Right up front: the scuttlebutt from the Harvard camp is that their Varsity eight is even better than the crews of 2003 and 2004. This must come as dispiriting news to those who watched Harvard run the table for 24 months, culminating in a succesful defense of their national title and an appearance as “USA2” in the Grand Final of the Lucerne World Cup, in an Olympic year no less.
That’s a pretty tough act to follow, but thus far it’s hard to argue with the results. Harvard (with just two returning rowers from the 2004 edition of their V8) has reeled off their fourth consecutive (!!!) undefeated regular season leading up to Sprints, punctuated by a stunningly emphatic win over a highly touted Princeton crew (the margin was 6 seconds, over a length of open water), and the race in Worcester, at least on paper, looks to be for the silver medal.
Going into the championships however, margins tend to shrink a little, and no one will cede the Sprints title lightly. Both Princeton, whose motivations have probably gotten a pretty good boost from their Compton Cup drubbing, and Northeastern, who fell to Harvard by a good amount of open water as well, will look to make a dent in Harvard’s hopes for the three-peat.
Harvard’s dominance of this year is underscored by this statistical tidbit: the EARC’s current fourth-ranked crew, Navy, seemingly back in the mix for good after a good stretch in the petites, was a full 17 seconds back of Harvard a month ago, on April 23rd at the Adams Cup regatta. That sorta gap doesn’t come about easily, and it will be interesting to see if the field can close this gap at all.
Rounding out the list of potential grand finalists are Brown, who have been uneven on the year, Cornell, and Dartmouth, who tend to find speed later in the season and could squeak into the Grand from the no. 7 seed..
As fast as Harvard is at the top, they don’t have the depth of past years as the JV has dropped races to Navy and Northeastern on the season. Navy, undefeated save for the season opener against Princeton, leads the JV ranks, with Cornell, whose only loss was to Navy, ranked second. Yale, Princeton, Northeastern and Harvard round out the paper finalists, with Wisconsin and BU waiting in the wings.
The frosh race holds perhaps the most intrigue of any event at Worcester this year, with Brown, Harvard, Princeton and Penn in a pretty serious mix. Brown defeated both Harvard and Princeton by a few seats apiece and looks to be the front runner. Penn started their season off with a bang, putting 6 seconds onto a pretty good Princeton crew, then falling by 6 seats to Harvard at the Adams Cup a few weeks later. Princeton in turn seems to have figured a few things out, falling to Brown by only one seat two weeks before Sprints. Despite what appears to be a pretty clear pecking order, any of these four crews could probably take the race at Worcester.
In the lower events, it’s Yale seeded first in the 3V, a good sign for the depth at the Gilder boathouse down in Derby, and Brown gets the nod in the 2F, an event the Bruno took last year.
All signs seem to point to a few different crews getting to the middle of the awards platform this year after the Harvard sweep in ’04, but it seems like it’s going to be pretty hard to knock the Crimson out of that top spot in the V8. Still, no one ever got a trophy just for unloading the trailer, and it’s a pretty safe bet that both Northeastern and Princeton, looking back on a few years without the Varsity title, will show up at Quinsigamond ready to rock and roll.