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For the first time in four years, Harvard's varsity heavyweight crew will enter the Eastern Sprint Championships on Worcester's Lake Quinsigamond Saturday as the number one seed and the decided favorite.
The vote of confidence for coach Harry Parker's squad stems from its length and a quarter victory over Navy and a submerged Penn crew last week in the Adams Cup at Philadelphia.
All three crews were undefeated going into the race and the winner was all but promised the number one seeding for this weekend. For the past eight years the Sprint champion has been an Adams Cup competitor, and this year's competition may not offer an exception.
Again this season the Crimson is expected to battle its old Adams Cup cronies Penn (seeded fourth) and Navy (rated second) for the Rowe Cup, symbol of heavyweight supremacy in the East. Undefeated Northeastern is ranked third by the Sprints' seeding committee but it has not raced the caliber of competition of the Adams three and is not anticipated to make a serious run for the title.
In last week's victory on the Schuylkill. Harvard and the Quakers were in a dead heat battle after 1000 meters with Navy about three-quarters of a length back when the rough waters and a 25 mph wind swamped Penn's newly christened "Joe Burk" shell and its chances for victory.
Harvard opened up a little over a length margin on the Middies before a Navy sprint closed the gap back to three-quarters of a length. Harvard sprinted after the Navy crew brought the stroke up, but when it did the Crimson pulled away to its final margin of over a length.
Navy coach Ullrich is using the same lineup as last week and believes that in calmer, less menacing seas, the Midshipmen will retain the championship they won last year.
"The Adams Cup was not a fair test of any crew's abilities. It just didn't feel fair rowing in such horrendous conditions and I know we'll have a much better row this weekend at the Sprints." Ullrich said.
Last season Navy beat a third place Crimson eight by 3.6 seconds, as Rutgers was a surprise second.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia. Quaker coach Ted Nash maintains he has enough baling wire and chewing gum to hold together the dredged up remains of the Burk and plans to use this experimental red cedar shell Saturday.
The Quakers are in the middle of exams this week, but have been trying to set afloat piecemeal pairs. fours, and eights during the available time in an attempt to get as much time on the water as possible.
"When talking about preparing Penn crews for the Sprints while our exams are still in progress, my predecessor. Joe Burk used to say that 'if you won the Adams Cup by a length and a half, you'd be lucky to get in a dead heat at the Sprints,' and since we finished 1000 meters behind Harvard last week it looks like we're sort of out of it." Nash said.
Nevertheless, Penn stroke Walter Updergrave thinks Penn will take the feature race. "We've been pointing for this race more than anything," the sophomore said. "Naturally I thought we would have won Saturday. I'm sure of it, and I know we can win the Sprints."
These top three crews will be expecting tough challenges from Cornell, MIT, and possibly Wisconsin, but the final sprint for the finish should still find the Adams Cup trio in the forefront.
The three crews offer an interesting study in different syles, techniques, and approaches to rowing.
At Navy, Ullrich stresses hard work as the only factor in the Middies' victories. "We use no foreign equipment, no gimmicks, no fancy stuff," Ullrich said. "I wish everyone rowed that way, then it'd be men against men--like it used to be."
Navy is known as a well-conditioned, hard-driving eight with a blazing finishing sprint. It looked like the Middies picked up a little ground on the Crimson during their sprint last week, but Harvard may have cancelled the gains when it opened up its final reserve.
'I really don't know," Nash said. "I was helping my crew get their degree in snorkeling at the time and I didn't get to see the end of the race.
Penn, over the years, has been characterized as a producer of fast starting and fast finishing crews. Last week, the Quakers did indeed start very fast, but the finish will have to be snappier if Penn expects to win Saturday.
Parker will be sticking with the same lineup he has used so successfully all season and the Crimson will be again attempting to grind down opponents with the consistent strength through the body and endurance which has become its trademark.
Harvard's second boat and freshman crews are rated overwhelming favorites to take their respective championships back to Newell Boathouse. Last season the JV and Yardling shells finished third and second respectively.
Harvard's crews are very good this year but the varsity is really great," Nash said. "And anyone who beats them is going to have to be awfully good or awfully lucky, and we've sort of run out of the luck aspect of the thing so we'll have to wait and see."
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