Rowing is a sport of repetition. Although an oarsman may achieve one perfect stroke, to repeat that flawless motion even twice, never mind over 200 times down a 2,000-meter race course in sync with seven other people, is a true feat. Fortunately, when it comes to racing, a crew just has to come closer to perfection than its opponent in order to win.
This past season, the Harvard men’s heavyweight and lightweight programs made perfection their goal, and, while neither squad has had a blemish-free season, they have outperformed all of their opponents at some point this spring.
The Crimson men’s heavyweight varsity boat consisted of five sophomores, two juniors and one senior, as well as a senior coxswain, making it one of the youngest top eights coach Harry Parker has had in years. But youth does not mean inexperience. These oarsmen carried with them a sense of brotherhood they gained last year rowing on the freshman eight that took silver at EARC Sprints.
“They are experienced, they work well together, and they are fast,” senior coxswain Kelly Evans said. “And it was maybe to their advantage that they had no expectations about how fast they should or shouldn’t be. It was a fresh start for them.”
After defeating Cornell in its first dual race of the season, the Crimson fell to the Brown Bears in Providence, R.I. on Saturday, Apr. 10. The Bears took first at Eastern Sprints last year, and another loss to Brown—this time early in the season—motivated Harvard to step up its training before it would line up again against the Bears at Sprints.
“In the fall at Tail of the Charles, our top three boats lost by an average of seven seconds to Brown,” said sophomore varsity three seat Mike DiSanto. “So Harry really challenged all of us to make up those seven seconds over the course of the winter on the erg. Then our loss to Brown this spring was a refocus point. It was the make-it-or-break-it point of our season. We wanted to get them back at Sprints.”
The varsity eight went on to defeat MIT, Princeton, Navy, Penn, and Northeastern before having another shot at Brown on Sunday, May 16 at Eastern Sprints in Worcester, Mass.
In the grand finals, Harvard led the field from the starting strokes and ended all other crews’ hopes of a comeback with a move in the third 500 meters. The varsity finished first, with Princeton taking second and Brown coming in a surprising third.
“The race went to plan,” said junior and varsity two seat Anthony Locke. “We always had a quick start, and the problem had been falling off the pace in the middle where Brown was strongest. So we always practiced the third quarter and going faster there. That’s what we did [at Sprints], and when it came to it, Brown didn’t have anything else it could give in the third quarter, nor did Princeton really.”
The Harvard freshman eight finished off a perfect season by winning gold at Sprints.
The highlight of the Crimson lightweight squad’s season was the varsity and freshman eights’ undefeated dual-racing record, capped off by each boat’s victory at the annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton Regatta. The varsity boat went a remarkable 10-0 before falling to Princeton at Eastern Sprints. This season marked the 27th undefeated dual-racing season for a varsity boat in the program’s history and was also the first time the Crimson had accomplished that since 1997. The first freshman eight also posted a perfect 10-0 dual-racing season before taking second place at Sprints to Cornell by less than half of a second.
For both the Harvard heavies and lights, the season was not quite perfect. But for the majority of performances thus far, the squads have outraced their opponents. The final tests will come in New London, Conn. at the Harvard-Yale regatta on Saturday and then in Camden, N.J. for the IRAs—the national championships.
—Staff writer Jessica L. Flakne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.