CAMDEN, N.J.—The Harvard heavyweight varsity, second varsity and freshman eights each won their semifinals Friday at the IRA National Championships, advancing to the grand final in each race in their pursuit of a national championship.
Harvard enters the final day of the national regatta unbeaten in each of three eights and will also race in the open four grand final. The Crimson varsity eight came from behind to knock off previously unbeaten, top-seeded Washington and will seek Harvard's 10th official national championship Saturday. The Crimson has also won eight unofficial national titles.
The varsity win came despite adversity before and during the race. The Crimson's boat suffered a broken skeg on the way to the start, requiring a quick repair job. Harvard stood in fourth place, six seats down to leader Washington in the second 500 meters, but stormed past Stanford, Wisconsin and, finally, the Huskies. The win left Harvard with the only unbeaten varsity eight in the nation.
Racing in another strong tailwind but with fewer crosswinds than Thursday, the Crimson posted a blistering time of 5:25.889, 1.7 seconds ahead of Washington and more than three seconds faster than California's winning time in the first varsity semifinal. Wisconsin topped Stanford for the final qualifying spot in Harvard's heat, while Brown and Princeton also made the grand final.
"We just rallied. We stuck to our rhythm," said junior five-seat Matthew Edstein. "If we could take our second half of the race today and then take a first half that's much stronger off the start, like we had at Sprints, to put a perfect race together, we should be happy tomorrow. It's just a matter of doing that. We think we've definitely got room to improve on our start, so that's always encouraging."
The Crimson second varsity was in third place in the early-going and second, four seats behind Wisconsin, after 1,000 meters. The second half of the race, however, belonged to Harvard, as the Crimson passed the Badgers and went on to finish in 5:41.800. Wisconsin and Princeton also advanced to the grand final. Washington, Cal and Cornell moved on from the other semifinal.
The Harvard, Washington and Cornell freshmen were first off the line, with the Crimson and Huskies distancing themselves from the field soon after. Harvard built a four-seat lead in the second 500 meters and was in a comfortable position to advance through the second 1,000. The Huskies challenged the Crimson for the race win, but Harvard hung on to win by one-third of a second. Boston University took the final qualifying spot in that race, with Cal, Princeton and Brown advancing from the second semifinal.
Saturday's schedule for the Crimson heavyweights starts with the varsity four third-level final at 7:45 a.m. and concludes with the varsity eight grand final at 12:15 p.m. Washington, Cal and Princeton join Harvard as teams with three eights in grand finals.
Second Varsity Eight
Boston University 5:48.351
Wisconsin no time recorded
Princeton no time recorded
Brown no time recorded
Yale no time recorded
Penn no time recorded
Dartmouth no time recorded
Boston University 5:47.629
UC San Diego 6:08.236
George Washington 6:23.094
Holy Cross 6:30.558