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Watching crew by sunset might be a rare event, but a sizeable crowd had the chance to relish it yesterday as the Harvard heavyweights opened their season with a sweep of Northeastern.
The heavyweight races, originally scheduled to start at 8:20 a.m. yesterday, were pushed back to 6 p.m. due to heavy winds in the morning. The first varsity finished its race 11 seconds before Northeastern under a Boston University Bridge illuminated by the lights of Nickerson Field.
Harry Parker, the Harvard coach for the last 39 years, said he could not remember ever having raced on the Charles so late.
The one drawback of the late start, according to senior Mike Blomquist, was that the team had all day to think about the race.
The advantage, however, was that the evening start was more suitable for bigger crowds at the Harvard and BU Bridges. For rowers who often leave for morning competition before their roommates have retuned from the previous evening’s activities, the late start was a welcome change.
Those in attendance witnessed the Harvard first varsity’s sixth straight triumph over Northeastern and its largest victory over the Huskies since 1968. The race was a showdown of the No. 1 and No. 2 crews in the East and the No. 3 and No. 5 crews in the nation, but the favored Harvard crew kept the race from being close.
The impending Crimson domination was not apparent from the outset of the race, as Northeastern jumped out to a quick lead. But it did not last. Harvard pulled away and finished in 6:11. The victory earned Harvard the Charlie Smith Cup.
“They were up a little off the start, and we just hit a nice groove and a base pace and tried to be strong in the headwind and thankfully God let us move out,” Blomquist said.
“We didn’t crab. We didn’t have any major catastrophes,” he added. “It was pretty clean all the way through. For a first race with five new guys in the boat it was good.”
One of those new guys was sophomore Malcolm Howard, who became a household name when he was allegedly assaulted by two Northeastern rowers last month. While both teams have sought to put the incident behind them, it did affect racing yesterday because the school-imposed suspension of the two Husky rowers left Northeastern unable to field a second varsity eight.
“I don’t think there was any animosity towards Northeastern,” Blomquist said. “One of the guys goes to the same church as I do. They’re all good guys.”
Instead of racing its second varsity eight, Harvard split into two coxed fours, which both soundly defeated the Northeastern second varsity four. Once that race was finished, the incident was no longer a factor.
“People do bring stuff up, and I kind of wish they wouldn’t,” Blomquist said. “It’s the kind of sports talk that happens around other sports that you don’t think is ever going to happen around crew, but that’s the way it goes.”
In earlier racing, Harvard’s first freshman boat took its race by 11 seconds while the second freshman boat triumphed by a comfortable 38-second margin.
—Staff writer David R. De Remer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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