At a place as historic and stuck in its ways like Harvard, traditions don’t often fade in and out of existence, never mind re-emerge after a more than sixty-year absence.
But when the Harvard men’s heavyweight crew travels to Ithaca, N.Y., this coming Saturday to open up its sprint season against Cornell, that is exactly what will happen.
Prior to 1946, the Crimson would meet the Big Red each season in dual competition. With the introduction of the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges (EARC) Sprints, the annual race was discontinued.
Not this year.
“[Cornell] wanted to add a race against another Ivy League school,” Harvard coach Harry Parker said. “And, it worked out well for us because of the new calendar and wanting to get in another race with the extra weekend we have.”
The Big Red’s varsity boat placed fourth at last year’s Sprints and had a competitive showing at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Regatta. Cornell should be excited to catch a glimpse of Harvard weeks before the Sprints because the Crimson consistently places in the top three crews at the championships each season.
Last year’s varsity eight went undefeated in dual competition, placed second at Sprints and placed fifth at the IRA Regatta.
For a Harvard squad powered primarily by young oarsmen, this additional race is an important step in finding speed early.
The Crimson varsity eight returns only three rowers from last season’s line-up, including captain Blake Pucsek, junior Anthony Locke, and junior David Wakulich. The remaining seats are filled out by five sophomores—Pat Lapage, Matt Edstein, Mike DiSanto, Nick Jordan and Sam O’Connor. Senior coxswain Kelly Evans brings much-needed experience to the boat, and will steer the varsity down the 2,000-meter course at Cayuga Inlet on Saturday.
“The varsity is young,” Parker said. “[But] they have trained hard and have made some very good progress technically with their rowing. I didn’t anticipate that there would be quite so many [sophomores], but they all have certainly earned the opportunity.”
Harvard will bring several eights to race against the Big Red, including a junior varsity and third varsity composed of seasoned veterans. After a winter of indoor training on the ergs for the Crimson rookies, the freshman eight is also poised to perform well in Ithaca.
“There is a pretty good mix of some experienced seniors throughout the squad and now a particularly strong sophomore class,” Parker said. “The crews have only been together a couple of days but they are already working well together.”
Like their heavyweight counterparts, the Harvard lightweight men’s team opens their sprint season this Saturday with a new addition to its schedule—a race at home against Delaware.
The Crimson squad showcases a lot of depth this season, returning six athletes from last year’s varsity eight and a strong class of sophomores. Line-ups are still being sorted out for this weekend, a testament to the talent on the team.
“There are a lot of guys that I could see being great candidates for the varsity boat,” captain Martin Eiermann said. “Unfortunately, this means that we have to do a lot of narrowing down, and we’re still in the process of doing that and testing out the different combinations. The intensity of competition within the team is very high but it’s not detrimental to the overall team environment.”
The Fightin’ Blue Hens are not generally top competition for teams in the EARC. But Delaware returns five rowers from the boat that won the Dad Vail Regatta last year and is anxious to make waves in early season action against an EARC-boat in Harvard.
“Yes, Delaware is not the opponent that we expect to be the fastest,” Eiermann said. “But I think that we’ve been very clear about the fact that we can’t underestimate them. You know, we can’t really say yet where we stand exactly, so this is going to be a good way to sort of test the waters.”
In addition to a strong varsity squad, the Crimson will field a freshman eight that has been rowing in a set line-up for a few months. The rookies had strong finishes during the fall racing season, including a victory at the Princeton Chase.
“The freshmen are quick,” Eiermann said. “Looking at how they did this past fall and how hard they have been working through the winter, I think they are set up well for this season. The sky is the limit.”
—Staff writer Jessica L. Flakne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.