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History of Georgetown Women's Lightweight Rowing

Women’s lightweight crew is the youngest rowing program at Georgetown. The first regular boatings of a lightweight crew occurred during the fall of 1996 when an eight raced at the Head of the Potomac, Head of the Schuylkill and the Princeton Chase. Without the commitment by Georgetown to a lightweight program at the time, however, those rowers were destined to compete in boats amongst their heavyweight teammates in the spring of 1997 in order to field the most competitive varsity team possible.

That commitment arrived the next year when Conal Groom F’95 joined the coaching staff to specifically coach a frosh/novice lightweight squad. An eight and a four were boated throughout the spring of 1998 during which the four won the heavyweight novice four event at the then Georgetown Invitational for Big East Schools. The first spring lightweight racing season concluded at Eastern Sprints marking the first entry by Georgetown into a lightweight women’s event at the regatta.

In the second year of the lightweight program Georgetown supported only a small varsity lightweight squad. Jimmy King coached the lightweights in addition to his duties as women’s varsity heavyweight coach. The lightweights raced an eight throughout most of the spring season as well as a four taken from members of the eight. While the eight struggled in its first season of varsity competition, the four raced successfully against all. The four won the heavyweight event at the GW Invitational as well as the lightweight four at the Georgetown Invitational for Big East Schools. The crew then went on to win Georgetown’s first gold medal at the Eastern Sprints regatta in May 1999. Setting a Lake Waramaug course record for the varsity lightweight four were (bow to stern) Ky Hunter F’01, Alexandra Coolidge F’01, Kearney Posner F’99, Rebecca Besant F’99 and coxswain Angela Jin F’01. Their course record time stands today and is unlikely to fall given that the Sprints regatta is now contested on the Cooper River in Camden, NJ.

The 2000 spring season marked the first that Georgetown supported both varsity and frosh/novice lightweight squads. The varsity squad was small boating only a four that spring and the frosh squad wasn’t much bigger boating an eight. This year also marked the coaching debut of Rebecca Besant F’99 as Georgetown’s frosh/novice lightweight coach.

The lightweight program continued to grow the following year, albeit slowly. The frosh again boated an eight and continued to be one of only three Eastern Sprints school supporting a frosh/novice lightweight program. The varsity raced an eight at Sprints for the first time and also competed at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta for the first time as well.

The 2001-2002 year was significant at Georgetown as the lightweight program continued to grow in size and competitiveness. This was the year the program began to truly establish its own identity at Georgetown and beyond. Kara Ethier C’03 was elected, in her junior year, as the first-ever lightweight captain. Another first for Georgetown that fall season was a coveted entry in the lightweight four at the Head of the Charles Regatta; never before had Georgetown entered a women’s lightweight event at the highly popular and exclusive regatta. Furthering its establishment in the spring, the lightweight program began traveling and racing independently of the heavyweight program to meet its particular needs. The frosh squad also contributed to the growth that year in racing a four in addition to an eight, enabling Georgetown to contest all three lightweight events offered at the Eastern Sprints.

With a good return from the 2002 novice class, the varsity squad continued to grow. The varsity boated an eight and a four throughout the year creating more competition among the rowers to get into the priority eight. The eight traveled to San Diego in the spring to compete in the Crew Classic—another first for the young lightweight program. But while the varsity put together a rather uneven racing season that spring, the novices raced steadily improving week to week.

When racing in second novice heavyweight events in lieu of lightweight competition, the frosh were running away with races including a win at the Big East Challenge. In a mid-season match-up against their two Eastern Sprints foes, though, the novice Hoyas came up on the short end as had their predecessors in previous meetings. In a rematch at the Sprints regatta, however, the upstart frosh raced aggressively leading almost wire to wire to win their event and only Georgetown’s second Sprints championship. As coach of the frosh, Rebecca Besant F’99 was now involved in both of Georgetown’s lightweight Sprints championships.

After the Sprints regatta, the varsity continued to train with their sights set on nationals at the IRA. Two rowers from the frosh crew seat raced into the varsity boat and helped the Hoyas place fourth, a significant improvement over their ninth place finish the previous year. And although the varsity had placed fourth just three weeks earlier at Sprints, they had picked up significant speed and were battling for third throughout the final; a position they had never found themselves in previously.

With depth provided by the 2003 novice crew, the 2003-2004 varsity squad was Georgetown’s largest to date. Throughout the fall the varsity squad boated two eights in addition to their frosh crews making the Georgetown program one of the largest lightweight programs in the country. The varsity raced an eight and a four at the Charles, raced two eights at the Head of the Schuylkill winning their event, and also raced two eights at the Philadelphia Frostbite placing first and second.

In the spring the varsity traveled to Redwood Shores, CA for the Windermere Crew Classic squaring off in round robin dual races with Princeton, Radcliffe, and host Stanford. Although they finished the weekend 1-2, the varsity found themselves competitive in all match-ups. A highlight of the spring season was nosing out Wisconsin in a dual race at home late in the season marking the first time Georgetown had broken the triumvirate that has typically dominated lightweight women’s rowing.

At Sprints Georgetown continued to contest all three lightweight events and enjoyed its best all-around performance yet. The varsity four and frosh eight earned bronze medals while the varsity finished fourth. Although the varsity came up short for a medal, the race itself was the most competitive it had ever been at the regatta with four crews contending throughout. At the IRA the varsity again finished fourth confirming the Georgetown program’s growth and competitiveness and marking it as a program still on the rise.

The past several years have seen the team continue to achieve greater and greater success.  The Georgetown lightweight women’s varsity eight medalled at the 2006, 2007, and 2008 Eastern Sprints, and earned silver at the 2006 and 2008 IRA regattas.