For the first time since it first entered the water on Feb. 24, the Madison girls’ crew team had a full week of uninterrupted practice this week.

Saturday, with the rare stretch of continuous work on the water behind them, the Warhawks won the girls’ first eight final at the Darrell Winslow Regatta by almost three seconds.

Madison finished in a time of 4 minutes 58.40 seconds. T.C. Williams followed close behind at 5:01.11, and Bethesda-Chevy Chase came in third in 5:06.44.

The regimented practice, according to Madison Coach Paul Allbright, made a world of difference.

“I’ve got a novice in my first eight,” Allbright said. “I’ve got a novice in my second-eight, and I have a big number of sophomores in my top two boats, too. Them being younger and newer to the sport, they need continuity.”

Bethesda-Chevy Chase won the boys’ first eight race in 4:27.60, narrowly edging W.T. Woodson. Madison’s boys placed third.

Harsh weather conditions have been the story early on this season. The Walter Mess Regatta last Saturday was canceled mid-day because of wind, and rain plagued the Regional Park Regatta the week before, though all races did finish.

“I just feel like we’re a month behind,” Barons Coach Dan Engler said. “I think everybody is starting to pick up speed now and starting to find their stride.”

“It’s good and bad,” Bethesda Chevy-Chase rower Mitchell Broadwater said of the recent weather, “because it hurts our rowing, it hurts how much we can do out on the water, but it helps the guys deal with adverse conditions. And on days where it’s kind of rough, like today, we respond better.”

That response delivered a victory Saturday as the Barons held off the Cavaliers by a nose. Bethesda-Chevy Chase’s aggressive but risky strategy got them past the finish line.

“We told them to jump off a cliff,” Engler said. “And that’s dangerous, because Woodson is a very, very good crew with an excellent coach, and if you try to take it too early, they’ll beat you late.”

For the Madison girls, getting newer members caught up has been crucial. The top eight only returns two girls from last season, and with limited practice time because of weather, leadership is critical to bringing the less experienced rowers up to speed.

“We’ve got two girls in the boat that were there in the first eight the last couple of seasons, and they’re good mentors for the younger kids,” Allbright said. “We also have some seniors who have been in the second eight the past couple of years kind of waiting in the wings to get their chance at the first eight, and they’ve stepped up and are really efficient rowers, so it’s been a good chemistry.”