Mother Nature is not a lightweight . . .
For all the crazy weather this spring--and it is revisiting itself upon here in a very soggy Worcester today--the seedings for these Sprints were spot on: across the board in the V8s, the seeds marched on in order, and all the excitement was at the top end of the course, where the underdogs made as much noise as they could before the favorites walked away. The only exception, by a nose, was the Dartmouth lights, who took a gutsy race all the way to the line over Princeton: the Tiger’s defense is taking the hard road, to say the least, but they are still very much in the hunt.
As with all the regattas today across the country today, weather has been part of the story: a growing breeze during the 3V heats led to a decision to switch the top seeds to the far shore for the 2V and 1V. The wind actually would up staying slight, and a few 2V‘s advanced from the middle of the course, so perhaps the swap was not strictly necessary. What was needed, though, was rain gear: after a very grey morning, the rains came drizzling for the heavyweight heats and then dropped a full-on downpour on the lightweight varsities to close the morning.
The story here was tabbed to be all Harvard on the heavy side and perhaps the light as well. So far, so good: the top-seeded Crimson heavyweights cruised to wins in all four of their heats, and Harry Parker’s charges took a full length win in the 4V eight’s straight final to start the day. The Crimson lightweights looked, if anything, more in control and impressive, easily out pacing a furious battle between Yale, Navy and the suddenly resurgent Columbia lights to advance.
That Harvard 150s clinic was in the first heat of the lightweight varsities, and Yale looked to be as far back on Harvard as we saw in the HYP’s; the surprise here was Navy, who has indeed made up speed on the Elis and has closed to with in a deck. Columbia put a ton of open water between themselves and Penn as they tried to get back on terms with Yale and Navy, and with an IRA bid awaiting the winner of the Petite, the Lions suddenly have the inside track to extend a season that looked lost just a few weeks ago.
The Dartmouth lightweights in the last heat were the only seed to advance out of order in the V8s, though they have been making noise all season . They led wire to wire here over a Princeton crew they had not yet raced, and did so by getting out early and looking quite slick. Dartmouth led the defending Sprints and National Champs, with enough in hand that even a huge Princeton drive at 39 strokes per minute into the last 300 meters left the Green enough lead to spare for a better spot in the final. That Princeton crew, who had looked so untouchable in the early season, now has two close seconds in nearly as many weeks, but they don’t start rewarding first place until the afternoon here in Worcester, and the Tigers would not be a crew to count against when the flag drops this afternoon.
The heavyweight racing may have gone according to script, but as always it was far from easy to advance to the Grand, and every seed had a hard race to, as @BUCrew called it in the twitter bin, “earn it.” Harvard opened an early and pretty effortless lead over Syracuse and Cornell, then stayed relaxed even as the Orange and the Red traded blows behind. Syracuse got the better of Cornell again, just as they did in their earlier meeting, rowing an aggressive and gutsy race to lock up a spot in the final. The big story in this heat may well prove to be the continuing emergence of the Georgetown varsity. The all sophomore boat put Penn way in their wake and gave the Big Red all they could handle, only finishing a second or so back on Cornell. If this crew rows the same way this afternoon, it could be the Hoyas making a push all the way to an IRA bid near the front of the Petite final.
The next heat, thanks in part to Wisconsin’s blazing off the line at a 49, was just a touch faster than Harvard’s. It was all Badgers, but Brown handled some early close racing with Navy to claim the second spot. Bruno has had close races all spring, and they are clearly tough racers. Some folks on shore thought that Navy might make good on the promise and depth it has shown program-wide this spring, but the Mids could not match Bruno and game as they raced, they will head to Petite for a Goes Cup rematch with Cornell. Just a length astern of Navy, Columbia rowed a race that was definitely stronger effort than they’ve been in a few weeks, but it looks like this young crew is still a touch of the kind of form that earned the Lions their shot at the Grand Final.
The last heat? Faster still, and here it was Yale, the 9 seed out early, with #10 Dartmouth looking to reclaim some of the magic that put them into the final last year. The Elis and Big Green took that lead most of the way to the 500 over both Princeton and BU. It looked for a bit like we might finally have some bells rung, but that 1st 500 meters was all the drama we could enjoy. Princeton’s big power move at 750 took them from third to first: as Fred Schoch called it on the ship-to-shore, the Tigers are strong enough to move at will and they played that card here. BU, running strong all season and their record blemished only by a smidgen of Wisconsin bow deck a few weeks back, followed Princeton through to the front, as first Dartmouth and then Yale faded out of contention. In the end, all that racing through the middle thousand put Princeton on the pole for this afternoon with the fastest time by two seconds. A barn burner awaits!
The 2V8 racing saw a few more surprises, with both BU and Navy falling to lower seeds: Syracuse and Yale, respectively. The lightweight second varsities went as predicted, with Harvard and Princeton winning their heats to set up a showdown in the afternoon for Jope Cup points. Enough 3V’s showed up on the heavy side for heats, and the Grand looks to be a battle between Harvard, Wisconsin, Cornell and Navy. The Lightweight 3Vs went to a straight final, so they will start the afternoon’s medal parade along with the light and heavy 2F eights.
On the depth side, the day started with some Grands for fourth varsities, won in impressive fashion by Harvard’s heavies and the Navy lights. Syracuse torched the field in the lone fours race, a mix of varsity fours and 2F boats. With the Syracuse JV also making the Grand along with the Orange varsity, it looks now like that four’s win was just the start of a solid day for Syracuse.
Rain took a break for lunch too, but it’s back, and here comes the first Grand Final--Sprints Sunday continues!