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If the University of Washington has ever been an underdog, it was this year.
After losing to the Harvard heavyweight crew at the Head of the Charles, the Huskies entered the 2012 season with a rare No. 2 ranking, a spot behind the Crimson.
But at this year’s IRA National Championship, Washington was as dominant as ever, sweeping all five races.
The Crimson finished fourth, falling to the Huskies, Brown, and California.
“Washington had a really exceptional regatta,” said captain-elect and varsity bowman James O’Connor.
While Harvard failed to take the national title, the Crimson still managed bronze medals in both the varsity eight and second varsity eight.
“It’s hard to be disappointed, but it wasn’t the result we wanted,” O’Connor said. “We got beaten by some really good crews.”
While the 1V and 2V were the only boats to medal, the open four and freshman eight both made the grand finals, placing fourth and fifth, respectively, while the varsity four took eighth with a second-place finish in the petite final.
“I was proud of the team as a whole,” said senior and 2V five-seat Nick Jordan. “It was a good showing.”
A stiff tailwind for all crews meant no time to wait for a move—and a limited chance to think.
“It was go-go-go the whole way,” O’Connor said.
In the varsity eight race, Harvard appeared to have opened strongly. But with a restart in the grand final, it didn’t count, and its second start was not quite as fast.
In the second go, the Crimson still managed to stay competitive with Washington through the first 1,000 meters.
At that point, Harvard started to fall behind.
“In the third quarter, Washington put more pressure on,” O’Connor said.
Brown was able to catch Harvard in that same 500.
Both the Huskies and Brown were able to respond to the Crimson’s sprint, and Harvard finished around three seconds off Washington’s course-record pace of 5:21.482 and a little more than second behind Brown.
“It was such a great race,” O’Connor said.
Washington and Brown were also the Crimson’s foils in the second varsity eight race.
“We were going into it...knowing that Washington would be pretty hard to catch,” Jordan said.
Off the line, though, the Huskies weren’t the only crew to spike the rating.
“Brown and Washington jacked it off the start,” Jordan said. “We focused on rowing our race.”
And while it wasn’t enough to catch the Bears or the Huskies, the Harvard 2V managed to edge out California and Wisconsin for the final spot on the medals dock, beating to crews to whom Harvard lost at the San Diego Crew Classic and Eastern Sprints, respectively, earlier in the year.
While Washington and Brown were the main opponents of the 1V and 2V, a gaggle hurt the chances of the freshman eight.
A pack of geese interfered with the first-year crew, and its fifth-place finish is its first and only loss of the season. After hitting geese 500 meters into the race and in the race’s final stretch, Harvard's attempted protest of the race was unsuccessful.
The Crimson finished less than three seconds behind bronze medalist Northeastern and less than a second off fourth-place Cornell.
The varsity four, which raced in the petite final, placed second in its race for an eighth-place finish overall. Harvard finished a second-and-a-half off Holy Cross and over a second ahead of the Badgers.
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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