This past weekend, the Crimson waves were bigger than the Big Red ones.
In a busy slate filled with competitive racing for all four of Harvard’s crews, the lightweight squad made an especially bold statement to begin its season. In temperatures bordering on nippy, the No. 4 ranked lightweight crew faced four ranked opponents over the weekend, coming to the line against No. 1 Cornell and No. 7 Penn on Saturday in Ithaca, N.Y., and No. 3 Columbia and No. 7 Georgetown on Sunday back home on the Charles River. Ultimately, the Crimson eased past all four opponents, including the Big Red, defending national champions and unbeaten in the dual season since 2016.
“With lightweight rowing, you never know what to expect going into the race, and this was our first debut in the league, so we just had trust within our training, with what we’re doing, going out and having the best race possible,” senior captain Andre Dupuis said. “We didn’t really know what to expect until we were in the race.”
The first varsity race on Saturday, stroked by junior David Wexner, was not a win by margins, as one would suspect when facing Cornell. The Crimson sped past both the Big Red and Quakers by more than nine seconds, finishing in 6:01.1 to Cornell’s 6:09.8 and Penn’s 6:16.4.
“We knew that Cornell was going to be very fast off the line and they were going to have a very aggressive race plan, so having a lot of confidence in ourselves as a boat, we decided that we were going to do the same thing,” said sophomore Hunter Wallace, who rowed in the first varsity eight. “We came off the line as fast as we could and saw that we were up a little bit. Fairly early in the race, we took a big push to really try to open up the margin between the Cornell boat, which was successful for us, and then the rest of the race was just finding a rhythm and making sure that we stayed as an aggressive pace, and in doing so, we were able to slowly make the margin bigger and bigger.
Harvard’s victory in this race was also echoed by wins in four other races, including 6:12.6 and 6:13.5 finishes in the second and third varsity races, stroked by junior Andrew Sterne and freshman Owen Niles respectively; both boats finished faster than Penn’s first varsity boat.
The lightweight crew carried the momentum of its victories in to Sunday against the Lions and Bulldogs. Unlike on Saturday, the first varsity boat battled with its opponents but eventually pulled away with a three second victory in 5:53.0 to Columbia’s 5:56.0 and Georgetown’s 6:06.5. Although the Lions captured the second varsity race by a second over the Harvard, the Crimson’s third varsity boat won its race 6:09.7.
Wallace said that the team made sure to bring the same intensity to their race on Sunday. He also stressed the importance of the team continuing to improve to match the progress of rival boats later in the season.
“The results of the racing this weekend were due to all the hard work our team has been putting in since the fall,” Wallace said. “So we’ve had a really good training plan laid out for us, and our team has really bought into what the coaches and the senior leadership have asked of us. We’ve really bought into the plan, and the results of this weekend were because we did all that starting in September.”
In other crew action over the weekend, the No. 13 Radcliffe heavyweight crew took to Lake Carnegie in Princeton, N.J. The team finished second in the morning in the Class of ‘75 Cup and third in the afternoon vying for the Class of ‘84 Plaque. Princeton rowed away with both events, winning every single race on the afternoon including 6:51.2 and 6:35.4 finishes in the first varsity events, beating the rest of the field by 10 and seven seconds respectively.
The No. 4 men’s heavyweight crew traveled to Providence, R.I., but fell to No. 6 Brown on the Seekonk River. The win gave the Bears the Stein Cup in a hotly contested first varsity race, in which the Brown’s 5:28.1 finish barely edged out the Crimson’s time of 5:29.9. Harvard did take the second, third, and fourth varsity races.
The No. 6 Radcliffe crew joined the heavyweights at Lake Carnegie to face off against No. 3 Princeton. The Tigers’ first varsity boat beat the Black and White’s by nearly 13 seconds enroute to a comfortable victory in 7:16.9. Radcliffe’s sole victory came in the third varsity eight.
The road ahead features many tough races for all four crews, opportunities to battle tough opponents and to shave off seconds. Dupuis’ sentiment moving forward embodies the continual effort for self-improvement.
“I think it’s pretty exciting,” Dupuis said. “I think we have some good, positive momentum going into the next few races. We never want to underestimate the other crews. We have some tough, tough races on the horizon, so we’re just taking it a race at a time, continuing to train hard throughout the coming weeks. We still have plenty of opportunities to prove ourselves.”
—Staff writer Leon K. Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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