Sunday's racing at the Head of the Charles took place under sunny skies, a light headwind, and the explosion of fun and chaos that is junior, collegiate and open big boat racing.
Sculler Isaiah Harrison added another feather to his sizeable cap today, winning the Men's Youth Single in course record time after starting from bow #35, in a year that saw Harrison also win Youth Nationals and a bronze at Junior Worlds.
"I was blessed with a lot of things. Good water, nice conditions, and then everybody on the course, just really kind, sportsmanlike, great competitors. I was training for the course record, hoping for it, but during the race, there was no way for me to know."
Isaiah Harrison, Men's Youth Single
Narragasett's Emma Mirrer took the Youth Women's Single in her Head of the Charles debut. "I've never actually done the Head of the Charles, but I would go down a lot this fall to practice the course. And my biggest idol, Bridget Kennedy, told me to draw the map out. So I did that a ton, and it really helped. So I just felt really confident going into the race, just sticking to the plan. I had no idea how I would do performance wise, but I just tried to stick to the course."
Emma Mirrer, Women's Youth Single
"This fall, I've been training with the youth program at the Narragansett boat club with my coaches Joan Brush and Daniela Roop. And then also, my beloved coach, Peter Wilhelm, who I love so much, and I really think he's helped me so much with this, and I'm really grateful for him."
In the Women's Youth Four, Wilson Crew notched some team history today with a win, and did it in the closing quarter of the race with one last pass after running in second all the way down the course.
"I loved being really empowered by my teammates because it makes you want to pull harder when you know everyone else is pulling hard. After the race I knew it was an incredible race, it felt so good, it felt like we had done everything right," said three seat Eleanor Bijeau.
Greenwich Men's Youth Eights
Greenwich Crew landed the biggest proverbial fish(es) in the Junior events, capturing both the Men's and Women's Youth eights. The Greenwich athletes and coaches all credited their team environment for their wins.
"We're super close friends, it was crazy to win together," said Elenna Seguin, coxswain of the Men's Youth eight. "We just have the mentality of, no strokes off, no days off. We can have fun with our friends in a boat, while also going super hard, and I think as coxswains, we make sure that, every stroke they're taking, they're trying their best technique wise, power wise, whatever it is."
"The big thing is, you can only be as fast as your 5V," added Frances McKenzie, coxswain of the Women's Youth Eight. "Everyone's building each other up, racing each other, trying to get in seats or just make each other faster, which is just a really good mentality our coaches have, absolutely."
Greenwich Women's Youth Eights
"Honestly, Cary [Wasserman, Greenwich Boys coach] and I were both very excited this fall," said Greenwich girl's coach Heidi Hunsberger. "We knew we had some good kids, we had a lot of fun over the summer and we wanted to build off of Youth Nationals. It's really fun because we just join forces every day. At first I had to strong-arm Cary into doing pieces with the girls' team, but the kids really stepped up and they all they all love racing each other and they love cheering each other on, so it's a really good feeling around the boathouse."
"It's just insanely special that we got to do this together," added Wasserman. "We've never won gold here, and for both the men and the women to do it at the same time is a really special feeling and we're very proud of that."
The Princeton Lightweight women, IRA champs this past spring, started and finished first today, though, according to stroke Sarah Polson, the win wasn't a sure thing.
"I think you know you can't really expect anything on race day in terms of results but we were really confident in the work we put in thus far and we've just been really jelling as a boat, so really happy that it ended this way. We do a lot of racing in between teams at Princeton, which has been really helpful for us. We've just making every single practice a race!"
Princeton Light Women's Eight
The Yale lightweights broke a 20-year drought at the Charles, notching their first win in the Men's Light Eight since 2001.
"A lot of guys weren't in school last year, and throughout the year, we've just thinking about coming back stronger than we've been in the past. And this is it all coming together," said bow seat Geoff Skelly. "This was definitely about guys staying accountable. And the time the year off, and you know, just staying close and hungry and ready to come back. We were also racing for the guys that couldn't race last year and the entire 2021 class."
MIT won the women's Lightweight Four, while Penn captured the Men's event.
The MIT heavies have not raced at all since the Head of the Charles in 2019, which they won. Today, despite a 730+ day layoff, the crew started first and repeated as champs in the Men's Collegiate Eight.
"Coming back like this was all on the coaches and Seniors," said bow seat Jeffrey Hesslink. "We have a big senior class. And we were lucky enough, due to the NCAA rules, we were able to bring back our stroke from two years ago. He's a PhD student now at MIT. Right, right. Yeah, no, not even a little bit. But yeah, he was a champion. He came back and stroked the boat again."
"It was a lot of a lot of work over the summer. We weren't able to row. The team had to row in singles last spring, no eights due to COVID. And so, just putting in the work, it worked out really well today."
Mercyhurst squeaked out a three-second win ahead of DIII powers Wellesley and Bates to take the win in the Women's Collegiate Eights, and the athletes spoke about the daily mindset they felt helped them to achieve their goals.
"I think we're expected to have a really great row and just see where we came out at the end, and obviously, we had a really great row!" said coxswain Gabrielle Christello. "In the past, we called it the freight train! As we started going, we just wouldn't stop and I think we definitely achieved that today."
Mercyhurst coxswain Gabrielle Christello
"We all know what we like to hear," added 7-seat Anna Majek. "We all know our soft spots and our strengths. And we use it to help each other. Like if we see that someone's struggling, we make sure to use this team spirit to lift that person up. And when we see that someone's feeling really strong, that person makes sure to get this energy to the rest of the boat and the rest of the whole team, not just our boat to make sure that we all are as high as like motivated and ready as we can be."
The Washington men started fourth today, but rowed a stunner of a last 800 meters or so to edge out Dartmouth and capture the win, ahead of Dartmouth and Yale.
Washington Men's Champ Eight
On the women's side, Stanford repeated their 2019 win, while Princeton and Yale chased the Cardinal to the line.
"We basically just went out there and did what we planned to do," said three-seat Grace McGinley. "We started hard and just held it through the entire race."
"Stanford's on the quarter system so we've only been rowing together for about four weeks," McGinley added. "So this is just kind of fun. We only bring one boat, so it's whoever the top eight are, when we come back to school. Our five seat, Becky Lee, this is her first Charles ever. She's from New Zealand. And so during our practices, we were like, 'and this is where we'll do the start.' And she was like, 'Oh, interesting. It's a staggered start!' It's very cool for those of us who have done this for a long time to get to explain it to someone who had no idea what is going on."
"We just try to go out there and do it for the team. We like getting to bring the medals home to the team because it really makes everyone feel really enthusiastic going forward into the season."
Stanford Women's Champ Eight
Also in the race was the Olympic gold-medal winning crew from Canada, who finished sixth, clearly still in well-deserved 'Olympian vacation' mode. (Rumours that the crew rowed with beer aboard could not be confirmed by press time, despite our best efforts).
And that does it for this joyful, back-to-rowing edition of the Head of the Charles! If you couldn't make it this weekend, do so next year...and if you did, keep training!
In memory of Charlie Hamlin