Rowing legend Jim Dietz once said, “In rowing, as in life, there are competitors and there are racers. The competitor works hard and rows to his limit. The racer does not think of limits, only the race.”
If there’s one thing that the Harvard men’s heavyweight and lightweight squads both could not get out of their minds this season, it was the thought of races past and races yet to come. Each came off of last year’s performances at the regional Sprints championships and the IRA national championships with a bitter aftertaste lingering in their mouths.
Neither was able to upset their regional rivals nor claim victory on the national stage. This season was therefore about breaking the surface and coming out on top.
“This year’s Sprints did feel like unfinished business,” said sophomore and varsity three seat Mike DiSanto. “Because we had really fallen short last year at Sprints, as had the entire program, we really wanted to come back strong and get what was ours. And that was on the agenda through this season and into Sprints.”
After earning a road win at Cornell to open the season, the Harvard heavyweights traveled to Providence, R.I., where they faced Brown, the team that had upset them last year at Sprints. The racing was tight in all events, but the Crimson freshman eight was the only boat to secure a win.
“Although we were disappointed to lose to Brown at the beginning of the year, it really gave us a good wake-up call and got us training really hard to have the specific goal of beating them, running all the way up to Sprints,” said junior and varsity two seat Anthony Locke. “That was the biggest difference from last year—being really focused on beating them all the time.”
If the Bears were the fuel for Harvard’s fire, then MIT, Princeton, Navy, Penn, and Northeastern were all casualties of that early-season loss as well.
A snapped steering cable in the Princeton varsity boat that forced it to steer into Harvard marked the race against MIT and the Tigers on the Charles on Apr. 17. Princeton lost its bow in the collision and did not finish the race.
The Midshipmen, Quakers, and Huskies also found themselves in the Crimson’s wake.
Harvard’s win against Penn marked Crimson coach Harry Parker’s 50th Adams Cup regatta, and Harvard acquired the unofficial title of “fastest crew on the Charles” when it defeated crosstown rival Northeastern.
Most recently, the Crimson heavyweights walked away team champions at the Eastern Sprints Regatta, having won both the varsity eight as well as the freshman eight events.
The team still has the historic Harvard-Yale Regatta, the IRA national championships, and a trip for the varsity and freshman eights to the Henley Royal Regatta in England ahead on its slate.
The Harvard lightweight squad came off of last season gunning for the Princeton Tigers, who had upset the Crimson in the final three races of the season. Improving on Harvard’s performance from Sprints last year, where it had won the Jope Cup as team champions, would mean winning gold in all events this year.
“The team dynamics both within the first varsity boat and across the team as a whole have just been very, very good this year,” said junior and varsity two seat Jared Dourdeville. “And those team dynamics and that motivation have just been a great force throughout all of the team.”
From the season-opening sweep against the University of Delaware, the entire lightweight squad has been striving for perfect race performances. The varsity and freshman eight beat every opponent they faced this dual-racing season, including Cornell, Penn, Georgetown, St. Joseph’s, Dartmouth, Navy, and MIT.