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Last time it was in the final 700 meters. This go around, No. 1 Navy snatched victory away from No. 2 Harvard in the first 20 strokes.
Though the Crimson walked away from the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges (EARC) Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond yesterday with the most team points and the first Jope Trophy for best cumulative performance since 1991—due in large part to a victory in the second varsity and the first title for a freshman eight since 1985—a win for the varsity eight again eluded Harvard’s grasp.
“Devastating is the best word to describe it,” said senior coxswain Dave Kang. “We were very confident coming into this weekend. We knew we had what we needed to do to get what has been so hard for Harvard to get a hold of.”
In the two crews’ previous dual, the Crimson had solidly held the lead through the first 1,300 meters, though eventually succumbing to a Midshipmen sprint. Navy wasn’t about to place itself in such a difficult position twice.
“Navy got us on the line,” said sophomore three seat Alex Phillips, “and they held on to it.”
Starts have been a weak point for Harvard throughout the 2004 campaign, but in every instance prior to yesterday’s loss the Crimson not only negated the early deficit, but held a substantial lead.
“The strategy over the entire season, including this race, has been to focus on fundamentals and execution,” Kang said. “We haven’t spent considerable time on aggression and race skills, something other crews work on a lot.”
After the first 15 strokes, Navy had already established a four-seat lead, leaving Harvard in a familiar, but untenable position. Initially, the Crimson did what it has all season long. As other crews nipped at its heels, Harvard slowly walked back through the Midshipmen, winnowing their lead to a mere seat at the 1,000-meter mark.
But whereas in their earlier contest, Navy had caved early before winning late, the Midshipmen maintained their advantage throughout, ceding some water but always countering with a move strong enough to hold Harvard at bay.
“They cleaned up their base rate and got a real strong middle 1,000 going,” Phillips said. “I think they really solidified that middle part of the race.”
And while the Crimson’s technical execution was sound as well, Navy’s strategic advantage, combined with those race skills prevented Harvard from ever making a full comeback.
“They were answering every call,” Kang said. “It was a very formidable adversary. We rowed a very strong race. But ultimately the margin established at the beginning of the race—when you’re sitting up on a crew you can respond to any move they try to make.”
As the crews passed the midway point and headed for the final stretch, the Crimson remained within striking distance, just two seats behind at its greatest deficit.
Then, the dreaded 1,300-meter mark.
Though the roles were reversed on this second run, the result was just as devastating as before.
“They put on a sprint,” Kang said. “We put on a sprint with them. And we just couldn’t keep up with them.”
With Harvard and Georgetown both attempting a final maneuver, Navy unleashed its engine room, making a small advance before the 1,500-meter point, then leaving the jockeying shells in its wake.
The Midshipmen motored to an eight-seat lead in just 500 meters, crossing the line at 5:53.884, leaving the Crimson to hold off the Hoyas for second place.
The Crimson resumes racing at IRA Nationals June 6 in Camden, N.J.
—Staff writer Timothy McGinn can be reached at email@example.com.
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