The women’s rowing team kicked off the fall season in style this weekend at the Head of the Oklahoma Regatta, as the varsity eight boat won the Collegiate Eight competition with the fastest time of the day before watching the varsity four earn a Night Sprint win by two-hundredths of a second.
Stanford won the Collegiate Eight last year at the same event, held annually in Oklahoma City, and was anxious to defend the title despite not having as much time to prepare as the team is accustomed to, according to head coach Yasmin Farooq.
“This race hit earlier in the season than usual,” Farooq told GoStanford.com, “and school started later, so we had to put lineups together quickly and get the boats up to speed. We took a ‘NASCAR pit crew’ approach to the weekend and really embraced each practice leading up to it with that kind of urgency,” she said.
The Cardinal led from the beginning, getting off to a clean start in calm conditions on the Oklahoma River. But Texas put up a fight, matching Stanford’s stroke rate for much of the 4,000-meter race. In the end, however, the Longhorns could not quite close the gap, and the Cardinal crossed the finish line a full 10 seconds clear of the second boat.
As the light faded, the Night Sprint portion of the racing began, with plenty of fan support lining the banks.
“The overall atmosphere is really a celebration of the athletes’ efforts and the Oklahoma fans made all of us feel special,” Farooq said.
The Cardinal four, who lost a close race to Texas in the Head of the Oklahoma race earlier in the day, came out strong and were quickly in a tight battle with the Oklahoma team. The Sooners held a slim lead for much of the 500-meter course, but a late surge pushed Stanford over the top in a photo finish.
It was the reverse of the varsity eight 500-meter event in which Oklahoma nipped Stanford at the line. But overall, Stanford left with a lot to build on.
“Both boats raced aggressively, and made the most of the day,” Farooq said. “There certainly is work to do in the weeks ahead, but a race like this one is a great reminder that we ultimately train to race. We’ll be back.”
The Cardinal returns to action in three weeks for the prestigious Head of the Charles competition, held annually in Boston.