It has been a season of adjustments across the river in Newell Boathouse, as both the men’s heavyweight and lightweight teams found themselves getting used to new coaches this year.
After the death of legendary coach Harry Parker on June 25, Harvard was forced to find a new head for the heavyweight program for the first time in over 50 years. The search lasted almost all summer, but in the end the heavies didn’t have to go very far—Charley Butt, the coach of the men’s lightweight program, accepted the heavyweight men’s position after 28 years at the helm of the H-150 crew.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to be able to work with Harvard students,” Butt said in the fall. “I feel like it is my mission to carry on the tradition that is a very competitive, ready-to-race-every-weekend kind of team.”
With the lightweight position now open, the search committee once again hired from within, as lightweight women’s coach Michiel Bartman switched over to coach the men after two years with the Radcliffe rowers.
With only the IRA National Championships and the Harvard-Yale heavyweight regattas remaining on the schedule, the year is nearly over for both crews. In a season of transitions, the No. 3 heavyweights haven’t seemed to miss a beat, with wins in every dual race, while the lightweights have struggled to pull together a fast boat, losing three head-to-head contests after going undefeated for the last two years.
The Harvard heavies have carried on the winning tradition of Parker this spring, as the first varsity boat followed up an undefeated dual season with a win at Eastern Sprints for the second consecutive year. The team won the inaugural Harry Parker Cup for its victory in the 1V race, which the team won by 1.2 seconds over top-seeded Brown on its way to posting a blistering time of 5:27.27, just .27 seconds off the course record.
The crew also won the Rowe Cup for the highest team point total overall, as the first freshman boat finished second and the 2V finished in fifth. A year after earning a silver medal in the 1V race at IRAs, the team will head into the national championships hoping to continue its perfect season.
Despite beginning the spring slate with very little on-the-water practice time—due to the ice covering the Charles River that just never seemed to melt—the team has not shown any sign of ill effects. The crew began its season with a win over Cornell and followed it up by taking home the Stein, Compton, and Adams Cups with victories over Brown, Princeton and MIT, and Penn, respectively.
The crew also experienced success during the fall regattas and was consistent throughout the year.
“The heavyweight men’s rowing team started out the 2014 season in tremendous fashion,” captain Andy Holmes said. “The seniors led in the fall with two great victories in Oklahoma, starting the year off with a bang. A month later, the whole squad performed exceptionally to post wins at both Head of the Charles Regatta and at Tail of the Charles.”
After winning the last two IRA National Championships, the lightweight team has struggled in its quest for a three-peat. The Crimson began the season ranked first in the country but faltered in its dual races, losing to Cornell early and then coming up short in its attempt to defend the Goldthwait Cup against Princeton and Yale.
“While we might not have gotten the results that we wanted, I think that the feeling on the team is that if we put our heads down and grind for three weeks, we can come out of it stronger and faster, and that we can show some more speed at Sprints,” junior captain Zander Bonorris said after the HYP race.
However, Harvard could not pull it together to defend its 2013 Sprints title, as the Crimson managed only a fifth place finish in the varsity eight grand final. Not a single Harvard boat came away with a victory in the regatta, as the first freshman boat was upset by Penn.
Despite the losses at Sprints, the Crimson remains focused on its final race of the collegiate season at IRAs in a few weeks.
“As an athlete, it is essential to look to the future and continue on the road to more speed,” Bonorris said. “Looking back rarely helps, and I think that our squad has done a wonderful job of working hard to maximize our boat speed coming into the championship regatta.”
—Staff writer Glynis K. Healey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Tanner Skenderian can be reached at email@example.com.