Rowing great Jim Dietz once said, “Rowing is a sport for dreamers. As long as you put in the work, you can own the dream.”
Last season, the Harvard men’s lightweight varsity eight fell just short of its goal to become league and national champions, placing second at Eastern Sprints and then third at IRAs. Having won the 2009 Jope Cup for overall team points and graduating only three members of its varsity crew, the oarsmen knew there was reason to keep the dream alive.
“Two years ago, it was very clear that it was a rebuilding year,” said captain and three-year varsity eight veteran Martin Eiermann. “We didn’t do very well, but we learned a lot. And last year we had a great season, but there was always a slightly bitter aftertaste. But, when we came back this year, it was pretty clear that since we had won the Jope Cup in the Ivy League and come in second at Sprints, there was only one way to go.”
That way was to the top of collegiate lightweight competition. The No. 1 Crimson men’s lightweight varsity eight (10-0) outraced every crew it lined up against this dual racing season, earning the first unbeaten record for Harvard since 1997.
The team began the onslaught of victory April 3rd on the Charles River, defeating the University of Delaware. After that, Cornell, Penn, Georgetown, Saint Joseph’s, Dartmouth, MIT, and Navy all found themselves rowing in the Crimson’s wake.
This past weekend at the annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton Regatta, the varsity capped off its perfect 10-0 season with victories against then-No. 1 Tigers and No. 4 Bulldogs.
The HYP Regatta is a highly anticipated race for each of the participating crews. But, having fallen to both Princeton and Yale at IRAs last year, the Crimson entered this year’s regatta with revenge on its mind.
Off the starting line, the Tigers and Bulldogs took an early advantage on Harvard. After Yale fell off the pace, the Crimson was left to duke it out with Princeton. The Tigers maintained an advantage until the final 500 meters when Harvard’s relentless cadence drew them even and then pushed them ahead in the sprint, winning with a time of 5:40.7 to Princeton’s 5:41.4.
“The problem has never been so much motivating people to go hard but to keep their calm and have no one get flustered,” Eiermann said. “This crew has been particularly good at that. And we did a fantastic job [on Saturday] to deal with Princeton and deal with Yale when they jumped up a couple seats. Instead, we just did what we do best: row our base pace, win the race, and bring it home.”
The varsity eight line-up for this past weekend consisted of senior Dexter Louie at coxswain, sophomore Tim Moore at stroke, sophomore Austin Meyer at seven seat, junior Will Newell at six seat, Eiermann at five seat, junior Billy Hennrikus at four seat, sophomore Tom Nesel at three seat, junior Jared Dourdeville at two seat, and sophomore James Stewart at bow.
Junior Andrew Trott, who raced in the varsity line-up for every race previous to this past weekend, was unable to compete in the HYP Regatta. Nesel filled his spot and helped the varsity to win the Goldthwait Cup.
Although the Crimson’s perfect dual season record makes it appear like they are rising far above the pack, what is perhaps more impressive is that the entire league has gained more speed, and Harvard has still managed to push their bow ball out in front.
“In past seasons, we had races in which other boats were just completely out of it,” Newell said. “There used to be just a handful of fast crews in the league, but this year it is just so much closer. But this is exactly what lightweight racing should be. It should be racing where you’re contesting it for seven-tenths of a second, and where no one is giving up for the whole 2,000 meters. We’re just really happy that we could have a race against Princeton that showed how good both crews are. Of course, we’re happy to have come out on top, but we’re excited about the level of competition in general.”
With a week and a half to go until the Eastern Sprints, there is certainly time for the Crimson to find more speed. A perfect dual season record brings Harvard one step closer to realizing its dream, but for these oarsmen, it will be their finish at Sprints and IRAs that matters most.
“Now we have pretty big targets on our backs,” Moore said. “I think everyone is going to be as hungry as ever to hunt us down. But we just have to continue building on what we’ve been doing, going back to the fundamentals, making every stroke and every practice powerful and strong.”
—Staff writer Jessica L. Flakne can be reached at email@example.com.