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There’s nothing like sweeping the competition to shake off first-race jitters.
The Harvard lightweight crew won every race against Georgetown yesterday and captured the varsity and second varsity events over Cornell and Penn on Saturday. The Crimson was unsure of what to expect coming into its first competition of the season, especially given the short amount of time its boats had practiced on the water due to ice.
“Across the board, our main focus was for all the boats to just grind away—[there was] no set race plan,” captain Nick Blannin said.
Harvard now has a better idea of how it compares against national competition. The Hoyas defeated Princeton on Saturday and fell to defending national champion Yale last weekend by only two seconds.
The Crimson’s next challenge is on its home waters this Saturday when it races Dartmouth and MIT for the Biglin Bowl on the Charles River.
“We’re going to have to bring the rating up through the year and we can work on having a little more control,” Blannin said. “It was really tough in the rough water and it was the first race of the season. There are always a couple kinks to work out.”
Harvard fended off a Hoya push to beat Georgetown handily by almost five seconds on Mercer Lake, N.J., where the rowers also battled mid-30s temperatures and a strong crosstail wind that created whitecaps in the middle of the course.
The Crimson took a four-seat lead from the start, but the Hoyas took a seat back 700 meters into the race. One seat was not enough, however, as Harvard extended its advantage thoughout the rest of the course, finishing with open water between the boats.
In the second varsity event, the Harvard ‘A’ boat triumphed by nine seconds, while the ‘B’ boat fell behind Georgetown by over 25.
In the freshman events, both novice boats beat their Hoya counterparts, bouncing back from losses the previous day. In particular, the first freshman boat’s win was impressive in light of an interesting race.
“They showed a lot of character in the race against Georgetown,” Blannin said.
Despite being down two-thirds of a boat 500 meters into the race, the Crimson added a little power to pull by Georgetown in the final legs of the course.
“Down the course, we had a lot of fun trying to row into waves that were rolling because of the wind,” said freshman coxswain Felix Yu. “Georgetown was up coming into the 750-meter mark, but they were starting to fade and we took a power 10 to start walking through them with 750 [meters] left.”
Harvard’s success in the freshman boats came after a tough first outing on Saturday, when the first boat finished last of three and Cornell edged out the second boat.
“I think they’re feeling encouraged by today, but they also know they have a long road ahead,” Yu said.
While the Crimson found flat, if slightly rainy, conditions and a strong current in its favor on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pa., the course itself added intrigue.
A turn in the course at 700 meters resulted in a staggered start and uncertainty about boats’ positions.
In the varsity race, Harvard thought that it had a lead on Cornell, and knew it was ahead of Penn, but was only sure after passing the turn. After leaping that obstacle, however, the Crimson’s cushion was certain and Harvard opened its season with a three-second win over the Big Red and an 11-second victory over the Quakers.
Harvard boats fell in the third varsity and freshman events, but a battling win in the second varsity race gave the Crimson its second triumph.
Harvard was almost a length ahead of Cornell when the race hit the turn, where the Crimson, in the outside lane, lost two or three seats and fought exhaustion.
Harvard held on to its precarious lead and finished less than two seconds ahead of the Big Red.
“I was really impressed with how my guys pushed back,” said junior coxswain Dave Kang. “I have a bunch of tough guys in my boat and they’re not people that really want to pace themselves and that kind of behavior tends to lead to some breakdowns. We focused mainly on maintaining power through the sprint and letting the stroke rating come up naturally.”
—Staff writer Jessica T. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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