WORCESTER--On sullen, gray Lake Quinsigamond, a brawny Yale heavyweight crew yesterday frustrated the hopes of coach Harry Parker's oarsmen for an undefeated season and a national championship.
The undefeated Elis took an early lead in the Eastern Sprint championship race in Worcester and steadily expanded its lead over the 2000-meter course, finishing with a length-and-a-quarter margin over the Crimson and a time of 6:09.1 to Harvard's 6:12.5 and Dartmouth's 6:13.2.
The victory is Yale's second straight and fourth ever in the Sprints. The Elis also earned the Rowe Cup, signifying the highest combined total of points in the varsity, junior varsity and freshman races at the heavyweight level. Harvard won the Rowe Cup in 1978 and 16 other years, but lost at all three levels this year, giving Yale its second Rowe Cup.
Coach Parker said afterwards, "We did everything we wanted to do, but they were just too strong for us."
Indeed the Eli oarsmen used their significant size advantage early in the race. Their edge in rowing power helped them expand the lead despite Harvard's efforts to overtake them.
Both leaders began the race without any problems, but Yale soon opened up a quarter-of-a-length lead which it maintained until the 500-meter mark.
With one-quarter of the race gone, Yale moved to a three-seat lead, rowing at a 36-strokes-per-minute cadence, and Harvard, at 37, still could not gain.
With the Crimson oarsmen battling Dartmouth for second place about half-a-length behind the leaders, Harvard attempted a power 20 at the halfway point in an unsuccessful effort to take the lead.
In fact, the Eli lead grew during the middle portion of the race and the Big Green, in a surprisingly powerful burst in the final 500 meters, nearly caught Harvard for the second spot.
Sophomore number three Jay Smith said, "Our pace went well, but they were just so much stronger than we were."
The Harvard eight, averaging 6-ft. 2-in. and 175-lbs. is Parker's smallest heavyweight crew ever. Yale, boasting two men at 6-ft. 7-in. and several at 6-ft. 3-in., maintained a steady cadence throughout the race, but by virtue of its longer, more powerful strokes, pulled away from the fast-plowing Crimson.
Yale's junior varsity, which won in 6:25.4, also opened up the margin with 500 meters to go, while Northestern (6:28.8) just nipped previously undefeated Harvard (6:29.3) at the finish.
Coach Ted Washburn's heavyweight freshmen crew, also undefeated before the Sprints, met disaster with about 500 meters remaining, when two members of the team caught crabs (a complete loss of synchronization with the rest of the boat). The Crimson, second before the miscue, settled for fifth behind Yale, Northeastern, Wisconsin and Cornell.
All three Crimson heavyweight boats have a final chance against the Elis June 10th on the Thames River in New London, Conn. in the Sexton Cup. The varsity faces a four-mile test, and the J.V. race three miles and freshmen two. Harvard took all three last year.
With the longer distances, Yale's strength advantage could again prove decisive. As senior captain and stroke Gordie Gardiner said, "They're big and they're strong and they are going to be tough at four miles."
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