Harvard certainly made the best of their unusual trip to the IRA: they won early, and often. The "Worlds Greatest University" captured the Varsity Eight, the Lightweight Varsity Eight, and enough points along the way to win the Ten Ecyk IRA points trophy, ahead of Wisconsin and Cal.
The shuffling of the Finals schedule to preempt the awful weather which was forecast moved the V8 final to a near-ungodly 7:36 AM, but the racing was by no means sleepy. Harvard and Washington moved out on the field early, with Washington rowing long and strong, not giving the Crimson anything easy.
Until approximately 900 meters down, that is. Harvard, as they have all year, shifted their race into overdrive and whomped the pack, pulling from near-even into what looked like an open-water advantage from the launch following the race. Washington quickened their pace, but simply couldn't match what Harvard had; they're that good. Harvard crossed the line nearly four seconds to the good of Washington, with Cal, in a torrid sprint, taking the bronze by 3/10s of a second from Wisconsin, who had been breathing on Washington for the duration of the race, only to find themselves unable to respond when Cal cranked it. All four crews have had legit designs on this title for the past two seasons; this was an outstanding final.
Almost unnoticed was Northeastern's fifth place in this race, ahead of Cornell. For the Huskies, who finished 7th at the Sprints, this has got to be a little redemption.
A length separated the three medalists in the Men's JV, although this time it was Cal taking the top spot, nearly a full length ahead of Washington, who in turned just nipped Harvard. Cal put their stamp on this one early, leaving Harvard and Washington to fight it out behind. Cornell was fourth, Wisco fifth, with Stanford and Oregon St. rounding out the seven boat field.(Stanford suffered breakage on their fin while in contention during their semi on Friday; it was ruled that they would be allowed to participate in the final, and they worked for it out of Lane 0 today. Good for them.)
Princeton's frosh might have been the plainest-looking boat in their event; white Ts, white boat, and nothing too flashy about the way they row. Goes to show you; they kept their undefeated season going right through the IRA, moving out on Cal, Washington and Harvard slow and steady over the body of the race to win it. Cal had to dig deep in the sprint to hold off Harvard, who just might've rowed their best piece of the year in finishing third today, just a length down on Princeton. Washington, Brown and Wisconsin rounded out the final places.
In the Lightweight women's 8, Princeton made it 4 up, none down as they beat Radcliffe for the fourth time this year to claim the title.
After the Eights, it's traditionally small-boat, small-program time on the IRA schedule, and this year didn't disappoint. Washington rowed to a clear win in the Men's Varsity 4+, ahead of Columbia and the Tarheels of UNC, while in the Men's Varsity Coxless Four, Wisconsin topped Georgia Tech and Army for the medals.
Wisco also won the Varsity Pair, ahead of Princeton and Cornell.
In the Men's Open Four, it was four boats side-by-side across the 1000 meter mark, with the leaders from Georgia Tech and Minnesota sandwiched by hard-driving Wisconsin crews on either side. Minnesota drove into the lead for good at about 300 to go, and came home ahead of Georgia Tech and Wisco. The Gophers had a pretty good streak going in the fours at the IRA about a decade ago, and it's nice to see them back.
Hobart had a head-turner of a row in the Men's Freshman Fours, rowing low in the boat, long and powerful to cross the line 8 seconds in front of USC and Dartmouth, who sprinted through Harvard for the bronze. The fours are pretty deep at the IRA, and it's hard to win by that much unless you know what you're doing.
In the last race of the day, Harvard yet again lived up to their otherworldly streak of "every other year," winning the Lightweight Men's 8 for the n-th time in an odd-numbered year. The Crimson started well, then let Columbia and Georgetown fight it out behind them for the medals as they rowed from ahead with good composure; remember, this is a crew that finished out of the medals at Sprints. Columbia crossed the line about 6 seats back, for their second silver medal of the season, with Georgetown racing to a well-earned bronze ahead of Cornell.
Because the lightweight racing is not figured into the final Ten Eyck trophy points count, Harvard won that on the strength of their heavies alone. All the more impressive, as the crimson did not field the number of entries in the smaller boats that Wisconsin did. (thanks to astute, long-time IRA observers for pointing out the Ten Eyck scoring quirks.)
With racing completed in record time on the compressed schedule, this IRA is in the books. Harvard will certainly savor the Ten Eyck win, and their first national title in the Men's Eight in a decade, but don't expect this to become a regular occurence; the Harvard-Yale regatta is too important to these two schools for the IRA to become a regular stop. Then again, winning can be pretty addictive, and there's something to be said for the best crews in the country putting it on the line in one regatta to end the year.