Sporting Life

The spring sports roundup

Women's crew takes national championship again.

Brian Jackson

Brian Jackson

Once again, the fastest in the land: the repeat national-champion women's varsity crew includes, from left to right, Mia Kanak ’10 (cox), and rowers Taylor Ritzel ’10, Christina Person ’09, Tess Gerrand '10, Jamie Redman, '08, Alice Henly '10, Maren McCrea '10, Caroline Nash '11, and (not pictured) Christine Glandorf ’09. Gerrand and Ritzel were named to the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Pocock All-America First Team. View full image

Last year, when Yale won its first NCAA championship in women’s crew, the Bulldog varsity eight took an early lead in the season’s grand final and, never looking back, glided to a smooth finish in the race. This year was a different story. On June 1 at Gold River, California, in its last race of the season, the Yale crew was in third place with 1,500 meters to go. But Bulldogs coach Will Porter, watching his team from the water’s banks, was not worried. "I thought, ‘These kids have been here before, and they know how to get it done,’" he says. Indeed, in an exhilarating finish, the Bulldogs overtook Brown and Stanford to win their second straight championship. The margin of victory was less than one second. "Throughout the season, there was a quiet confidence with this team," says Porter. "The experience of last year certainly was a big factor.”

Suddenly, women’s crew at Yale is a national power. The Bulldogs have now won two straight varsity-eight NCAA championships—they are only the second school to have done so since women’s crew became an NCAA sport in 1997—and have advanced to the NCAA team championships seven years straight.

To win this year, the Elis had to get by Brown, a team that had beaten them twice. On May 3, in the last regular meet of the season, the Bruins had scuttled Yale’s hopes for an undefeated campaign; two weeks later, at the Eastern Sprints, Brown handed the crew a second loss. Porter says that defeat was a blessing in disguise. "We changed our tactics," he says. "And we also found another gear." The Bulldogs’ adjustments paid off. In this year’s final race, after they had passed Brown with 500 meters to go, coxswain Mia Kanak ’10 believed Yale was the leader of the pack—not realizing that Stanford was, in fact, ahead. "A rookie mistake, but I think that actually helped us," says Porter, whose crew passed Stanford with 20 strokes left. "They just kept their heads down, stayed relaxed, and didn’t press. And I think that was the key to the race.”


The other dramatic championship finish this spring took place on the tennis courts. The women’s team entered the final weekend of the season needing a win over Dartmouth to complete an undefeated season and advance to the NCAAs for the first time in Yale history. Near the end of the tournament, the two teams were tied and the Bulldogs’ winning record hung in the balance with freshman Lindsay Clark, who needed a win in her singles match. Clark fought off two match points before taking the third-set tiebreaker 8–6. Her win secured the Bulldogs’ first outright Ivy League title in 27 years.

“It was incredibly intense watching the match," says the Elis’ top-ranked singles player, Janet Kim ’09. "It was appropriate that we had to fight for it until the last ball. All year the freshmen stepped up for us, so it was a great way to win." While Clark clinched the title for the Bulldogs, it was Kim who had led the way for Yale throughout the season. After going 6–1 in league play against other top-ranked singles, and finishing 22–11 for the year, Kim was named Ivy League Player of the Year. She was the first Eli in women’s tennis to do so. "I was on the computer at the library, just casually checking the Yale athletics website, when I found out that I’d won the award," says Kim. "It’s a great honor. But I have to say, winning the Ivy League team championship was bigger. Maybe we can be the team that starts a tradition of many more championships at Yale.”


After women’s crew and tennis, Yale’s sailing teams enjoyed the most successful spring. Both the women’s and coed sailing clubs were ranked as high as first in the nation during the season. In the ICSA national championships in May, the women’s team finished in third place. In its national championship competition in early June, the coed team finished eighth. Six members from the two teams were named All-Americans, including Zachary Brown ’08, who earned All-American honors for the fourth straight year.

On land, one of the most exemplary individual performances by a Yale athlete this spring came from Jeffrey Lachman ’09. The discus thrower qualified for the NCAA championships with a fifth place in the NCAA East Regional Championships in May, where he achieved a personal best of 53.15 meters—the longest toss by a Yalie since 1970. It was a rebound for Lachman, who had been Ivy League champion last year but didn’t place in this year’s Ivy championships. "After [the Ivies] I just relaxed, and got in the right mindset for regionals, and I think that was the difference for me," says Lachman. He was one of four Yalies who competed at the nationals; the others are pole vaulter Eric De Palo ’10 and runners Lindsay Donaldson ’08 and Kate Grace ’11. Says Lachman, "It’s a thrill to be able to represent Yale on such a stage.”  

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