Throughout the season, the Harvard lightweights and heavyweights have traded headlines and thrilling victories. When both 1Vs and 2Vs capped off undefeated seasons with Sprints titles, the only question was which squad's results were more successful.
And so it was somewhat fitting that the lightweights and heavyweights, twins all season, would earn the same result in Camden, N.J. Both 1Vs earned silver medals at the IRA National Championships. Three more medals gave the heavyweights a second-place finish as a team, behind the University of Washington. A win by lightweight 4+, composed of 2V rowers and a 3V coxswain, gave the Crimson its only gold medal of the day.
Utterly exhausted, the lightweight crews of Harvard and Yale waited while the fates of their seasons were decided by race officials and a photo.
Finally, the results came: the Crimson's quest for a national championship came 0.022 seconds too short, with Yale's 5:39.904 just edging Harvard's 5:39.926 by a bow ball to give the Bulldogs the title.
"You have to give Yale credit for getting the job done," Crimson coach Charley Butt said. "I think that was a real classic in the sporting world."
It's become something of a rowing cliche to say that the 1000-meter mark starts a "whole new race", but that was what happened in this year's finals. Though the Bulldogs had taken an early lead, and the Crimson had responded to take a small lead midway through the first 1000, the top three boats—Harvard, Dartmouth, and Yale—were all approximately even at 700, and though the Big Green reached the 1000-meter mark first, its lead at that point was fairly small.
The third 500, on the other hand, was all Dartmouth's, and the Big Green were able to earn a lead of about a length over the chasing Crimson and Bulldogs at one point. All season long, it had been Harvard taking command of races in the third 500, but this time the Crimson would need a tremendous final 500 to fight its way back into contention—and the rowers were able to dig deep to find more speed in the home stretch.
"We were outside of our pattern," Butt said. "We rallied ... and in that respect it was courageous and shows just tons of character. They train to win, they race to win, they do what it takes."
Dartmouth's late lead, which it held into the final 30 strokes, forced both Harvard and Yale to sprint early. The Crimson began its sprint with about 400 meters remaining. On video it looked as if the Bulldogs might have passed Harvard in the final five strokes, but when the crews passed through the finish line at approximately the same time, it wasn't entirely clear which team had won the national championship. A photo revealed Yale to have earned the narrow victory.
While it wasn't the result the Crimson was hoping for, the race's outcome epitomized the determination and resilience that has characterized this crew all season long.
"I'm very proud of the oarsmen," Butt said. "Very proud of the way they handled the loss, I'm proud that there was no giving in in them ... they were able to come as close to winning as possible ... they showed boatloads of character."
Dartmouth finished third in 5:41.860. Cornell took fourth, and Princeton—the defending national champion and former national No. 1—took fifth, while Columbia finished sixth.
While the 1V's season came to a disappointing conclusion, the lightweight 4+ earned a thrilling IRA victory. The all-sophomore lineup, composed of second varsity eight rowers Florian Mayr, Alex Newell, Stu Taylor, and Nick Gates and coxswain Alex Saal, who had coxed the 3V throughout the season, defeated the second-place Tigers by over four seconds. The win capped off an undefeated season for Mayr, Newell, Taylor, and Gates, as the lightweight 2V went unbeaten in the dual season and took home Eastern Sprints Gold.
"They really commanded the race," Butt said. "They rowed to their ability and did a sound job on the rest of the field."