Even if the Harvard Varsity Lightweights ended a near two-year winning streak by Princeton at the HYPs on May 1st, Harvard's nominal lead going into the EARC Sprints on May 16th is a less-than-comfortable 7/10s of a second. Still, the Crimson are likely the crew with the momentum going into the racing at Worcester; an undefeated 10-0 regular season, the win over Princeton despite the fact that Harvard had to make a late substitution in that winning crew, and the fact that they came from behind to win will all count towards Harvard's confidence.
On the flipside, it's unlikely that Princeton, the defending Sprints and National champions, will go quietly. Beyond the loss to Harvard, Princeton has been overlapped by only one crew this season, a 6-seat victory over Georgetown on April 24th, and has handled the remainder of their schedule competently.
"I think our results in both the 1V and 2V this year show exactly how our racing and preparation have gone for us," said Princeton first-year mentor Marty Crotty. "On Sunday, these crews will have a chance to cash in on some very good prep work, and our Varsity is excited about having a chance at redemption so soon."
Look for fireworks when these two crews meet again.
Beyond the two lead crews is a tight scrum of crews that may yet have the speed to break into the Harvard-Princeton tussle. Navy, ranked 3rd and Georgetown at #4 have both shown solid results this season, with Navy owning the tiebreak between these two based on a one-length win over the Hoyas on April 18th. If there's a team that has demonstrably gained speed over the course of the season, it is Georgetown; the Hoyas have raced Princeton twice, halving their margin to the Tigers from April 3rd to their second meeting on April 24th.
The next three crews, and likely those three fighting for the remaining Grand Final places at Sprints are Yale, Cornell and Dartmouth, who have been very close--literally. Yale and Dartmouth rowed to a memorable dead heat in their April 24th contest for the Durand Cup, in which even the video taken at the finish could not determine a winner. At the close of regular season, Cornell in turn put themselves just a nose ahead of Dartmouth on May 1st, winning by approximately two seats.
"The field is extremely competitive top to bottom. I can't imagine any crew running away with it this year," said Cornell's head coach Chris Kerber. "Everyone will go wire to wire for both heat and final - both will be street fights and bloody at that."
In the Varsity Eight, the remaining crews Penn, Columbia, MIT and guest crew St. Joseph's will be also be fighting for Grand Final spots and a shot at the medals.
In the Second Varsity Eight, Princeton is the clear favorite with a clean sheet on the season; the Tigers have beaten everyone in the league save for Dartmouth, whom they did not race. In fact, the top three in this event, Princeton, Yale and Harvard finished in exactly this order at HYPs. A challenge will certainly also come from fourth-seeded Navy, who came within 3 seats of beating Princeton to open the season, but subsequently fell to both Yale and Harvard. The Cornell JV will also look to figure in the medals picture, having raced both Princeton and Harvard close, while Penn, Columbia, Dartmouth and Georgetown round out the JV rankings.
The Freshman eight presents a similar picture to the Varsity, with a 10-0 Harvard frosh crew leading the charge. In the freshman event, the racing has been furious this year, with the three crews trailing Harvard in the final polling, Navy, Cornell and Princeton all having been within a length or so of the Crimson. Behind these four crews, Yale and a surprising MIT Frosh crew make up the list of likely Grand Finalists.
Dartmouth, Georgetown, Penn, Columbia and St. Joseph's will be looking for an upset in the heats to earn spots in the Grand Final.
Beyond the marquee events, there are three other lightweight events being contested at the Sprints on May 16th. In the Lightweight Third Varsity, Cornell, Yale and Harvard lead a field of seven boats. Navy is at the lead of a pack of six Second Freshman Eights, while MIT, Yale and Princeton will contest the Lightweight Fours event with mixtures of second freshman/fourth varsity athletes.