New England weather is no different from championship racing—anything can happen. A day that began full of sunshine and virtually no wind progressed to a late afternoon of rainy finals with a steady cross headwind. Despite the poor weather, Regatta Point at Lake Quinsigamond was packed with parents, friends, alumni and fans. Team tents were decorated with school colors and mascots, grill smoke wafted as lunches were cooked and hundreds crowded the edges of the beach to watch as the crews came down for the final races.
There were a few races won by open water, but tight races were more common on the day, some going seat for seat well into the sprint. The level of rowing was apparent as a tight field of competitor came down the course each race, and even schools with traditionally successful programs were bumped to the petite or third finals because there were just too many good crews for all to reach the final.
Freshman Heavyweight Eight
In the first year allowing freshman to row in varsity events—the freshman pool was a bit different. Some programs continued to put their best freshman into a boat together, while some spread the younger athletes throughout their team where they felt they were needed, to the extent that some teams even decided to forfeit the event entirely for stronger varsity crews. The teams that maintained a strong freshman 8 came out with the most success in the event in the end.
Throughout the heavyweight freshman final, Harvard and Brown battled down the course, matching stroke for stroke even as they entered the sprint. Clocking in at rates in the high 30’s, both crews showed no signs of giving up. Finally, as they passed the awards dock and roaring crowds, Harvard pulled ahead to seal the win. Coach Billy Boyce, in his second year at Harvard, described the work going into the race:
“We had a very close race with Brown our regular season race, the Stein Cup. We spotted them a length there, and they won it by a foot. We were sure if we could keep it under a length and have a similar sprint that we could take them. That’s what they did. They kept it to four seats, somewhere in that middle thousand they moved out and they were able to lift it at the end and walk away. The whole plan was keep it striking distance and when the opportunity comes take it away. “
Freshman Lightweight Eight
In his first year at Yale, coach Ned DelGuercio, a six-time national team coxswain, led the freshman lightweight crew to a win. He spoke highly of his crew, which included a novice coxswain—lucky to be coached by one of the best of his kind.
“The crew has been the same guys throughout the whole season, there have been no personnel changes,” said DelGuercio. “In fact, those are the only eligible freshman.”
Because of the inability to change the men in the boat, the changes had to happen internally, and when they had their first regular season loss, the solution was not to seat race, but to learn a lesson and speed up.
“Penn beat us straight up in Philadelphia during the regular season, and I think the guys needed that," he said. "it was a good lesson, but Penn certainly showed today that they are the real deal. After the race against Pennsylvania we began to focus more on the last 500 as we crossed into that part of the race, and they executed it very well.”
Lightweight Third Varsity Eight
With Steve Perry at the helm, the Navy lightweight men have formed a deep and quick group. Today they showed their strength in the third varsity race—one that has increased in competitiveness as coaches dissolve their freshman 8 in favor of more varsity boats.
As a golden retriever swam out in a heroic attempt to rescue a buoy from the course, and his fully clothed owner swam after to retrieve the retriever, the Navy men stood proud on the dock accepting their gold medals.
After working through different combinations of athletes in different boats, and seeing mixed results, Perry decided to integrate the freshman into the varsity crew in order to strengthen all the boats.
“We rowed nine different lineups in the varsity eight this spring, so that left the third varsity in the mix…but not really. So with my assistant coaches we made a decision to go top down, to have freshman integrate into top boats. “
Not only did the Navy 3V take the top spot, but their teammates in the 4V made the 3V final and came in fifth place.
“Once I realized there wasn’t going to be a fourth varsity event, I contacted all the other coaches in the league,” said Perry. “Everybody is very open to get as many people racing as possible, and I can’t emphasize how awesome it is to work with a group of people like that. To perpetuate rowing, and specifically lightweight crew—it’s great, and I was honored they gave me their permission to let us enter this race. We’re so grateful for that.”
Perry credited the success of the large team to those assistant coaches who focused on working with the 3V and 4V crews:
“We had a really great help from coaches Dan Reid, Tom Calendar and Joe Federici—they’re such help and there is no way I can handle the guys all by myself. Dan and Tom are both volunteers, and Joe has another job as an attorney. The team is so grateful for all their help. “
Lightweight Second Varsity Eight
The Cornell 2V started off their season behind Harvard but worked throughout the spring to make up that time, and then some, to get the first place spot in the second varsity race.
“In our first race we had raced Harvard and lost by about 10 seconds,” said coach Chris Kerber. “At that point I knew there was something that had to change. They’re a good crew, most of them are from the core of last year’s 3V that won, including the coxswain. They trust each other and they’ve worked together, and that’s an important feature of the boat.”
Lightweight First Varsity Eight
Though Harvard varsity lightweights are no stranger to success, each year, each win is special in its own way. Each crew presents new challenges and new expectations.
Today’s new challenge? A bus driver dozing off, leaving the lightweights napping at their hotel when they were supposed to be heading to the course. Despite this minor delay, the athletes arrived prepared to throw down a great race.
“What you look for is a good race, solid in every which way,” commented coach Charley Butt. “We couldn’t be happier. That was a top performance because it was consistent. They didn’t get rattled by a little bus problem."
On leadership in the lightweight squad, Butt finds one of his captains, 2V five seat Erich Schultze, to exemplify the hardworking nature of the team.
“He’s personally turned around the way his boat came along,” said Butt. “They nearly won today against Cornell and he’s an example of the sort of cooperative spirit we have on this team.”
Another leader on the team is senior Austin Meyer, who took last year off to try and make the Olympic team. Meyer came back to his team after they completed a very successful season last year—ready to rise to the occasion of continuing the victory.
“A lot has culminated to this—this race means a heck of a lot for me,” noted Meyer. “Taking a year off was a big decision and watching the rest of my class graduate. The year that they had last year was huge they dominated across the board and you come back here with that in the books and you have to repeat it, but with a new group of guys. “
Meyer will continue to row after Harvard in pursuit of the 2016 Olympic games. He may be putting down the Crimson blade, but he sure isn’t ready to give up the sport.
Heavyweight Third Varsity Eight
Again seeing the effects of the freshman rules, the Brown 3V was able to win their race all while maintaining a freshman 8, and fielding a 3V of non-frosh.
“I try not to have too many expectations,” said coach Judah Rome. “Throughout the course of the season the 3V races have been really tight with schools putting freshman up and moving higher quality athletes into the third varsity event, so as a result the field has tightened up.”
Their season was defined by winning many races by small margins, making their number two ranking possible to beat. The men threw down a solid sprint to prove that the wins were not flukes. If this third varsity race is an indication of future years, it will be an event to keep watching closely.
Heavyweight Second Varsity Eight
In another neck-in-neck race, Brown edged out Princeton for the win. By the second win of the day, the Brown coaches and athletes alike were starting to look anxious for the first varsity race to come down—to see if they could win the Rowe Cup. However anxious for upcoming race, Coach Paul Cooke showed pride in the second varsity crew and described a tough season full of lessons learned:
“Those guys have done a great job all year,” he said. "There have been lots of battle-tested moments. We went out west to race Washington. We lost to Harvard, we lost to Princeton, but they have learned from each experience and come back knowing how to get stronger and faster.”
Heavyweight First Varsity Eight
The Harvard heavies dominated the course as they took the lead early in the race. Announcer Fred Schoch got the crowds riled up as he declared Harvard’s win before they even entered the last 500 meters of the race. “It’s all Harvard today!” boomed the speakers. And truly it was all Harvard as they cruised into their sprint leaving their competitors behind.
Coach Harry Parker showed an almost bubbly side to himself as he shared a bit about his winning crew. When asked about what was special about this crew, Parker became animated.
“You know, that’s a good question! For one, they all work really hard they really committed to going fast and they’re very businesslike about it. No fuss—just go out there and row hard. It’s hard to compare from year to year, but they are certainly one of the strongest. They’re an exceptional crew.”
Parker was quick to praise those people in the boat who showed leadership.
“The captain has done a great job all year, James O'Connor. He’s been a good leader and set a good example. And the senior coxswain David Fuller, he doesn’t get much attention but he’s an absolutely superb coxswain. He’s undefeated in four years of regular season racing he has quite a track record. And the stroke is, quite frankly, special. He’s a special oarsman—they don’t come around like that too often.”
And 51 years after he’s taken charge of the Harvard varsity crew, does the win feel any different? “It’s all the same—they’re all good,” smiled Parker.
Two points trophies were awarded today, to the heavyweight and lightweight crews with the most success. Both of the crews awarded were repeat winners. The energy moving through both programs—Harvard and Yale—is infectious to the incomers on the team. Success is not static, but the result of an accumulation of hard work, years of efforts.
On the heavyweight side for the Rowe Cup, there was a tie between Harvard and Brown. However, because of Harvard’s win in the varsity eight event, the Crimson men were awarded the trophy for the fourth consecutive year.
For the lightweights, the Yale men were awarded the Jope Cup for the second year in a row. Senior captain, Will Ferraro talked about what this means for his team:
“It’s amazing winning the Jope Cup two years in a row—I’m just in awe of everyone on this team. This team has been so focused all season. I’m in awe of my fellow seniors; I’m so fortunate to have a strong senior class. I feel very lucky to have the coaches and teammates and parents and alumni support. We think that Yale is the best place to row.“