For lightweight rowers Andrew Campbell and Austin Meyer, the Head of the Charles Regatta will mark their first competition back in a Harvard boat after a year spent away from school vying for a spot in the 2012 London Olympics. Ultimately, neither rower reached the Games.
“This will be my first time on a large collegiate crew team in around 15 months,” Campbell remarks. “Life on a college crew team is much different than training on a small boat internationally. It makes practicing and training that much more fun.”
Last spring, Campbell and Meyer began their respective quests to make the U.S. Olympic Team as competitors rather than teammates. In April, both rowers competed in doubles at the Non-Qualified Olympic Small Boat Trials. Campbell and his partner Will Daly finished first—ahead of Meyer’s boat by about six seconds—and advanced to the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland.
But at that regatta, Campbell and Daly narrowly missed landing a spot on the team. They were edged out by about a second for one of the top two finishes, bringing their Olympic prospects to an end.
Campbell quickly got back to training to channel his frustration at the outcome in Lucerne.
“I sat idle for about two weeks after [the qualification regatta], but I grew restless and needed an outlet to make it feel better again,” Campbell says. “So, I got back in the single, which I really enjoyed. The single was my first true love in rowing.”
Campbell went on to compete at the Henley Royal Regatta in June, where he raced individually in the prestigious Diamond Challenge Sculls event. Campbell made it as far as the semifinals and then fell to South Africa’s Peter Lambert, who went on to secure the Henley title.
“Henley was an obvious choice because it was low pressure and really fun, but high competition,” Campbell says. “I had a great regatta, which boosted my confidence following the Olympic letdown.”
After Campbell’s strong showing at Henley, he decided to keep rowing the single and represent the U.S. in the 2012 Senior World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. He won a bronze medal in the event.
“I think having that opportunity to compete at the international level and represent the U.S. was a way to take away some of the sting of being so close to making the U.S. Olympic team,” says Linda Muri, who coaches the Crimson freshman lightweights as well as Campbell and Meyer individually.
After his own Olympic disappointment, Meyer took a different course. He paired up with fellow American rower Nick Trojan to race at the U-23 World Championships. In the final of the event, Meyer’s boat finished fourth with a time of 6:54.33, marking the best-ever finish for an American crew.
Although they were competitors this summer, Campbell and Meyer say the shared experience competing on the international level has brought them closer together. And now that they have both returned to race with Harvard this season, they will be rowing side by side in the first varsity boat.
“We both have the same goal,” Meyer says. “I think it’s awesome to have two young guys from Harvard finish one-two at Olympic trials. I think that’s really promising for the future…. We both have a lot of respect for each other.”
The Crimson lightweights’ success last season has also helped to ease the transition back to collegiate rowing for Campbell and Meyer.
“The team this year is phenomenal,” Meyer says. “Many of the guys are returning from winning National Championships. I’m coming back to a really experienced group of guys. I’m blending in pretty well.”