The Harvard men’s heavyweight crew did not need to catch the Tigers on Saturday-—it was already well out in front. The Crimson defeated Princeton by 13.84 seconds for its largest win in the Compton Cup since 1984.
On Saturday, the No. 4 Harvard heavyweight first varsity competed in its first race away from the Charles this spring, but met with essentially the same result—a thoroughly dominant performance of historic proportions.
The Crimson beat No. 6 Princeton and MIT at Lake Carnegie, N.J., where Harvard had not won since 1993. The Crimson’s margin of victory over the Tigers was 13.84 seconds, its largest in the Compton Cup since 1984.
“No disrespect to Princeton, but we were just rowing our own race after the first 500 meters,” said junior stroke Kip McDaniel.
Junior Jordan Sagalowsky, in the No. 2 seat, said the first varsity took the lead right off the start line while sustaining a stroke rating close to 50. The boat continued to stretch its lead throughout the course.
“Princeton usually gets off to a fast start against us, so we were concerned to get off to a good start and establish ourselves early,” Sagalowsky said. “We ended up having probably our best start so far this season.”
It was Harvard’s third open-water victory in three races this spring. The Crimson beat Brown by 16 seconds last week and Northeastern by 11 seconds two weeks ago. The margin over Brown was Harvard’s second-largest over the Bears since 1974, while the victory over the Huskies was the Crimson’s largest over Northeastern since 1968. Harvard now has one dual race left before Eastern Sprints—the Adams Cup against No. 7 Navy and No. 8 Penn at Annapolis next Saturday.
Although Harvard’s first varsity has won each of its races convincingly, it hasn’t been slackening its pace upon finding victory well in hand.
“People kept pushing for the margins and kept pushing for more distance between our boats,” McDaniel said. “It just shows a lot of aggression that will be there when we have to race all the way down the course.”
The fact that the three races have not provided much competition does not worry McDaniel.
“It’s very nice to win by this much, but we know at the nationals there won’t be this much of a margin nearly, so it would be nice to have a close race now,” McDaniel said. “But our junior varsity is a very good competitor in practice so we’re not too worried about having no one to race.”
The Harvard second varsity beat Princeton by 12.67 seconds, while the varsity four and first freshman boat were narrowly defeated.
Despite posting three of its most impressive victories in decades to start the season, the Crimson first varsity is still ranked behind California, Washington and Wisconsin in the latest USRowing national poll. Harvard has not raced California and Washington recently and lost last year to Wisconsin at Eastern Sprints—the one blemish of the 2002 season. Harvard has not won the first varsity race at Sprints since 1990.
“To be honest I don’t see how we could argue at the moment to be ranked higher,” Sagalowsky said. “We haven’t raced Cal-Berkeley, Washington or Wisconsin. Although we certainly think we can race with those crews, we did lose to Wisconsin at Eastern Sprints, so at the moment we still have to prove ourselves.”
Harvard could conceivably move up in the polls this week, however. The No. 3 Badgers’ victory over the No. 2 Huskies this week should shuffle the rankings. Also, voters might note Harvard’s huge margin of victory over Princeton in comparison to California’s and Wisconsin’s results against the Tigers in late March. The Golden Bears triumphed by 4.29 seconds and Wisconsin won by 3.25 seconds at the Windermere Classic in California.
The polls will matter less than usual this season, however, because the Crimson is scheduled to face Washington and California at the IRA national championships in late May this year. Typically Harvard and Yale have opted out of IRAs in order to train for the Harvard-Yale regatta in early June. The Crimson rowers expect that to change now that Yale’s new coach has departed from that tradition.
“The polls are nice but it doesn’t mean anything this early in the season,” McDaniel said. “It’s almost better if all the attention is focused on Cal-Berkeley or Washington, and we can do our thing and sneak up from behind and win it in May.”
—Staff writer David R. De Remer can be reached at email@example.com.