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Harvard Heavyweight Crew Begins National-Title Quest Thursday

Members of the Harvard varsity eight prepare to receive their gold medals at Sprints.

Harvard Crew IRA Media Notes

Harvard's heavyweight and lightweight crews look to add “national champion” to their already-long lists of accomplishments for 2009-10 as they compete at the 108th Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships Thursday, Friday and Saturday on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J.

The Crimson heavyweights, fresh off a sweep of the rival Bulldogs in the 145th Harvard-Yale Regatta, will compete in five IRA events. Heats and repechages will begin Thursday at 8 a.m., with semifinals starting Friday at 9:45 a.m. and finals beginning Saturday at 8 a.m.

Follow from Home
Live audio from the IRA National Championships is available here for each of the three days of racing. Live results are available here.

Probable Boatings
Varsity Eight
Cox: Kelly Evans, 8: Patrick Lapage, 7: Matt Edstein, 6: Nick Jordan, 5: David Wakulich, 4: Sam O’Connor, 3: Michael DiSanto, 2: Anthony Locke, 1: Blake Pucsek 

Second Varsity Eight
Cox: Joseph Lin, 8: Benjamin French, 7: Noah Bruegmann, 6: Mark Fuller, 5: Connor Griffith, 4: Phil Matthews, 3: Christopher Fuller, 2: Ivan Posavec, 1: Elihu Reynolds

Freshman Eight
Cox: David Fuller, 8: Peter Scholle, 7: James O’Connor, 6: Parker Washburn, 5: Justin Mundt, 4: Jason Phillips, 3: Eli Shikaloff, 2: Alex MacIntosh, 1: Josh Hicks

Varsity Four
Cox: Alex Sopko, 4: Richard Anderson, 3: Duncan Gilchrist, 2: Jack Morrissey, 1: Spencer Livingston

Open Four
Cox: Tian Feng, 4: Matt Vincent, 3: Karl Hirt, 2: Lukens Orthwein, 1: Alex Soutter

Progressions
In the 18-team heavyweight varsity eight and 17-team freshman eight events, the winning and runner-up crew in each of Thursday's three heats will advance directly to the two semifinals. All others will race again in the afternoon repechages, with the top three finishers from those races moving on to the semis and the final three relegated to the third-level final. The top three finishers in each semifinal make the grand final, while the bottom three go to the petite final.

In the 15-team second varsity event, the top three finishers from each of three heats will go straight to the two semifinals, with the final two finishers sent to a single repechage. The first three boats to cross the finish in the repechage will gain semifinal berths, while the last three will make up the third-level final field. The top three finishers in each semifinal make the grand final, while the bottom three go to the petite final.

Team Strength
In the four IRA events in which Harvard regularly competes during the season (heavy varsity, second varsity and freshman eights; light varsity eight), Harvard's boats own a combined 30-2 dual-racing record, as the heavy and lightweight freshman eights join the light varsity with unblemished records. All four boats placed in the top four at Sprints, with the heavyweight varsity and freshman eights winning gold and the lightweight varsity earning silver.

Planting Seeds
The Harvard heavyweight varsity eight (7-1 dual record) is seeded third, behind only Washington and California, and is the first of nine straight Eastern teams occupying the third to 11th seeds. The Crimson freshmen (7-0) are seedeed second and the second varsity (6-1) is fifth. Washington is the top seed in both of those events. The Crimson lightweight varsity eight is ranked second, trailing only Princeton.

Flashback to 2009
Four Crimson heavyweight boats advanced to their respective grand finals, all finishing in the top five, at last season's IRA Regatta, held on Lake Natoma in Sacramento, Calif. The Harvard freshmen led the way with a silver-medal performance. The Yardlings came back from last place after 500 meters, passed Sprints-champion Brown in the final strokes and finished behind only Washington.

The varsity eight placed fourth in 6:01.6. The Crimson battled with Washington for much of the race before the Huskies surged past the the field, edging rival Cal in the final five strokes. Harvard held off a challenge from Boston University but finished 2.9 seconds back of Brown for the bronze medal. Harvard was fifth in the second varsity eight and varsity four and eighth overall in the open four.

145th Harvard-Yale Regatta
The Harvard heavyweight varsity eight posted a 5.9-second win against rival Yale to lead the Crimson to a sweep of the Bulldogs for the third straight year Saturday morning on the Thames River in New London, Conn.

The Yale varsity took a three-seat lead in the opening mile, but the Crimson surged back into the Bulldogs, went ahead a mile into the race and had an eight-seat advantage after another half-mile. The lead reached a full length at two miles and just before the 2.5-mile mark, Harvard countered a Yale move by taking back three seats to gain an open-water advantage. Harvard led by eight seconds with a mile left to race, but the Bulldogs fought to the end, gaining one second in each of the final half-miles and finishing the four-mile course in 19:46.2 after Harvard's 19:40.3.

The Crimson second varsity and freshman eights cruised to wins of 15.6 and 14.9 seconds over three and two miles, respectively, in the latest edition of America's oldest intercollegiate athletic event. In each of those races, Harvard took control from the start of the race despite rowing at a substantially lower stroke rate than its Eli opposition.

Harvard has now won 10 of the last 11 varsity matchups and has swept the Regatta in seven of the last 10 years. The Crimson extended its all-time lead to 91-54 in a series that dates back to a Harvard win in 1852.

Heavyweight Sprints Recap
The Harvard heavyweight varsity and freshman eights were among four Crimson boats to claim gold medals as the team captured its 30th Rowe Cup at the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges Sprints Championships on a sunny Sunday of fast rowing May 16 on Lake Quinsigamond.

The Crimson varsity, which entered seeded second and ranked fourth nationally, left with its 26th Eastern title and 26th Ivy League crown. It was the fifth title in eight years for Harvard's top boat. The freshmen, meanwhile, won their second crown in three years and 21st overall. The fourth varsity eight and the freshman four also earned gold medals, and the Crimson raced in all six grand finals after winning each of its four morning heats. Every competing freshman won a gold medal.

In the varsity eight race, Harvard avenged its only previous loss by beating third-place Brown and defeated runner-up Princeton in a full race after the Tigers did not finish their April 17 dual race against Harvard due to a collision. The Crimson led throughout, but the contest was close among the top three crews. The key was a surge by Harvard in the third 500 meters, giving the Crimson some breathing room en route to a 2.5-second win in 5:33.007.

The freshman eight final was tight throughout among Harvard, Princeton and Cornell. The Crimson and Tigers pulled away from the Big Red in the final 500 meters, and Princeton edged ahead by several seats before Harvard employed a tremendous sprint. The Crimson passed the Tigers in the final strokes and won by about a half-second in 5:37.298.

Heavyweight Dual Season Recap
The Crimson varsity eight finished one second shy of a second straight perfect dual season. Harvard opened the season with its first dual regatta against Cornell since 1961, winning all five races, including a 4.4-second win in the varsity eight.

The annual early-season clash with fellow Eastern power Brown followed. The Bears won the varsity eight race by one second and won the second and third varsities, while Harvard claimed victory in both freshman events. The Crimson rebounded by taking all four races from Princeton, sweeping the Tigers and MIT for the Compton Cup. The Princeton varsity, trying to come from behind, did not finish the race, as its rudder cable broke and its bow crashed into Harvard's stern and broke off.

Harvard then took five of six races from Navy and Penn and all three from Northeastern. In the highly anticipated varsity matchup with the Huskies, both teams entered having suffered only narrow losses to Brown. The Crimson, however, went up by three seats almost immediately and went on to win by more than six seconds.

Simply the Best
Harvard's 30 Rowe Cup victories and its 26 varsity, 21 second varsity and 21 freshman Sprints titles are all the highest totals among the competing programs. Its 68 total major event wins are more than double the second-highest total, which belongs to Penn, with 24.5 golds.

Heavyweight Coaching Staff
Harry Parker, the Thomas Bolles Head Coach for Harvard Men's Crew, is in his 48th season. He has guided the Crimson to 22 varsity Sprints titles and 17 second varsity crowns. Parker's dual coaching record is 298-44-1, and last season's perfect dual record was his 20th. He is 40-7 against Yale. The varsity and open fours are led by assistant coach Wayne Berger.

Harvard's freshman coach, in his 12th season, is Bill Manning. He has directed the Crimson rookies to six Sprints titles and four straight perfect dual seasons.

Heavyweight IRA History
The first IRA Regatta took place in 1895 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Harvard first rowed at the IRAs in 1896, placing second to Cornell and ahead of Penn and Columbia in a race on the Hudson River. The Crimson raced again in 1897 but did not come back for almost 100 years, in 1995, when it placed fourth in a race won by Brown on the Cooper River.

After an eight-year absence, Harvard returned again in 2003, claiming the Varsity Challenge Cup with an open-water victory over Washington.  That helped propel the Crimson to the Ten Eyck Cup, representative of overall team supremacy. The Crimson followed with varsity and team titles in each of the next two seasons. Harvard has also captured IRA gold in the 2004 freshman four, the 2006 second varsity eight and varsity four without coxswain and the 2008 open four events.

Streaking
The Harvard heavyweight varsity eight has defeated its last six and 20 of its last 21 dual opponents. The Crimson has defeated its last 15 dual opponents when racing at home on the Charles River and has beaten 37 of its last 38 home dual opponents. Harvard's last home loss was April 15, 2006 against Princeton.

Streaking, Freshman Edition
The Harvard freshman eight has defeated 27 straight dual opponents since falling to Yale to close the 2006 season.

A Winning Boat
The Harvard varsity eight races in the same shell that Malcolm Howard '05 and the Canada men's eight rowed to a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The boat was dedicated in Howard's honor following the Crimson's April 17 sweep of Princeton and MIT.

Heavyweight Captain
The Harvard heavyweights are captained by senior Blake Pucsek (Victoria, B.C.), who has rowed in the varsity eight since returning from a year away from Harvard in 2007-08. Pucsek trained with Rowing Canada during the Olympic year, helping his home nation take the silver medal at the World Under 23 Championships and win the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta.

The Varsity Eight
Harvard's success this season has come despite just one-third of the athletes in its top boat having raced in the varsity eight last season. The three varsity veterans are bowman Blake Pucsek, junior Anthony Locke (Isle of Wight, England) and junior David Wakulich (St. Catharines, Ont.). Senior coxswain Kelly Evans (East Greenwich, R.I.) was a part of the second varsity eight last season, while sophomores Michael DiSanto (Boston, Mass.), Matt Edstein (Sydney, Australia), Nick Jordan (Princeton, N.J.), Patrick Lapage (Shrewsbury, England) and Sam O'Connor (Christchurch, New Zealand) came from Harvard's 2009 freshman eight.

Ivy League Champion
Harvard's Sprints win secured the Ivy League championship for the Crimson and first-team All-Ivy League honors for the members of the varsity eight. Returning varsity oarsmen, Anthony Locke, Blake Pucsek and David Wakulich were second-team All-Ivy honorees in 2009.

Family Ties
Twins Christopher Fuller (Chestnut Hill, Mass.) and Mark Fuller (Chestnut Hill, Mass.) of the Harvard second varsity are the older brothers of Crimson freshman coxswain David Fuller (Chestnut Hill, Mass.).

Katie Evans, the twin sister of Crimson varsity coxswain Kelly Evans, is a member of the Brown heavyweight crew and coxed the Bears' second varsity eight to Sprints gold.

Harvard freshman Parker Washburn (Andover, Mass.) got the best of his brother, Spencer, coach of the Princeton freshmen, when the Crimson passed the Tigers in the final strokes at the EARC Sprints.

Across the Pond
Members of the Crimson heavyweight squad will wrap up the season in England at the Henley Royal Regatta July 1-4. The varsity eight will be entered in the Ladies' Challenge Plate, the freshman eight will compete in the Temple Cup and members of the second varsity will row for the Prince Albert Cup as a coxed four.

National Aspirations
Will Newell and Austin Meyer have been invited to the U.S. Under 23 selection camp for the men's lightweight four without coxswain, while lightweight freshman Eric Schultze (Foxboro, Mass.) has been invited to the sculling camp and heavyweight Nick Jordan is headed to the U23 Men's National Team camp.

The Boat Race
Former Crimson heavyweights Simon Gawlik '09, Cameron Winklevoss '04 and Tyler Winklevoss '04 rowed for Oxford in the 2010 Xchanging Boat Race on the River Thames in London, the 156th meeting of Oxford and Cambridge in a rivalry that dates back to 1829. Former Harvard heavyweight William Rueter '09 and former Crimson lightweight Moritz Hafner competed in the Isis vs. Goldie race. Cambridge won both races.