Surge Keeps Compton Cup in Cambridge

Weston B. Howe

The Harvard heavyweight varsity eight had to count on a late-race sprint with 600 meters to go to best visiting Princeton by only a half second. Last time the two crews faced one another—at the San Diego Crew Classic—the Tigers won, but with Saturday’s v

It took two weeks of frustration and a serious sprint with 600 meters to go on Saturday morning, but the Harvard heavyweight varsity eight finally found its winning combination against archrival Princeton this weekend.

The Crimson swept all four early morning races on the Charles River, but no victory was sweeter than the varsity’s 0.5-second thriller against the visiting Tigers. The two programs have won the last seven consecutive Eastern Sprints championships, with Harvard earning five gold medals and Princeton claiming two.

The Tigers bested Harvard at the San Diego Crew Classic two weeks ago, but the Crimson’s Saturday sweep helped Harvard retain the Compton Cup for the second straight year and the sixth time in seven seasons.

“It has been a hard week because coming off of last weekend’s loss [to Brown], I think a lot of guys were a bit demoralized and a bit frantic to make things right,” varsity stroke George Kitovitz said. “I thought there was a positive response from the boat all week. Everybody just knuckled down a bit and thought of what they could do to get us a win.”

Every Harvard-Princeton race, whether an April dual showdown or a Grand Final slugfest at Camden in June, carries with it a special intensity. Saturday’s meeting on the Charles was no different.

Harvard overcame an early deficit off the start with a powerful final 1,500 meters, overcoming Princeton’s early six-to-eight seat advantage in the squads’ last race on Saturday morning. The victory secured the Compton Cup for the Crimson and gave the heavyweight varsity its first dual win of the young season.

“The boat’s definitely moved on a bit, so that’s exciting,” Kitovitz said. “They were ranked highly before the race and obviously they’d beaten us at San Diego, so it was important for us. I’d say there’s definitely a lot more speed to come from this boat. We’ve yet to have the perfect race.”

After the start, Princeton jumped out to a quick lead, using the race’s first 20 strokes to put a comfortable half-length margin between itself and the trailing Crimson. In the early going, Harvard sat nearly even with MIT.

At the 500-meter mark, the Tigers held a six-seat advantage over the Crimson. Coxswain Joe Lin called out an early move to keep Harvard close, urging his boat to push back on Princeton as both crews headed toward the halfway point. Harvard used the second 500 to methodically slash into Princeton’s lead, and by the time both boats sped through the Mass. Ave. Bridge, the Crimson had trimmed the margin to just three seats.

And once they were under the bridge, the Harvard heavyweights took the second 1,000 meters into their own hands.

The Crimson took back two more seats in the crucial third 500, cutting Princeton’s ever-shrinking advantage to just two seats. In just over 1,000 meters, Harvard had made up over 1.5 seconds of time against the Tigers.

“For us that’s what gives us a lot of hope and confidence in our speed in the coming weeks,” captain and varsity four-seat Joe Medioli said. “For the last 1,500 meters of the race, the most important part of the race, we’ve shown a lot of composure and great base speed.”

On Lin’s call, Harvard started its final sprint early, taking the stroke rating up to 40 strokes per minute with over 600 meters remaining.

For Princeton, it was the final blow in a momentum-changing race that left the Tigers hoping that the course would be too short for Harvard to overtake the Princeton eight. The Crimson charged through the final 500 meters, taking as many as six seats from Princeton and grabbing a four-seat advantage as both boats reached the line.

The Tigers surged back with a late sprint of their own, but a triumphant—if exhausted—Harvard crew crossed the line with a precious one-seat advantage, finishing in a time of 5:40.1. Princeton finished in 5:40.6.

The undefeated second varsity continued its successes on Saturday, blitzing Princeton after the start and finishing with an open-water victory. The second varsity earned an open-water victory over the Tigers and widened the gap after both boats came off the start nearly even. Harvard finished in 5:51.7, while Princeton followed in 5:59.7. It marked the second consecutive open-water win for the Crimson second varsity.

“When you spend your entire year training for the spring, it’s nice to feel like you’re in a boat that’s capable of doing well,” second varsity five-seat Anton Wintner said. “We have so many guys on the team that are incredibly talented and even close together in their abilities so that any number of guys could be in any number of boats.”

Harvard’s freshman eight beat Princeton by open water, while the Crimson’s fourth varsity entry defeated Princeton’s third varsity by almost 10 seconds.

Next weekend, the Harvard heavyweights will travel to Philadelphia to take on Penn and Navy in the annual Adams Cup races. The Crimson will look to retain the Adams Cup for the eighth consecutive season.

—Staff writer Aidan E. Tait can be reached at