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Big games take athletes to commencements far from Nickerson Field

Women’s rowing and women’s lacrosse at remote ceremonies

Women's crew championships often conflict with university commencements, leading to more intimate commencement ceremonies.

Two sets of varsity athletes from Boston University will celebrate at their own private Commencement ceremonies this Sunday, one beside the Cooper River in Camden, N.J., and one beside the playing fields of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. In New Jersey, the women’s varsity crew team will compete in the Eastern Sprints, the championship regatta for the Eastern Association of Women’s Rowing Colleges. A good showing in the race could lead to a spot in the NCAA championships May 26 and 27 on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J.

Assistant Provost Michael Field, a longtime supporter of the team, will hand out diplomas. Field, whose mother, wife, and daughter all went to Boston University, became involved with women’s crew 15 years ago when his daughter, Sara (CAS’92), rowed for the Terriers and was part of BU’s 1992 NCAA champion varsity eight boat. BU is currently ranked 17th in the nation.

Varsity rowing coach Holly Hatton points out that for rowers on top teams, remote graduations are not unusual. The Eastern Sprints are always run on the second or third weekend in May. “The last time this happened was three years ago,” says Hatton. “I’ve had one person say she was disappointed, but generally, this is very positive thing.”

Hatton says a greater disappointment is most likely missing some of the social events leading up to graduation. “At this point our training is pretty hard-core,” she says. “Going on a booze cruise is not something that’s going to be part of the picture.”

The graduation ceremony will wait until after the race, she says, and it will take place in a small gazebo on a hilltop beside the river. “The team band will play ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ ” Hatton says. “We try to make it as special as we can, given that it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles. We try to have the seniors feel that they’re appreciated and loved by their teammates.”

While the women’s rowing team celebrates by the banks of the Cooper River, the nine seniors on the women’s lacrosse team will be accepting their diplomas in New Hampshire, where they are facing Dartmouth in the NCAA tournament at 1 p.m. This is the ninth-ranked Terriers’ second straight appearance in the national bracket and their fourth in the past seven years.

If BU, with an 11-5 record, beats Dartmouth, and then the following Saturday defeats the winner of the May 14 Virginia-Princeton matchup, the Terriers will enjoy home advantage the rest of the way: this year BU is hosting the NCAAA semifinals on May 26 and the championship game on May 28 at Nickerson Field.

The team earned an automatic bid to the tourney with a wild 12-10 come-from-behind victory over New Hampshire May 7 in the America East championship, a game BU had trailed at one point 8-3.

On Sunday, when most of the BU Class of 2006 will still be on Nickerson Field after the main Commencement ceremony, the women’s lacrosse seniors — like their rower classmates — will attempt to extend their season, with their goal being to step onto that same turf two weeks later to play in the national title game.