With just 15 strokes remaining against the Huskies, the Crimson capped off a furious comeback, finally drawing even with Northeastern for the first time since the start command and pulling out a dramatic 11th-straight win against the Huskies.
It marked the second time in three weeks that the Crimson heavyweight varsity came back from a dismal start to seal a victory in the last 1,000 meters of the race—a boost of confidence for a squad preparing for the grueling races that await them at Eastern Sprints and IRAs.
“It’s pretty valuable—this time last year we had just gone out and won from the front,” varsity stroke George Kitovitz said. “It’s good that this year’s boat has so much confidence, probably more so than last year. Even if we do get down, we trust in our own rowing and speed.”
It also showed that EARC-No. 3 Harvard (5-0) has serious speed in the final 500 meters. The Crimson, catering to a strong tailwind on Saturday morning, took up the rating at the 1500-meter mark and plowed through Northeastern, erasing the Huskies’ two-seat advantage and stealing a few seats of its own, as Harvard won its third straight dual race this weekend.
“I’ve always found that when two boats are close going into the finish, it’s actually advantageous to be down at that point,” Kitovitz said. “For the boat that’s winning, it has to hold a boat off for a minute and a half. The boat that’s in front is more vulnerable. As long as you’re within striking distance, you’re in a great place.”
Despite the positive end result, the Harvard heavyweight varsity endured the same troubles off the start that have plagued the Crimson all season. At the San Diego Crew Classic in April, the varsity eight dropped almost a length off the start. It was a similar if less drastic tale in almost all of the dual races this season, and the same sluggishness struck again on Saturday.
The Crimson gave up half a length to the No. 6 Huskies in the first 30 strokes, and a particularly strong Northeastern varsity built the lead to three-quarters of a length by the 500-meter mark. After the settle, Harvard relied—as it has all season—on a powerful, methodical base speed to creep up on the Huskies.
But as the Crimson made up ground, cutting Northeastern’s advantage to three seats at the halfway point, a member of the Harvard crew caught a crab under the Mass. Ave. Bridge and interrupted the Crimson’s push back on the Huskies. The three-seat margin jumped back up to six seats immediately.
“We were obviously walking back on them, so I think we had the psychological advantage knowing that our boat was going faster than them,” Kitovitz said. “But it was kind of frustrating knowing we stopped our own momentum.”
In the second 1000 meters, however, the momentum was Harvard’s for the taking, and the Crimson took it all. Harvard sliced the six-seat margin to two in the third 500 meters, taking further advantage of its strong base speed to set up a dramatic final 500 meters. As the two boats picked up the rating near the MIT boathouse, the Crimson increased the pressure and eventually pulled even with Northeastern in the final 100 meters of the race.
A gutsy final 10 strokes gave Harvard the lead when it counted the most, and the Crimson crossed the line with just more than a two-seat advantage over Northeastern. Harvard finished in a time of 5:43.7, while the Huskies were thwarted yet again by the Crimson, crossing in 5:44.4.
It was the beginning of a long day for Northeastern and a great one for Harvard, as the Crimson swept four of the five races. Harvard’s lone loss came in the Crimson’s freshman four race against the Northeastern varsity four.
In the second varsity race, the undefeated Crimson eight captured its fourth dual race in as many weeks. The Crimson (6-0) opened up an early lead off of the start and held the margin steady to down the Huskies and virtually secure a No. 1 ranking heading into Eastern Sprints.
“In our boat, I feel like we’ve gotten a little bit faster every time we practiced,” said second varsity five-seat Anton Wintner. “We definitely feel as though the things that we’ve been doing all year from September onward are starting to pay off a little bit.”
Both boats stood fairly even following the high 30 off the start, but the Crimson built a boat length lead by the 800-meter mark. At the Mass. Ave. Bridge, Harvard had carved out a bit of an open water advantage.
The margin stayed constant through the third 500 meters, but Northeastern made things interesting with a flurry in the final 500 to regain contact with the Harvard crew. The Huskies sprinted early to take back some seats from the Crimson, but Harvard cruised through to a comfortable five-to-six seat win.
The Crimson’s freshman eight, also undefeated, easily dispatched Northeastern with a 10.2-second win to secure Harvard’s 11th consecutive Smith Cup victory.
It marked the final dual tune-up for the Crimson, which will set its sights on Eastern Sprints, to be held on Sunday, May 18.
“It’s nice that we’ve had a successful dual season, but ultimately you race dual races to prepare for Sprints and IRAs,” Wintner said. “That’s what we’re hoping to accomplish. We’ve been preparing ourselves to race the best 2,000 meters we can at Sprints and the best three miles we can at Harvard-Yale.”
—Staff writer Aidan E. Tait can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.