Deuces Wild For Crews

A famous crew adage reads, "Pain is short, pride is forever." Unfortunately, the reverse is all too true, especially when you spill your guts out to lose by six-tenths of a second.

The 1998 Eastern Sprints Regatta, held at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass., is an all-day event in which collegiate crews race 2000-meter heats to qualify for an afternoon 2000-meter final. The winner is invited to the prestigious Henley Regatta in England, an honor which Harvard only nearly missed, as the afternoon saw two second-place finishes by the Harvard men's heavyweight and lightweight teams.

A surprise fourth-seeded Penn team won in 6:05.0, just a hair's breadth over the Harvard heavies' time of 6:05.6. The Harvard lightweights, who led for most of the race, were defeated by a hard-sprinting Princeton in the final 500 meters.

Second place may sound pretty impressive to those who have never picked up an oar and sweated blood-and-tearsalong with eight other teammates in equallyexcruciating agony, but not so for those involvedin the sport.

"In crew, you either win or you don't, there'sno such thing as second place," said co-captainJonathan Kibera of the men's lightweight crew."Second place is just as worse as six because youlose your shirt."



The Harvard heavies entered the Easterns as aNo. 2 seed in the Eastern crew coaches poll.Princeton was a strong favorite to win, featuringa boat loaded with probable U.S. National teamrowers.

The championship race for the men'sheavyweights was about as heartbreaking as "E.T."for the Crimson. Penn took an early lead in thefirst 500 meters of about a boat-length, often amove made by less experienced teams who fizzle outlater in the race. Harvard stayed in the middle ofthe pack, slightly behind Princeton and Yale.

At the 1000-meter mark, Harvard began to makeits move. Passing Yale and Princeton, the Crimsonstill found itself a boatlength behind Penn.Several hundred meters later, Penn found itselfunder heavy pressure from a relentless Harvardboat who by now had shaken itself clear from thepack.

"With 750 meters on, we started closing onPenn," said senior heavyweight rower GeoffreySahs. "With 500 meters to go, we really put thepressure on Penn and pretty much stayed the samedistance ahead of the pack."

Down to the final meters of the race, Harvardwas down by only a seat to the underdogs.

But that was as far as it would get.

Against an angry headwind, both crews madetheir final last-gasp sprints, and Penn crossedthe line only six-tenths of a second ahead of avaliant Harvard crew.

"It was a ballsy effort..." said seniorheavyweight coxswain Jason Kastner. "Sprints is achance to show your speed versus the rest of theeast. I think by beating Princeton we showed thattoday. We just happened to come up a little shortin the end...When you have some perspective on it,I really think it was a fantastic performance."

But for those who spend a significant part oftheir college career chugging through the water orworking the ergometer in preparation for thesekind of races, its easy to understand how secondplace can leave you feeling as if you had justbitten into a ripe lemon.

"We really did want to win, and it was tough tolose by such a little margin," Sahs said. "A fewseconds back we ended up pulling up with [Penn]and they won by six-tenths of a second...That wasthe heart-breaking part--just to be so close."

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