From the start of the season, the goal of the Brown University men's squad was build speed and momentum through the year from the lower boats through to the varsity eight. The season started on the right side of that goal, with a dual match against Boston University, and a sweep of all four races.
But, then came the trip down to Yale the following week, where Brown endured a sweeping of their own. "We had the first race against BU, good race, but then the Yale dual was a big knock back for us," said junior Rufus Biggs.
From that race through the Eastern Sprints, where Brown finished third behind Yale and Harvard, the Brown crew has been focused on not letting themselves be knocked off track, and then following any effort that didn’t feel right to a race that did.
The 2018 IRA has been a bit like that for the Providence based Ivy.
Brown finished second in the Friday heat to Harvard in a piece they felt they let Harvard dictate off the start. But, the placement in the heat gained Brown a spot in first semifinal Saturday, where they found themselves on the line next to Cal and Washington, two crews that should compete for the national championship.
And this time it was Brown doing some of the dictation.
Washington, as expected, moved into the lead right away and Brown followed. Cal fell behind, and while Cal pushed back into the Brown crew toward the finish, Brown took second.
"I think after yesterday's heat, we definitely came back with the intention of going faster," Biggs said. "That is something we have strived for the whole regatta, going faster each race. We really focus on making sure we executive the race plan properly, which we didn't do as well as we wanted yesterday, and I think today that really paid some dividends.
Brown pushing across the line in second
Coming into the regatta, Brown was seeded fifth, but there were enough people watching them progress through the season and the Sprints performance, that they were a bit of an outside favorite to pull off a challenge for the medals.
It was not something Biggs said his crew paid close attention to, but something they were nevertheless aware of.
"I think I would be lying if I said no one ever thought about (the seeding) because it does have an impact with where you are, the lane you are in, things like that which does impact probably the way you want to race, maybe just a little bit.
"But in general, we really focus on rowing our race because we all have confidence that when we execute the race plan together, we can get something good out of it. We knew that if we executed our race plan properly today that we could show some true speed, and it was nice to have a reflection of that being that second-place position going into tomorrow," Biggs said.
If it was a good showing for Brown it was a dominant one by Washington, which led from the start and did not appear to be significantly challenged for the lead at any point on the course.
"It was a good morning," said Washington coach Mike Callahan. "We're in the final. That was round two, so now everyone goes back into their corner and makes adjustments. But it's good to get in the final, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
If casual observers of the seeding were at all surprised to see the order of finish in the two semifinals - Washington, Brown, Cal in the first, and Yale, Harvard and Princeton in the second - none of the coaches were.
Yale won the second semi, followed by Harvard and Princeton
"They're all really good crews," said Callahan. "The level of intercollegiate men's rowing is the highest it's been since I have been involved in it. The professionalism, the skill and fitness of the field is really impressive right now.
"So, if you have a bad day, someone is going to make you pay for it," he said. "We knew there was going to be a pretty big fight for all three spots from the semi. We wanted to make sure we were in position to qualify.
Cal head coach Mike Teti echoed some of the same thoughts. "Getting in the final was our focus," Teti said. "I think that there are a bunch of crews here that on any given day could get there, so we wanted to establish a position, at least in the top three, to get in there. I think today, people established their positions early and it stayed that way.
"All these crews are capable of having a really good piece," he said. "They have good personnel, and I think they are all capable of having a really good piece. That's why you can't be a little bit off. You have to be on.
"I think our guys rowed a clean race, they were behind from the start, and stayed composed and got in back in. Obviously, it would have been better to win, but it doesn't look like anyone is completely out of it.
"Everyone was trying to win. Sometimes the whole reason to win the thing is not just confidence, but if they have to change lanes the semi winners are going to get the favored lanes, so everyone went out there thinking let's get first, everyone is just thinking about getting first. So were we, but they got behind.
"We were able to push in the second half and get back in it though. Even the good crews from time to time are going to be not on their best performance. I think it was a good piece. I don't think there was anything wrong with the way they rowed today," he said.
Stanford won the race for lane in the women's lightweight eight
After two days, and some schedule changes, the lightweight women's events got into the game Saturday with heats and reps for the double sculls and races for lanes in the four and varsity eights.
In the double, Princeton, Tulsa, Wisconsin, Stanford, Georgetown and MIT all advanced into the Grand Final, with Princeton winning the first heat and Tulsa the second.
In the lightweight eight, if the seven-boat lane placement racing is a gage of how competitive those finals will be tomorrow, it will be an entertaining race.
"It is going to be a great final," said BU coach Malcolm Doldron, whose crew finished second to Stanford. "That rep was five boats across and everybody keeping it tight and that's what the entire regular season has been, just a lot of trading wins."
"It's going to be interesting to watch and we're excited to be in the mix. You can never tell what people's strategy are going to be for the race for the lanes," Doldron said. "Which is why it is really important to stay internal and do what you need to do. It's going to be a great final, a lot of fun."
Boston University finsihed second
Earlier in the season BU beat Stanford in a dual match on the Charles River. So, the two programs have a score to settle Sunday.
"This is lightweight rowing," said Stanford coach Kate Bertko. "It's always going to be tight, it's always going to be a tough race. I think racing is always a good opportunity to test things out so we'll go out there tomorrow and see what happens."
Notes From the Course (or the schedulers).
Every day since crews arrived on site, the weather has forced changes in the schedules. And so far, so good. Despite a heavy fog Friday morning, the racing went off as planned. Saturday, where the scheduled was rearranged to ensure the varsity semifinals were all run, was a clear and picturesque morning.
The racing was done well ahead of the afternoon storms rolling in.
Sunday is expected to pose a challenge to conditions with winds building throughout the morning. And, once again, race organizers have reacted by redoing the schedules so that every varsity eight final is run first.
The new schedule is posted here.