"Oklahoma: where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain!" or should we say, "Where the eights come sweepin' down the lane?”
This weekend the latter was definitely the case in Oklahoma City, Okla. where the annual Oklahoma Regatta Festival and Head of the Oklahoma regatta returned to the Oklahoma River. The Festival includes dragon boat racing, kayaking events, and rowing, as well as festivities for the community. And this year Crimson rowers have joined in the fun.
The Harvard men's heavyweight rowing team sent an eight of upperclassmen to the Head of the Oklahoma this weekend. The boat consisted of seven seniors including Ben French, Anthony Locke, Connor Griffith, Dave Wakulich, Phil Matthews, Alex Soutter and Chris Kingston, as well as two juniors, Sam O'Connor and Mike DiSanto.
On Saturday afternoon, the Crimson raced in an 8,500 meter head race down the Oklahoma River against crews from across the nation. Harvard placed second out of 10 crews overall in a time of 11:57.95. The West-coast rival California Golden Bears won the race in a time of 11:50.08, and traditional Ivy League opponent, the Princeton Tigers, finished third in 12:04.38.
The afternoon race was in actuality a qualifying event for the regatta's grand final: a 500-meter sprint raced last night under the lights. The Crimson raced in the center lane (lane four) with the Tigers and Golden Bears each two lanes to either side of it in lanes two and six, respectively. Harvard finished the sprint fifth out of nine, crossing the line in 1:22.7. The Crimson beat Princeton to the line by 0.3 seconds but did not catch the Cal eight, which finished second in a time of 1:19.5. The remaining top four finishers were all local crews representing USRowing.
This weekend's racing was a way for many of the senior members of the men's heavyweight squad to set a tone for what will be for most of them their final year competing for the Crimson. And, with the Head of the Charles—the world's largest regatta—only two weekends away, the chance to see live competition and put in some more miles will only help Harvard going forward.