The Men's Eastern Sprints roared back to life after two years away, and there were a lot of trophies on the Yale team buses headed back to New Haven after the racing today. Even if a full six of those trophies came on just two races--the Heavy and Light 1V finals--the Yale crews came out at the front of a packed field of teams, claiming both 1Vs (and the Ivy titles), the Heavy and Lightweight point trophies, and the Heavy 2V and 3V.
Across the board, athletes, coaches and spectators expressed delight at being back on Lake Quinsigamond on a sunny day in May, watching fast crews in action.
The morning heats in the Varsity eight provided a preview of the afternoon, with Brown posting the fastest qualifying time, upsetting Harvard in the process. Yale, racing without their injured Olympic gold-medal winning rower Dan Williamson, and Dartmouth won the other heats. In the final, Princeton bolted out of the gates early, but were gradually reeled in by Yale, Brown and Dartmouth, who finished in a tight pack in that order; the margin from first to third was about a length.
The Men's 1V final was a brawl down the course
"The energy you get from collegiate rowing is unparalleled," said Yale captain and 1V bowseat Jack Lopas. "The whole team from us to the 6V brought it today and it showed up with the results. That was one of the challenges, coming back after COVID with only about one-third of the team, and the older ones had to teach those things that were passed on to us by the pillars that built Yale crew."
Second-seeded Harvard, who drew lane 6 in the final after falling to Brown in the morning, were never a factor in the race, fading to fifth.
Going into the regatta, the Yale heavies were seeded to take four of the five heavyweight eights; they did not quite pull it off, but winning the 1V, 2V and 3V was more than enough to prevail in the Rowe Cup standings for heavyweight supremacy.
Yale men's head coach Steve Gladstone was succinct in summing up the day. "I'm very happy, and grateful to be coaching this group of people."
Yale Coach Steve Gladstone flashes the Brown 1V a thumbs up after the final
Pushing Yale hard was Brown, who medalled in four of the five heavyweight eights races today, as did Dartmouth.
"The leadership from the Seniors and the coaches has been crucial," said Brown 1V stroke Gus Rodriguez. "They've been instrumental in everything we've done."
In the lower boats, Harvard took the 4V, Dartmouth the 5V and Navy the 6V.
It's always a marvel to watch the Navy lower boats race at a big regatta like this; they are solid, competent, and, in the lower ranks, easily the fittest crews on the water. "These guys come in pretty fit right off the bat, but just the mentality these guys bring to the Academy, it just takes a certain kind of mentality to be a midshipman, and that fits really well with rowing," said Navy assistant coach Ethan Shoemaker.
The Yale lightweight eight, though nominally the top-ranked crew, was not taking anything for granted today, even as the crew pushed ahead in the third 500 of the race.
"It's pretty surreal, I can't believe it happened" said Senior Geoff Skelley. "I felt confident going all the way down the course and I know that the rest of the guys did too. We're still racing for the '20s and '21s."
Yale Lightweight 1V
Reflecting on two years without Sprints, Skelley said it was more straightforward than he had imagined. "It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. The guys, the whole year off, stayed talking, stayed training and had one goal, and when we came back to campus, everyone knew what the goal was."
A little bit lost in the tussle between Yale and Navy today was the performance of the Georgetown lightweights; after a strong regular season, the Hoya Light 1V captured a bronze medal racing out of lane 6 for their first lightweight podium in a while.
The GU lights are led by a pair of interim coaches, Matt Madigan and Joe Federici, who came on board during winter training this year.
The 2V and 3V events were won by Columbia, who looked to make a run at the overall title as well, but fell short as the Columbia 1V finished 6th in their final. As it turned out, Columbia, Navy, who finished 2nd in both the 1V and 2V, and Yale ended up in a three way tie for the Jope Cup. Yale claimed the cup, which they also won in 2019, on the 1V tiebreaker.
Lightweight racing: Navy & Columbia 2Vs, 5 strokes from the line (Columbia won, whew)
The Columbia lights were disappointed to lose out, but happy to be back. "It's unfortunate that we couldn't bring the win for the Varsity, but we were really happy to be here," said Columbia Senior Alexandros Zisimidis. "A ton of Freshmen and Sophomores are racing here for the first time and we were really happy to see their improvements happening race by race. We're really excited to push the limits in the next three weeks and be ready for IRAs."
Finally, as pointed out by Cornell coach (and longtime student of lightweight rowing) Chris Kerber, today's three-way tie for the Jope Cup comes exactly 60 years after MIT, Cornell and Navy rowed to a three-way tie in the 1V at the '62 Sprints in the Lightweight 1V.
"It's an incredible day for the league!" said Yale lightweight coach Andy Card. "We haven't been here in two years, it's so exciting. There were upsets, different speeds and exciting people getting medals. We were happy that the Varsity had a performance, that's very satisfying. As the morning racing went on, and some of the finals came down, it was clear that anyone could win it, and we were not sure until we cross the line."
Navy won both the 4th and 5th Varsity Lightweight eights.
Notes from the Course:
- Unusual lineup in the Harvard heavyweight 1V today; in the morning heat, Olympian Clark Dean was spotted in the six seat; in the final, Dean stroked the crew.
- Partially due to COVID restrictions, and partially due to an unfortunate dock design that makes it hard to land more than one eight, the once-raucous Quinsigamond awards dock has become somewhat of a low-fun zone. Bring back the cox toss!
- Overheard on the awards dock: "Guys, remember that one study? Bronze medalists really are happier than Silver medalists!"
Trophies? Yale got 'em