Although commencement weekend marked the end of most seniors' careers at Harvard, those on the men's crew teams still had unfinished business.
At the 112th IRA National Championships, the lightweight crew exceeded expectations and came home with two silver finishes, while the heavyweights fell below the predicted placements and lost grasp of getting a medal.
Racing took place on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J., over Saturday and Sunday. For the lightweights, this marks the end of the season, but the heavyweights still have the historic regatta against Yale to look forward to.
Three varsity and one freshman boat, all rowing in eights, represented the Crimson down in New Jersey this weekend. The top crew was predicted to finish in third place but fell to fifth after fighting a three-way tie along the course with California and Princeton.
Harvard finished first in its heat but fifth overall before the grand final where the Crimson finished at a time of 5:45:389, five seconds behind the time in which the crew qualified. Washington took first with a time of 5:37:113 with Brown (5:39.626) and California (5:42:063) following right behind, both receiving medals. Harvard finished nearly seven seconds ahead of Yale.
The Crimson sent one freshman boat to compete this weekend, and this crew came closest to the medal stand. Finishing in the grand final with a time of 5:55.150, Harvard was less than a half a second behind Brown who took third. Washington (5:46:324) and California (5:52:105) took first and second.
The second varsity placed third in the third final with a time of 5:50.776 and the third varsity placed fourth in the third final with a 6:11.697 time.
It was an exciting weekend for the H150, which went into racing expected to finish in fifth place but sprinted past the others to take home two silver medals. The Crimson sent one varsity eight and one varsity four down to New Jersey to compete.
The varsity four had the fastest time across the qualifying heats but finished a second and a half behind Columbia in the grand final, with a time of 6:30.323.
“It was incredibly special to see the varsity four pull out a tremendous performance and get a silver in such a competitive event with fast boats from Columbia and Wisconsin,” junior captain Alexander Bonnoris said.
The eight boat had a very close finish to get the silver in the grand final, a half second behind Ivy League rival Cornell, with a time of 5:48.463. The next boat was Columbia and the Lions were a full second and a half behind Harvard.
This second-place finish was unexpected for both the Crimson and the entire lightweight rowing community.
“The most special thing about the grand final race was the way in which our crew attacked the first minute and a half of the race,” he said. “The aggression and ferocity that we laid down in the first 500 meters of the race set the stage for a truly aggressive and out of body race. All eight guys pushed themselves to the limits, and we were able to improve on our ranked position and defeat crews that had beat us by over 5 seconds in the regular season.”
Harvard competed with five freshmen across the two championship boats, displaying the depth and strong future for the crew. The Crimson graduates three seniors who raced this weekend: Andrew Campbell, Alex Newell, and coxswain Shane Bouchard.
Harvard’s aim on the water was to keep the crew’s mentality strong with determination, despite the less-than-ideal fifth-place boat ranking in the heavyweight division.
“Rather than allowing the low ranking to hinder our performance, we let it fuel us as much as it possibly could,” Bonorris said. “The speed that we generated and sustained over the course of the race speaks to the ability of the eight guys in the boat to believe in ourselves when others did not. At the end of the day, we knew that we had the speed and that we just needed to put a full piece together to get the result that we were capable of.”
—Staff writer Tanner Skenderian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.