Harvard men’s lightweight crew kicks off its spring season this weekend on the Charles River against Delaware. The Crimson wrapped up its fall season in style, showing off both its depth and speed at the Head of the Charles, where both the A and B boat finished in the top four.
“Based purely on the enthusiasm in the team and the degree of improvement we’ve seen since the fall season I’d say we have a pretty good team,” Harvard coach Charley Butt said. “But we’re just going into the season and it’s always difficult [to predict]. Sometimes problems come up that you just can’t predict. But I feel like our senior class and captain Will Newell have done a great job.”
Last year the Crimson swept the regular season, beating out top-ranked Princeton in the final weeks of competition to go into EARC Sprints with a 10-0 record. But the Tigers bounced back to reclaim their first-place team title, edging out Harvard by five points. Princeton continued on to win the IRA National Championships where the Crimson placed third behind the Tigers and Navy.
Over the summer Harvard also found success overseas, winning races against Yale, Oxford and Cambridge in Xinjin, China. The Crimson also got a chance to beat their ancient rivals in Beijing on the same course used for the 2008 Olympics.
This year Harvard is once again looking to be a contender on the national scene, especially with the addition of a strong sophomore class that went undefeated in last year’s duel season.
“Going undefeated in the regular season is pretty special,” freshman coach Linda Muri said. “It is very rare at the freshman level to be able to do that. How that translates at the varsity level is up to them through the hard work that they’re willing to put in to make a difference.”
“[The sophomores] asserted themselves last fall, and they have continued to do a great job,” Butt added. “One great thing about the senior class is how well they’ve welcomed the sophomores for their talent and ability to work hard. Our captain Will Newell has really been a big part of the team dynamics and helping everyone come together.”
Strong team dynamics will be crucial this year. Every race is essential to the team’s record, with so few weekends of competition lying between them and Eastern Sprints in Worcester, Mass., on May 15.
“The team’s coming together like it has all of the four years I’ve been here,” Newell said. “We have a great team dynamic and we’re working hard. We’re as strong as we’ve ever been, we’re as fast as we’ve ever been and we’re about to go out there and do what it takes to put us in the mix as a national team.”
This year’s league is looking faster than ever.
“We don’t want to overlook the entire league [focusing on Princeton],” Butt said. “Cornell has had some of the fastest ergometer times in the league and then Princeton as back-to-back champions obviously looks very formidable.”
The Crimson will be facing Cornell and Penn on April 9 on the Schuylkill River and will welcome the Tigers and the Bulldogs to home water on April 30 in its the last race before Sprints. April 23 will be another big weekend on Harvard water as the team faces off against the Midshipmen, last year’s IRA silver medalist.
Meanwhile the freshman team has also been hard at work preparing for the spring season and will try to fill the shoes of last year’s freshman and their undefeated record.
“We’ve been preparing for the racing season like everyone else,” Muri said. “[We have been] working hard indoors on the erg and taking advantage of two-a-days during spring break. We want to do the best we can every weekend.”
The team will need all of its boats to succeed.
“We have two goals this season,” Newel said. “The first is to win the national championships, which is something we’ve been looking at for a while. The second is to win the Jope Cup at the Sprints, a trophy which goes to the team with the most points. That’s something that’s indicative of the strength of our team as a whole, while the national championships will be indicative of the strength of our fastest boat.”
Rowing FashionablyBecause of NCAA restrictions, women’s heavyweight rowers are not allowed to “shirt race” like the men’s teams are, which means that when teams get the chance to pick up an opponent’s shirt, they make the most of it. Eastern Sprints, when everyone trades for each other’s shirts, is that rare chance.