Last year at the Eastern Sprints it was a pretty nice day and the weather, plus the promise of good racing, brough crew fans out from wherever it is they hide in droves. But, to tell the truth, most of the races weren't that exciting--unless you happened to be a sadistic Harvard lover.
Harvard took four of five races in the finals, losing only in the frosh lightweight division to Princeton, and set the stage for the main event: top-seeded Harvard versus Penn for the heavyweight championship of the East.
Penn and Harvard rowed evenly for a little while. Then the Crimson began to move, a bit at a time, wearing the Quakers down. The crowd yelled louder and louder as the crews approached the finish--Harvard was a length ahead, Harvard had the race.
Across Lake Quinsigamond in lane six Northeastern began a ferocious sprint and blew out of the pack, past Harvard and Penn for first. Brown, in the lane next to the Huskies, followed their example and slid into second place, just ahead of the unbelieving Crimson boat.
It was the second Sprint loss in a row for Harvard, the second in ten years for Harry Parker. Northeastern was everybody's favorite sports fairy tale; the crew that had not even qualified for the finals of the Sprints in the two previous years comes from behind to down top-ranked Harvard.
Reversing the Roles
It's 1973 now and the roles are reversed. The Huskies are back, undefeated and seeded first for the Sprints. But they won't be able to sneak out of lane six this time; this time everyone will be watching them, especially a very fast Crimson crew.
The Crimson is seeded second in the regatta and, if the seeding committee had simply gone by times over the season, probably should have been seeded first. But the lower seed may well work out in Harvard's favor.
Northeastern faces fourth-ranked Wisconsin in the first heat and an unranked but very tough Rutgers crew. Wisconsin, which MIT coach Pete Holland says is the toughest crew Tech faced--including Harvard and Northeastern--will give the Huskies a run and end up in the finals.
Northeastern coach Ernie Ariett could even have his crew row for second place if Wisconsin races at a high stroke. All the Huskies want to do is qualify and not wear themselves out, but they will have to watch Rutgers.
The Crimson only has to worry about Penn in its heat. Last weekend the Adams Cup race at Navy was postponed until Sunday and Penn had to leave because of finals, so the Quakers are still an unknown.
The third heat should have the best racing. Third-ranked Brown, sixth-ranked Navy and Syracuse are all good crews. The Bruins are the fastest of the three with Syracuse and Navy very close. None of the three will be able to coast into the finals.
It all shapes up to Harvard, Northeastern and Wisconsin as the three strongest crews in the afternoon event and of those three Harvard looks like the best bet in a close contest.
In the J.V. heavyweight match-up Harvard is seeded first and Northeastern second. The Crimson, which downed a very fast Northeastern graduate boat by open water this season, is sure to win unless some disaster strikes. The undefeated J.V. is far stronger than any other second boat in the East.
Harvard's freshman crew is also undefeated and ranked number one, but it hasn't raced second-seeded Penn and the Quaker frosh are supposed to be fast. The best indicator should be Penn's morning heat with MIT.
Earlier this Spring oarsmen from all around Boston competed for the National Camp, which will select a crew to compete in Moscow this summer. Both Harvard and Northeastern sent crews.
As a few four-oared shells lined up to race a Huskie oarsman yelled across the water to a Northeastern pair passing by. "Hey Sam," he shouted, "stick around for the preview of the Sprints." The Northeastern four won that race; Saturday may be different.
The Dynasty Lives OnWhen you have as storied and successful a heavyweight crew program as Harvard does, preseason expectations are always high. Heady
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