Crimson Heavyweight Crew Seniors Make Their Mark

The Harvard heavyweight crew Class of 2013 (photo Gil Talbot).
The Harvard heavyweight crew Class of 2013 (photo Gil Talbot).

The Harvard heavyweight Class of 2013 first came to Cambridge with a challenging task. The newcomers were filling the shoes of the graduated seniors who had just produced a 23-4 record in four years to go along with three victories in the Harvard-Yale Regatta and a second-place showing at EARC Sprints in 2009.

While finishing second at Sprints is no small feat, the Crimson eyed improvement. Wisconsin in 2008 and Brown in 2009 had unsettled the oarsmen from Harvard with Rowe Cup titles, including the Bears' sweep of the three major heavyweight divisions by the 2009 Sprints. Parity was as evident as ever in Eastern rowing with four different Sprints champions in the previous five years, opening a chance to any crew on the seaboard.

Brown opened as the Eastern favorite in 2010, the Class of 2013's freshman year, and topped the Crimson with three wins in five races in the second dual of the season, snapping the varsity eight's dual win streak at 14. While the freshman eight and second freshman boats produced wins, it remained a somber day for Harvard. "We need to get a little faster," Parker said after the race.

The Crimson has competed in 26 duals since that 2009 day in Providence, R.I., and although Parker has surely uttered those exact words to every one of the Crimson's boats in the last four years, the phrasing has not been needed after a first varsity race. Harvard's freshman boat went undefeated in 2010 and the varsity eight is 21-0 since the Class of 2013 graduated to the varsity roster, with members of the group contributing throughout.

"We prescribed to the Harvard program right from the get-go and were willing to go the extra mile," said James O'Connor, the captain of this season's Crimson. "By prescribing to the program laid out by the coaches, the work ethic drilled in to us since freshman year, and by motivating each other to put in additional workouts, our class has consistently contributed at all levels."

O'Connor is one of four seniors on this year's first varsity, along with Josh Hicks, Parker Washburn and coxswain David Fuller. These four, who were all in the 2010 freshman boat that won Sprints, have led the 2013 Crimson varsity to six dual victories and one of the more impressive Sprints performances in recent memory. Entering as a slightly favored crew over Brown and Northeastern, Harvard won with open water in Worcester and crossed the finish line more than five seconds ahead of the Bears and seven seconds before the Huskies.

Guiding the Crimson on that rainy Sunday was Fuller, an important piece to the crew since his arrival in Cambridge.

"Without him we wouldn't have won," said Hicks after the EARC Sprints race.

The senior coxswain enters his final race against Yale undefeated during his four years in dual competition. While coxing the freshman boat in his first year, the second varsity as a sophomore and the first varsity in the last two seasons, Fuller has gained the respect of his peers.

"Dave Fuller is a godsend," said O'Connor, who also looks to leave Cambridge without having suffered a dual loss. "We have some very good coxswains in the program, but Dave is really a class act. He helps bring the best out in us every day and can identify what works well and what doesn't work so well in the boat. We're very lucky to have him."

The varsity eight's efforts helped clinch the program's fourth straight Rowe Cup, a milestone that has been reached just four times in Harvard history and not since 1976. But while the points title for Eastern supremacy came down to the last race, the Crimson had the opportunity because of stellar racing throughout the day. Harvard's second varsity finished third, the fourth varsity was second, and this year's newcomers picked up the Crimson's fourth straight win in the freshman race.

Harvard's seniors contributed greatly to the success of the lower boats, as well, just as the Crimson has grown accustomed to them doing. Depth is something the program prides itself on, and this group of seniors has embraced the effort. No Harvard boat—varsity, second varsity, freshman or combination—has lost at the Regatta in their tenure.

"The Rowe Cup shows that Harvard has an amazing team, not just amazing boats," notes senior four seat Hicks. "If the 4V is pushing the 3V, they are pushing the JV and freshmen, who are pushing the 1V. Everyone, from the guys who showed up for a few weeks in the fall to the stroke of the varsity eight, is equally important in this regard."

The wide ranges of contributions from this class are not only felt on the water, but also in all aspects of life. Justin Mundt, a senior on the second varsity, said "The depth of the senior class—and the overall variety of interests and pursuits—has made this class what it is. We have engineers, physics majors, history majors, government majors; we have guys who are going to pursue rowing at the international level, guys who are going to be teachers, guys who are going to medical school. The diversity, both as it relates to rowing and otherwise, has made this group a very special one."

But according to O'Connor, at the end of the day, they all join together for a common goal.

"We're all here to make boats go fast and do so with our friends, so guys try and do exactly that."