PENNSAUKEN, N.J. -- Radcliffe pulled past a fast field of conference competitors to win the 2012 Ivy League title at the inaugural Ivy League Women's Rowing Championship on the Cooper River course in Pennsauken, N.J.

"It was breathtaking," said head coach Liz O'Leary, whose varsity entered as the No. 5 seed in a wide-open field. "There were six super-fast eights in the varsity final, and I knew it would take an extraordinary performance to win it."

The victory was Radcliffe's fifth Ivy championship won on the Cooper River, the most by any Ancient Eight crew, and eighth overall. The inaugural Ivy League Women's Rowing Championship was held for the first time, following 37 seasons of awarding the Ivy title to the top-finishing varsity eight at the Eastern Association of Women's Rowing Colleges (EAWRC) Sprints, starting with a Radcliffe victory in 1974.

Top-seeded Princeton took a narrow lead on a tightly packed field and led second-place Radcliffe by a half-second after 500 meters. The Tigers and Black and White moved away from the field in the next 500, building a cushion of nearly three seconds on third-place Cornell. Radcliffe remained less than a second back of Princeton at the race's midway point.

"We really put a lot of emphasis this weekend on our second 500 and on finding a base speed that was fast and sustainable," O'Leary said.

The Big Red never let go, and when Radcliffe gradually moved through Princeton in the second half of the race, Cornell followed. With 500 meters to go, the Black and White led the Tigers by nearly two seconds, with Cornell in a close third. The margin only grew as the finish approached, and Radcliffe won by 2.8 seconds in 6:17.744. The Big Red finished 1.5 seconds before the Tigers, who edged Yale for the bronze by about one-tenth of a second.