidable competition—the Cavaliers have won the ACC in each of the 22 years they have competed, excluding only the title in 2009 to Clemson. Of the top 10 finishers in the Varsity Four, only two were neither from Duke nor Virginia—Louisiana A and North Carolina A having filled fifth and 10th, respectively—and the Blue Devils and Cavaliers swept the top five spots in the Varsity Eight.

While consistent ACC runner-up Syracuse was not present at the event, the race offered Duke its first taste of what the ACC Championships might look like. Cooke Carcagno pointed to a “long-standing rivalry” between the two schools.

“It's hard to not notice when we're racing against them, especially when we're starting right next to them in a head race. We always race Virginia very personally, especially compared to other ACC schools.”

The Blue Devils will return Feb. 1 for a scrimmage against Virginia. Having now won the last 16 Varsity Eight races at the Rivanna Romp, the Cavaliers will be entering spring raring to go. For the Blue Devils, the coming months offer an opportunity to improve upon what they have learned in the fall and bring it into the spring.

“We're just excited to go back to work,” Cooke Carcagno said.


Audrey Wang | University News Editor

Audrey Wang is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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