Season Recap: Depth Carries Crimson as Varsity Eight Returns to Sprints Podium
The heavyweight varsity eight finished its dual-racing season unbeaten, won a silver medal at the EARC Sprints and took fifth at the IRA National Championships to lead Harvard heavyweight crew to another successful season on the water.
Harry Parker, the Stone Family Head Coach for Men's Crew, picked up his 40th win over Yale in the 144th rowing of the Harvard-Yale Regatta as the Crimson capped off its first unbeaten dual-racing record since 2005. It was the 20th undefeated campaign for the Crimson in Parker's 47 years at the helm. Parker's varsity eight also made the grand final at Sprints for the 45th time in 46 years.
The season started with a strong showing by both the varsity eight and second varsity eight at the San Diego Crew Classic. Rowing on the west coast for just the second time in their Crimson career, the varsity finished third behind eventual Pac-10 champion California and the eventual national champion Washington in the Copley Cup. The Crimson was the top finishers among the east coast schools in attendance, including eventual Sprints champion Brown and Princeton. The second varsity eight was third behind Washington and California in the race for the Shapiro Cabrillo Cup.
The following weekend, Harvard hosted Brown in its most challenging dual of the season. The Bears, who made a late charge on the Crimson at the San Diego Crew Classic the week before, were unable to catch the Crimson once again as Harvard won back the Stein Cup after a one-year hiatus. The Crimson won three of the five races in the regatta, including the freshman eight and the third varsity four.
Harvard went on the road for its next two weekends, racing in Maryland and New Jersey. First up was, a trip to Princeton, N.J,, to race the Tigers and MIT on Lake Carnegie. The Crimson rowed away from both crews early to win its third straight Compton Cup. Harvard also won the freshman eight and the third varsity eight. The Crimson claimed all five races against Navy and Penn and won the Adams Cup for the 10th straight year.
The Crimson used its dual race against Northeastern as a final tune-up for the EARC Sprints. Harvard won all four races against the Huskies on the Charles River. The varsity eight edged its neighbor by more than 10 seconds for its 12th win in a row against Northeastern.
The varsity eight earned a second-place finish at the EARC Sprints the next weekend, as the Crimson finished second as a team and placed boats in each of the five heavyweight grand finals. Harvard placed second to Brown in the varsity eight and in the standings for the Rowe Cup, the team trophy awarded based on performance in the varsity, second varsity and freshman races. The Crimson varsity eight, then-ranked fourth nationally and seeded second at Sprints, finished second in 5:42.625, nearly two seconds ahead of top-ranked Wisconsin and about 1.3 seconds back of champion Brown.
Harvard had to wait three weeks for the IRA National Championships, which was being held on the west coast for the first time in the 107 year history of the event. All three of Harvard's eights advanced to the grand final, while the varsity four also made the top heat and the open four rowed in the petite final.
The varsity won its trial heat and finished second behind California in the semifinal to earn a spot in the grand final. In one of the closest finals in regatta history, the Crimson finished fifth behind Washington, California, Stanford and Brown. Only six seconds separated the third thru sixth place crews.
The second varsity eight and varsity four also finished fifth, while the freshman eight came back with a silver medal. The rookies had an incredible race, coming back from sixth-place after the first 500 meters to pass Brown in a sprint to the finish. The Crimson posted the fastest final 500 meters split en route to its best finish since 2005.
The freshman's success kept the Crimson's IRA medal streak alive as the Harvard has won at least one medal in an eight race at each of the last seven national championships.
There was little time to reflect on the success at the national championships as Harvard had just six days to prepare for its final dual race of the season, the Harvard-Yale Regatta.
The Crimson swept Yale for the sixth time in the last nine years, despite, limited training, a week of inclement weather and tough conditions, Harvard won the coxswain's race earlier in the week and the combination race the night before.
The varsity eight completed the sweep of the Bulldogs with a 20-second victory in the four-mile race. The freshman eight also won handily, while the second varsity eight held of a charging Yale crew in the final strokes for the victory.
The nine members of the varsity eight earned second-team All-Ivy League honors for its finish at Sprints, while bowman Noah Bruegmann picked up Academic All-Ivy League recognition for his success in the classroom as well.
The 11 members of the class of 2009 have rowed in the varsity or second varsity at one point during their four years in the Newell Boathouse. Each member of the class has won at least one medal at Sprints or IRAs. The seniors have combined to bring back 25 Sprints medals and three top-three finishes at the national championships. Simon Gawlik and Henrik Rummel rowed in the varsity eight for three years and have won a gold, silver and bronze medal at the Sprints as well as a silver medal at IRAs and the Ladies Challenge Plate at the Henley Royal Regatta.
Six of the nine members of the varsity eight, five of the nine members in the second varsity eight and seven members of the third varsity eight will return to Newell Boathouse next fall. Rest assured the Crimson will use its depth to produce another set of eights that will medal at Sprints and IRAs next season.