Duke rowing wraps up season in NCAA Championships with top-5 finishes in C-Finals

The Blue Devils raced three boats in the national championship regatta.
The Blue Devils raced three boats in the national championship regatta.

After making waves with a bronze-medal performance at the ACC Championships earlier this month, Duke rowing had one final chance to prove its mettle: the 2024 NCAA Championships. The Blue Devils raced a Varsity Four, Varsity Eight and Second Varsity Eight boat over the course of the three-day regatta to secure respectable C-Final finishes.

“It was another solid performance from our team,” said head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno. “Three days of really hard racing. Conditions were tough, whether it was a raging headwind or pouring rain, but every crew rose to the occasion.”

Throughout Friday afternoon’s preliminary heats, cloudy skies above Harsha Lake in Bethel, Ohio threatened to open up on the rowers. Despite the ominous weather, the Blue Devils delivered strong performances and advanced all three boats to the C/D semifinals. Both the 2V8 and V4 placed fourth in the second heat of their races, while the V8 placed fourth in the first heat with a time of 7:09.49. 

Each crew stepped up its game on Saturday, recording faster times and cruising to C-Final spots. The three boats all tallied second-place finishes: the V8 with a time of 6:31.13, the 2V8 with a 6:42.49 and the V4 with a 7:20.86.

When Sunday morning dawned, Duke rowers seemed determined to close out the weekend with even faster performances. The Varsity Four took to the water first, powering through the course in a time of 7:17.37 to secure a second-place heat finish. The Blue Devils’ boat finished a full five seconds ahead of the crew from Ohio State, clinching the silver from behind Virginia.

“Our four had a very gutsy race,” Carcagno said. “And they made up for some difficulties they had in their heat.”

Then it was the Second Varsity Eight’s turn to battle its way through a close C-Final. Though Duke stayed neck-and-neck with Syracuse and Rutgers at the race’s beginning, those crews ultimately pulled away to grab first and second place. The Blue Devils hustled to a bronze finish with a time of 6:42.84, just 1.97 seconds ahead of Indiana.

Finally, it was the Varsity Eight’s turn, in what proved to be a close race with Rutgers and Gonzaga. Duke’s final time of 6:34.05 was enough to inch out the fifth-place Bulldogs, but it fell three seconds short of third place and the Scarlet Knights. The Blue Devils’ V8 instead finished fourth with a time of 6:34.05.

“Our eights raced well today,” Carcagno said. “Overall, they are both really fast crews.”

As the season came to an end, emotions ran high — especially for the fifth-years and seniors graduating from the team.

“There’s always a sense of loss,” Carcagno said, “and a general sadness for the year to be done. But I think overall, everyone was really happy to be a part of this crew. For the last races, everyone’s gonna lay it all out.”

The ending was especially bittersweet this year since the weekend marked Carcagno’s last regatta with Duke. After nine years as head coach, the program announced that she would be leaving her position with the team come the season’s close.

“I’m just so grateful that I got the opportunity to work with these amazing athletes,” she said. “I’m inspired by them every single day. I’m proud to call myself their coach and I’m looking forward to watching them be successful for the next few years.”


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