C.R.A.S.H.-B’s Kick Off Spring Season

BOSTON—If you looked at a program for yesterday’s C.R.A.S.H.-B’s indoor rowing competition, which displays headlines such as “I Was Bigfoot’s Erg Slave” and “Puce is the Hot Winter Color,” you might have thought that the event was a joke. But while the program emphasizes the event’s fun spirit, don’t let it fool you: the competition is fierce and attracts the best rowers in the world.

“My favorite part of today?” Radcliffe senior and Olympic silver medalist Caryn Davies asked. “Not throwing up.”

The event started at Harvard’s Newell Boathouse as a way to spice up the boring winters rowers had to go through off the water. The “Charles River All Star Has-Beens” began training indoors with the invention of the Model A rowing ergometer in 1980. Their idea quickly grew event into the premier world indoor rowing championship that the C.R.A.S.H.-B’s are today. In 1997 the event found its current home at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston.

The 2,000-meter race attracts a diverse group of rowers. Freshman Avery Williams volunteered at the competition and coxed a 15-year-old boy in one event and then had to test her Spanish skills by coxing a veteran rower from Mexico in another. Some C.R.A.S.H.-B competitors, like those from Harvard, are used to competing on water, but others have never been on a boat.

Harvard rowers made an incredible showing yesterday against ergers who came from as far away as New Zealand. The most exciting part of the day, according to Linda Muri, the freshman lightweight men’s coach, was “having three Harvard oarsmen on the stands for the collegiate lightweight championship.”

Senior lightweight rower Dave Stephens had a repeat of his 2003 performance, winning the lightweight collegiate men’s event again, with a time of 6:17.30. Freshman Moritz Hafner was behind him with a time of 6:19.60. Sophomore Marc Luff came in third with a time of 6:21.50, shaving over two seconds off his 2004 performance.

In the heavyweight division, sophomore Toby Medaris placed 42nd overall in the open men’s division and 28th in the collegiate division, with a time of 6:14.90.

The women also did very well, despite the timing of the race, which was held two weeks earlier than last year’s. Radcliffe’s top rowers chose to row despite the lack of training, while Harvard’s opted not to compete.

“We haven’t spent a lot of time preparing for the game...We just wanted to get out to show that we’re here and we’re ready to go,” said Davies, who dominated the collegiate open women’s event with a time of 6:47.00, coming in over 10 seconds faster than the runner-up.

The lightweight women, although they did not medal, put up a good fight. Junior Sarah Bates placed fifth in the collegiate lightweight women’s event with a time of 7:29.30, edging out the sixth-place finisher by a tenth of a second.

The event is unique and unlike anything many people have ever seen. The track of the Reggie Lewis Center is lined with two rows of 40 ergs each. A huge screen is put up to display a virtual simulation of the race. With over 2,200 competitors, the event is almost as large as the Head of the Charles Regatta, but the indoor location allows it to be held over the course of only one day. The spectators get to see the whole race and the competitors get the rare opportunity to hear their fans cheer them on, something missing when they are in the middle of the Charles River.

In previous years, Harvard rowers entered the event under pseudonyms, using the names famous politicians or athletes for example. This year, although some chose to row under fake organizations, like the “Harvard Psychiatry Rowing Club,” all the Harvard rowers used their real names in accordance with a new policy implemented by the race’s organizers.

Davies said that the fact that Harvard rowers did so well at the C.R.A.S.H.-Bs is “a good sign for the spring season,” which begins in late March.