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Winning may be the norm for Harvard heavyweight crew, but even by the Crimson’s impeccably high standards, this season has been something special. Every boat is currently undefeated in its spring season.
“We have a lot of depth this year,” junior six-seat Nick Jordan said. “We have a lot of big classes that have remained really tight so people enjoy coming out to practice and putting work in together, it really contributes to the whole.”
The team is ranked third in the country and is currently seeded first in the EARC poll. Sitting just behind Harvard in both rankings is Princeton. The men got a look at the Tigers earlier this season at the Compton Cup where they handed Princeton its only loss of the season so far.
It was still Harvard’s closest race of the season. The first varsity eight won by only 1.2 seconds. The Tigers held a two-to-three seat lead until the final 300 meters when Crimson won with a strong sprint.
“I think the boat really just clicked at that point,” junior stroke Pat Lapage said. “We really came together and we probably had our best race. It was pretty fast and lot of back and forth, but we pulled it out in the end.”
The Crimson’s success on the water this season has not been handed to it. It is the product of hours of hard work, team chemistry, coaching and determination.
But the team had to adapt to rowing on the water quickly when winter conditions kept the team on land until March.
“It gelled fairly early on but there are always small technical details that you need to iron out,” Lapage said. “You always feel like there’s something to work on… but that just comes down to rowing with each other and getting everything just right.”
Good coaching doesn’t hurt either.
Head coach Harry Parker is somewhat of a legend in the world of crew. Since taking control of the Harvard team in the 1960s, Parker has transformed it into one of the most successful programs in the country and revolutionized crew, all while coaching multiple Olympic teams.
“Our coach does a really good job of keeping things simple and competitive” Jordan said. “And the attitude to really push yourselves and be stubborn is infections when you get everyone involved.”
“Harry takes the best of everyone’s style and…gets rid of the other stuff,” added junior three seat Mike DiSanto.
One factor for the success might be the excellent international recruiting that has gone into building up this team. Although crew is stereotypically an international sport, this team is particularly well represented with members from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States all rowing in one boat. DiSanto is the only current member of the 1V to have gone to high school on this side of the Atlantic ocean.
“It’s a pretty diverse group all in the same boat,” Jordan said. “But considering the amount of time that you put into rowing ... you tend to bond pretty quickly no matter where the person next to you is from.”
“More than anything we all have the same goal,” DiSanto added. “Harry knows this and we’re willing to do whatever he tells us too.”
And right now that goal is clear. Win Sprints. After that, the team will turn its focus to its traditional race with Yale then the IRA National Championships. All three races will take place after the school year has ended.
“We’re just bucking down for Sprints now,” Lapage said. “And we’re looking to get the rowing just right.”
“We still have the sprints and nationals ahead of us,” Jordan added. “And all the boats are in the top couple seeds for eastern sprints now.”
Last year Harvard secured first place at the Sprints and went on to take fourth at the IRA National Championships. This year’s team is confident that it is ready to improve on that achievement.
“Everyone in the boat is much stronger than we were last season,” DiSanto said. “And I think we’re still trying to harness all the energy and all the power that’s in the boat. I think we’ve had some good races but the best is still yet to come ... I can speak for the varsity and say that we’ve haven’t yet reached our best races.”
—Staff writer Cayla C. Calderwood can be reached at email@example.com.
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