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It may have happened over two weeks ago, but nothing--not even time--could take away from what the men's heavyweight crew team achieved at the Head of the Charles Race.
Stunning and exciting the thousands of spectators along the Charles river, the Crimson's second-place performance injected a shot of reality to its competitors.
"It proved that we have the power and the speed to not only compete, but to do fairly well [against the top teams]," said Harvard cox Dipanjan Banerjee. "We now know we have the raw material to run with the top boats."
Last year the Harvard heavyweights finished in 11th place at the Race, which meant that this time around the all-senior team started off the race in that same position. In a staggered start-like format, the Crimson began the three-mile race more than 100 seconds behind the first boat and approximately 20 seconds after 10th-place Yale.
Harvard not only caught up to Yale, but in the end, as its bow crossed the finish line, the Crimson's ultimate time was good enough for second-place behind the US National Team.
"I think we sort of surprised ourselves a little bit," said senior Connor Spreng. "We were quite happy with the way we were mentally prepared, and the way we enjoyed rowing together. That makes a world of difference."
What is most astounding and eye-catching, however, is that the eight Harvard rowers had only trained together as a group for three weeks. Besides two earlier races, the fall season had been void of the consistent competition which the team encounters during the spring season.
Enter the Head of the Charles Race. Although it holds no real mystique for the rowers, it does represent an opportunity for the Crimson to test the waters.
"For us the Head of the Charles is not an important race," Banerjee said. "But on other hand it is sort of a check up on where we are. We aren't at any point where we want to end up, but it is an encouraging start."
The Crimson, utilizing the clean waters which came as a result of starting behind the mass of the higher-seeded boats, closed the gap throughout the race and finally overcame the Elies as the two boats whizzed by the Eliot Bridge.
"It was very nice passing [Yale]," said senior Jonathon Lanken. "Basically as the boat passed we all relaxed because once they are behind you, you can control the tempo of the race, relax and push towards the end. It was a great feeling."
"It's the best," Spreng said. "We passed them on the outside and that's what it is all about. There is nothing else."
Although the team of eight rowers may not row together for the remaining of the year, they all accomplished something which is indeed hard to overlook.
"The fact that we did well says at least a little bit for everyone on the boat," Spreng said. "It says that the combination works quite well. How that turns out in the spring--I don't know, but it's definitely a boost for everyone on the boat."
The next challenge for the rowers will be in three weeks at the Tail of the Charles which pits local Boston schools against each other. Most likely this group of seniors will find themselves in the same boat once again.
And it's a sure bet that every other team will have its eye on the team from Harvard.
The Head of the Charles Race made sure of that.
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