Like their heavyweight counterparts, the Harvard Varsity lights enter Sprints weekend at the top of the coaches seedings. However, the Crimson have not dominated their league nearly as much as the heavies have; as a matter of fact, there’s no undefeated Varsity lightweight eight in the EARC going into Sprints this year.
Still, Harvard gets the nod based on quality wins. With their only blemish a close loss to a fired-up Georgetown crew, Harvard has taken care of business, most notably in the Haines Cup race, taking down the defending EARC/National champs from Navy in pretty convincing fashion. Where formerly the Goldthwait Cup (Harvard/Yale/Princeton) showed which direction the wind was blowing for the lights in the EARC, the Haines Cup is rapidly taking on that role…arguably, it was Navy’s Haines Cup win in 2003 that put them on the trajectory for their wins in 2004.
Another historical note: it’s an odd-numbered year again, and Harvard has yet to crack the increasingly unearthly “every other year” streak that dates back to 1991. Granted, this streak applies to the IRA, and Harvard has performed differently at Sprints, but the whiff of “odd-numbered year” is definitely in the air again this spring.
Behind Harvard, there’s a tight pack of Navy, Cornell, Yale and Georgetown vying with the Crimson for the medals. Navy has had a quietly competent season, and will definitely look to hold on to the V8 trophy they won for the first time ever last year. The other top contenders for the title is Cornell, who looks poised to compete for the title legitimately for the first time since 1992, and Yale, who were closest to Harvard during the regular season. Particularly Yale looks to be finding speed at the right time, and might be good for a surprise in the final. Georgetown has been up and down on the year, but, after 10 years in the EARC, seems to have cemented their rep as legitimate medal contenders on an annual basis.
Behind these five crews, it’s Penn, Rutgers and Princeton who could challenge for a spot in the final, but medalling for these crews is likely a stretch…a battle royal between the top five will carry them away from the remainder of the field.
Harvard’s JV has a much more solid hold on the top spot in their event, sporting an unblemished record and owning a win over every other crew in the league save Rutgers, whom they have not raced. Behind Harvard, it’s Navy, Cornell and Princeton looking for the medals and Yale, Georgetown and Penn looking for a lane in the final.
The lightweight frosh event has a slightly different flavor, with Navy, Columbia and Princeton making up the pre-race medal contenders. Navy’s frosh have cruised through the year unbeaten, finishing a full 7 seconds clear of second-ranked Columbia in the second week of the season. Columbia gets the no. 2 nod, despite a close loss to Princeton early in the season, while Princeton finished out their pre-Sprints slate with a definitive win over Yale and Harvard. This won’t be a gimme for Navy, as both Columbia and Princeton have the Middies in their sights, and this race will likely rival the V8 for competitiveness.
Also looking for lanes in the 1F final are Yale, Harvard, Cornell and Dartmouth.
Lower down, it’s Navy and Cornell in a tie for the top spot in the lightweight 3V, with the Navy 4V also in the mix…could we see Navy vs. Navy in the 3V final? This event has heats this year, so look for some spirited racing here. In the 2F, it’s the same 1-2 at the top with Navy over Columbia in the final poll. This event is a final only, the first race of the Sprints afternoon slate.
Without one clearly dominant crew, the lightweight events in the EARC are once again living up to their reputation as tightly-contested barn-burners. Weird things have happened on the lake in Worcester before, and 2005 will likely be no different.