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Prior to this weekend, Harvard and California were the nation’s only two undefeated men’s heavyweight crews. Now there is just one.
The top-ranked Golden Bears were stunned by No. 4 Washington in the Pac-10 championships on Sunday. The defeat was just California’s second in five seasons.
That result opens the door for No. 2 Harvard to take the No. 1 national ranking.
Despite winning all of its spring races by open water, the Harvard men’s heavyweight first varsity boat has been ranked behind California in every weekly USRowing poll this season. It has been tough for the voters to overlook California, the four-time defending IRA national champions.
From May 29-31, Harvard will have the chance at an IRA championship of its own at Camden, N.J. The Crimson typically has not competed at IRAs due to conflicts with training for the Harvard-Yale regatta.
California, No. 4 Washington and No. 3 Wisconsin will all provide tough competition for Harvard. California beat Washington twice prior to the Pac-10 championships and Wisconsin once in March. Wisconsin beat Washington in April. Harvard’s only head-to-head meeting with any of those crews was against Wisconsin at Eastern Sprints.
Earlier this month, the first varsity boat became the first to go undefeated during the dual race season and win Eastern Sprints since 1990. That 1990 crew did not finish the season undefeated, however, as it was upset at the Cincinnati Regatta, which back then determined the national title.
A Harvard victory at IRAs would be a historic feat not just because no Crimson heavyweight crew has ever won the IRA first varsity heavyweight race, but also because no Harvard crew has posted an undefeated spring season since the beginning of official national championship regattas in 1982.
The Harvard and Radcliffe lightweights will also be aiming for national titles at IRAs.
The Radcliffe lightweights are ranked No. 2 in the nation behind No. 1 Princeton but have yet to defeat the Tigers in four meetings this season. IRAs will be their fifth attempt.
The Harvard lightweights are ranked No. 4 in their poll, which has fluctuated wildly every week due to the closeness off the top crews. The Crimson ranking matches its most recent finish at Eastern Sprints. History is on their side, however, because Harvard has won the title in every odd year since 1991.
The Radcliffe heavyweights, the only crews competing in an NCAA-sponsored sport, were one of 12 teams selected yesterday to compete in the NCAA championships at Indianapolis from May 30 to June 1.
The selection was Radcliffe’s sixth straight in the seven-year history of the championship. The Black and White’s best overall finish in the championship was seventh. Its worst, which came last season, was 11th.
Brown and Washington have combined to win all six NCAA rowing titles, as each has won three. The title is determined by a point system that takes into account the performance of the first varsity eight, the second varsity eight and a third varsity four.
Although Brown is the defending NCAA champion, Radcliffe has the momentum entering NCAAs. The Black and White edged out the Bears for the overall title at Eastern Sprints last weekend. Leading the way was the Radcliffe first varsity crew, which destroyed Brown’s top boat by a five-second margin.
—Staff writer David R. De Remer can be reached at email@example.com.
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