CAMDEN, N.J.—One-fiftieth of a second separated the Harvard lightweight crew and a national title. The Crimson varsity eight finished an extremely close second to Yale at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships, while the varsity four won IRA gold Saturday on the Cooper River.
The second-place finish was Harvard's best since 2006 and earned the Crimson varsity its fifth IRA medal in six years.
Like at Eastern Sprints, the varsity eight grand final came down to Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth ahead of the rest of the pack. Yale was the quickest off the line, but Harvard soon drew even, and all three boats were level after 700 meters. The Big Green reached the 1,000-meter mark first and held the lead through the third 500. The Crimson picked up its pace and caught Dartmouth, but the Bulldogs stayed with Harvard and won a photo finish.
"It's no question it's tough to lose a race that close, but there has to be a winner," head coach Charley Butt said. "All credit goes to neither boat breaking; all credit goes to the coxswains and athletes contesting it for a mile and a quarter."
The crowd on shore and the crews waited to hear Yale's time announced as 5:39.904. Harvard's time was 5:39.926. Yale avenged HYP and Sprints losses to the Eastern-champion Crimson, handing Harvard its first and only defeat of the spring.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't have the luck there," Butt added. "But I'm delighted with the effort and the sort of year that we've had. You can't ask for more."
The varsity four was more than four seconds better than the rest of the national field. The Crimson started with the top half of the pack. Princeton and Navy stayed with Harvard for the first 500 meters, but the Crimson pulled away from both, first the Tigers and then the Midshipmen, in the next 500. The lead increased over the second half of the race, and Harvard posted a winning time of 6:28.562, with Princeton taking silver and Cornell earning bronze.
"Four guys from our second varsity boat came together, rowed this race and commanded it," Butt said. "My hat is off to them."
The varsity eight began the day by winning its heat by 1.2 seconds over Princeton, Cornell and Marietta.