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'We've done the work': No. 14 Duke rowing rides dominant first day to Lake Wheeler Invitational victory

Duke rowing won 10 of its 11 races on the first day to set the stage to eventually win the Pocock Cup.
Duke rowing won 10 of its 11 races on the first day to set the stage to eventually win the Pocock Cup.

There is no place like home. In a preview of the ACC championships in early May, which the Blue Devils will co-host with North Carolina, No. 14 Duke rowing rode an extremely strong first day to claim the Lake Wheeler Invitational’s Pocock Cup for the third time in four years. 

“It was a great weekend for Duke,” said head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno in an interview following her team’s victory at Raleigh’s Lake Wheeler Park. “We executed in all of our races and got a large number of first-place finishes.”

The Blue Devils opened strong on Friday, winning 10 of their 11 races on the first day of the competition. It was a very strong weekend for the Third Varsity Eight boat, which won the first race of the regatta for Duke with a time of 6:42.049. From there, the wins kept on coming. The Second Varsity Four crew finished almost 12 seconds ahead of second-place Alabama in its opening race, posting a time of 07:17.157. The Varsity Four and Second Varsity Eight won their events, and the Varsity Eight boat finished out the early races with a victory. The Blue Devils ended up sweeping Friday’s morning session.

The second day held many more stellar performances after an early start due to expected inclement weather. The Varsity Eight crew opened the day with a third-place finish behind No. 8 Pennsylvania and No. 9 Syracuse, and the Second Varsity Eight squad finished in second place, just over three seconds behind the Quaker boat. 

The Lake Wheeler Invitational is one of the largest regattas in the country, and the competition was top-notch. As mentioned above, both Pennsylvania and the Orange are top-10 teams in the country, and Alabama and Clemson also received votes in the CRCA coaches poll. 

“This is one of the biggest invitationals in the country. From Washington, Florida, up the East Coast and Ivy League all over the country.” said Cooke Carcagno. “And it's really exciting to put something together this season that really helps everyone solidify their postseason appearances.”

The end of the invitational was a close one. Syracuse was hot on the Blue Devils’ heels coming into the final race, the Third Varsity Eight. The crew of Ashley Whipple, Anna McKane, Meera Chakrabarti, Morven Thomson, Stella Haley, Natalie Ashton, Charlotte Sendek and Haley Dion coxed by Ava Liebmann put together one final strong performance, gliding to a 7:06.328 to secure the victory. Duke ended with 88 points, followed by the Orange with 86 and the Quakers with 82. 

This weekend was an all-around team victory, with excellent performances from everyone who raced. 

“Everyone got the job done, all three rounds.” said Cooke Carcagno.  “And I'm really, really proud of every single member of our team, even our spares stepped up and raced last night. So everybody did a great job.”

Now, as the regular season has come to a close, the Blue Devils will finalize crews and prepare themselves for the postseason. The ACC championship meet will be back at Lake Wheeler on May 12 and 13, and the NCAA finals will be in Camden, N.J. at the end of that same month. Cooke Carcagno feels confident coming into the postseason. 

“I think that we've done the work that selectors are looking for when choosing at large bets. But hopefully, we can come up with an automatic invitation.” said Cooke Carcagno. “If not, we've done the work to travel the country and come out with a lot of Ws. So I'm really proud of our team. Now we just need to put our heads down, go back to work and have a little bit more speed in all events.”


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