Flash back one year ago. The Harvard men’s heavyweight crew entered the spring season the uncontested favorite to win its second consecutive national championship.
The first varsity fulfilled the promise, trouncing second-place Washington by almost five seconds.
The second varsity brought home a silver medal—and that was just the beginning.
Over the summer, the varsity eight advanced to the Grand Challenge Cup race of the Henley Royal Regatta, falling to the Dutch national team by two-thirds of a boatlength.
That same Dutch national team later captured a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Twelve months later, the varsity is without 13 rowers who graduated after the 2004 season.
Captain Aaron Holzapfel and senior Malcolm Howard are the only two returning members of last year’s eight, and the second varsity boat lost six rowers as well.
There are no more proclamations that the Crimson will walk to another national title.
Some might even doubt that Harvard will be in the mix at the 2005 International Rowing Association (IRA) National Championships.
Naysayers, however, have no place in Newell Boathouse. The underdog mentality suits the varsity crew just fine.
“A lot was expected from us last year, and that burden’s been removed this season,” Holzapfel said. “The past is behind us, and we’re excited about [this] opportunity we have.”
The heavyweights open their season at home this Saturday against Brown in a dual race for the Stein Trophy. Last year, the seasoned varsity boat dispatched the Bears by over nine seconds—three boat lengths—and the second varsity claimed a four-second victory as well.
This year, the race will be a valuable benchmark for a young Harvard team as it begins dual competition.
“Brown is always strong and we expect a great race,” Holzapfel said. “We’ll lay it all on the line, and the best crew will win.”
An April 16th race at Princeton, which took fifth at last year’s IRAs, also looms on the schedule.