Here’s an interesting hypothetical situation: after spending your high school years cultivating a bitter dislike for your biggest rival, you’re suddenly forced to spend multiple hours a day with him in a narrow, compact space. It could have the potential to be a little awkward, right?
As it turns out, this situation is anything but hypothetical—this was the reality sophomores Patrick Lapage and Nicholas Jordan faced when they joined the Harvard men’s heavyweight crew teams after competing against each other throughout high school.
Lapage, now stroking for the Crimson varsity eight, rowed for Britain’s Shrewsbury School while Jordan, currently sitting six seat of the same crew, rowed for Eton College a few hours south.
“[Competition] was pretty much as intense as you can get for my two years on varsity,” Jordan explained. “For those two years, there weren’t really other crews of a similar speed...They [Shrewsbury] were constantly our focus of training.”
When asked about Eton’s crew program, Lapage had a similar response.
“It was a pretty serious rivalry,” he said. “From my point of view, Eton was the main competition. I certainly think that in our junior and senior years, [Eton and Shrewsbury] were the two fastest crews in the country.”
Indeed, the Eton and Shrewsbury crews proved quite elite in their skill, and in their junior and senior years, Lapage and Jordan faced each other as their crews competed in the national championships.
“My junior year, we beat Shrewsbury and won the national championship,” Jordan said. “But my senior year, they beat us. Both of these races were within half of a length—maybe a second or two.”
But the competition between the two wasn’t limited to the national stage.
In their junior year, both Jordan and Lapage participated in the U-19 World Championships in Beijing. Lapage rowed for Britain while Jordan suited up for his native U.S.A.
Lapage first became aware of his rival’s presence in Beijing after seeing Jordan’s crew practice before the big race.
“I saw the American eight training, and I saw Nick Jordan in the opposite seat. It was pretty funny,” he recalled with a laugh. “I rowed with a couple guys from Eton doing the junior national team, so I knew who [Jordan] was although I never met him. They all spoke highly of him. It was hard to ignore the threat of such a big guy.”
Likewise, Jordan knew of Lapage’s strength on the water.
“I knew about him, and I knew him through mutual friends who did junior nationals,” Jordan said. “[Lapage] was always the competition.”
The scene entering the day of the race posed an unexpected—yet appropriate—way for the competitors to face off: the American and British crews were assigned adjacent lanes. With Jordan and Lapage pitted against each other so closely once more, the lane assignments seemed too fitting to be real.