Eastern Sprints

Brown overpowers Harvard to complete sweep

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / May 11, 2009
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WORCESTER - The race was more than halfway over, Brown's boat was about five seats behind Harvard's, and in a strange way, Bears coach Paul Cooke saw it as a positive sign.

He remembered being behind Harvard at the San Diego Classic in April and finishing neck-and-neck.

The very next week, when the crews battled in Boston, the Bears fell behind by nearly a boat-length but they pushed so hard down the stretch they ended up within a single second of the Crimson.

At yesterday's Eastern Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond, Cooke saw those five seats and said to himself, "They're not quite as far out as they were last time. Maybe we can come through."

His oarsmen were thinking along the same lines.

Thinking back to the way Harvard finished in San Diego, junior stroke Scott Morgan said, "They had shut down, and we were trying to sprint through."

With the varsity eight heavyweight grand final, the Ivy League title, the Rowe Cup, and a trip to the IRA national championship all waiting for the crew that crossed the finish line just 500 meters away, Brown made another push.

"We were starting to get a little momentum going," said senior coxswain Rob O'Leary. "We basically knew that, at 500 to go, we had to really start shifting into that next gear if we wanted to take them."

Seat by seat, the margin started to shrink.

"I just felt a lot of power come from behind me," Morgan said. "We started moving a couple of seats, then we were two seats down, one seat down . . ."

By the time they reached the finish, they were two seats ahead, overpowering the Crimson in the final 15 strokes to win in 5 minutes 41.363 seconds, 1.262 seconds ahead of Harvard.

The win completed a clean sweep of the heavyweight sprints for Brown, which edged the Crimson in the freshman race and won by open water in the second varsity run, stretching out a four-second win over Wisconsin.

Though Princeton won the varsity lightweight grand final, Harvard was able to snare the Jope Cup, tallying the most points in the three lightweight grand finals.

Brown's heavyweight grand final win was its first since 2000, and sixth in school history, along with its sixth Rowe Cup.

It was the first time a team had swept all three races since Harvard did it in 2004, and Cooke said it spoke volumes about his team's depth.

"We have a bunch of really strong guys," said Cooke. "Very dedicated and very tenacious. I think that's kept us a potential winner all year long. We felt as though we've had the dedication, the commitment, and the training that we could win if we put it together."

Cooke hasn't gone with the same eight oarsmen all season.

"We've gone through a ton of lineup changes," Morgan said. "Almost a new lineup every week."

The eight oarsmen on the water yesterday had been assembled Thursday afternoon.

Seeing the way the second varsity blew Wisconsin out of the water, Cooke joked, "I honestly hoped that I hadn't messed up. I was really impressed. I hadn't expected it to be that dominant."

"Those were the guys pushing us at practice every day, making us get faster," O'Leary said. "Most of those guys have rowed on our boat at some points and helped to make the varsity what it is."