M. Heavyweight Crew Overpowers Huskies in Dual Race Finale
They saw it just like the other victims from 21 consecutive dual races have seen it—a blur of Crimson, eight oars coursing through the water in one splashless motion, a distinctively yellow shell propelled forward by eight six-foot-plus men in the haze of the foggy mid-morning.
They saw it, they heard Harvard coxswain Kit Randolph urging the boat forward, and they may have even felt it—but their recognition of the Crimson’s move did nothing to stop it.
Instead, Harvard plowed through the Northeastern boat after the two boats settled to a base cadence, establishing a half-length lead by the time they entered the second 500.
“We took our first 10 at 400 meters and started gradually walking up on their boat,” Randolph said. “We were sitting on their bow man by about the 700-meter mark.”
Northeastern tried to trim Harvard’s advantage with a strong surge just after 750 meters down. Closing in on the Mass. Ave. Bridge, the Huskies took the midpoint move early, upping the stroke rating and looking to test Harvard’s confidence.
“They definitely pushed on us hard,” Randolph said. “I could feel them coming up on us a little out of the bridge.”
Northeastern’s move earned it all of one seat on the Harvard boat, and the Crimson quickly countered with an established midway push of its own. At the halfway point, Harvard refused to sit on the Huskies’ bow ball any longer.
“When they made a huge push,” junior stroke Adam Kosmicki said, “the guys really responded to it. “They came off the move, and we just started taking it up and had a much stronger second one thousand.”
The Crimson spent the second half of the race widening the open-water gap between the two boats. As both crews pushed past the MIT boathouse near the 1,300-meter mark, Harvard had established a near two-boat length lead. The Crimson used the final 500 meters to make a further statement against the talented No. 6 Huskies, adding yet more open water to its lead. The heavyweights crossed the line in a time of 5:42.8 Northeastern followed in 5:49.7, just over two lengths behind Harvard.
The win was Harvard’s 21st consecutive dual victory and capped off a perfect 4-0 dual season record. The Crimson beat every 2005 dual opponent by open water, with a six-plus second victory over then-No. 1 Princeton on April 16 its closest call.
For Harvard seniors Aaron Holzapfel and Malcolm Howard—five-seat and seven-seat, respectively—the win capped off a three-year undefeated dual run. Howard and Holzapfel are the only two first varsity oarsmen remaining from the 2003 and 2004 championship boats.
“We know there’s a long streak now,” Howard said, “but I think from the very beginning it’s been more important to take every race as it comes, take every practice as it comes, and try to make each one a little bit better. We obviously want to win, but it’s not about the record.”
The win puts Harvard at the top of the EARC and U.S. Rowing polls going into the Eastern Sprints. The Crimson has captured the Sprints title the last two years, with both victories followed by open-water wins at the IRA national championships.
And even with seven new faces in this year’s varsity crew, the Crimson showed on Saturday that it is poised for another late season run.
“It’s not about the margins, it’s just about rowing the best possible race you can,” Randolph said. “When we take a move, it’s all eight guys making a move together. It’s eight guys doing it for one another. That’s different for eight guys who want one goal but want it individually.”
The varsity’s win, coupled with wins in the varsity four, the second freshman four, and the first freshman eight, gave Harvard the Smith Cup for the eighth consecutive year and improved the Crimson’s all-time record against Northeastern to 23-3.
The second varsity lost a back-and-forth race despite taking a quick one-seat jump off of the start. The two boats exchanged moves going into the second 500, with Harvard striking first and adding to its slight lead. Northeastern’s counter followed just after the Crimson came out of its surge and brought the Huskies back to within one seat.
At 750 meters down, the two boats were locked in a bow ball battle that had all the makings of a photo finish. Then Northeastern began another strong push through the 1,000-meter mark and took a few precious seats from the Harvard boat.
“Coming out of the bridge,” senior five-seat Will Ulrich said, “we went from being up a seat to being down three-to-four seats through the one thousand.”
Northeastern continued to add to the lead throughout the third 500, establishing a six-to-seven seat cushion as the two boats passed the MIT boathouse.
Harvard countered the near open-water lead after reaching the 500-meter marker, and the Crimson moved up as much as three seats on the Huskies. The race, however, was not long enough for a Harvard boat that found its power just a few meters too late.
“I thought if we had a little more space, we could have done a little more with the margin,” Ulrich said. “I thought we raced well, it was definitely the best race we had so far.”
The No. 5 second varsity will likely swap rankings with Northeastern, which entered the weekend ranked sixth in the EARC poll.
The tight finish was an auspicious sign for the second varsity, which started off the season with a win over Brown but has since lost on each of the last three weekends.
“We felt like we got it going against NU, one of our tough competitors,” Ulrich said. “It’s promising to see how much time we can make up on those guys.”
The Crimson will return to action on May 15, when both varsity boats look to defend their 2004 Sprints titles in Worcester, Mass.
—Staff writer Aidan E. Tait can be reached at email@example.com.