CAMDEN, N.J. -- The Harvard varsity men's eight completed an undefeated season in compelling style yesterday, posting an open-water victory in the grand final of the 102d Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta on the Cooper River.
Rowing into a cross head breeze and a light drizzle, the Crimson overcame a very aggressive start by California to reach the halfway point of the 2,000-meter course with a half-length lead. From there, Harvard bolted for the finish line, charging to a 1-length lead with 700 meters to go, and extending to a nearly five-second victory in a time of 5:53.18.
Silver medalist Washington (5:58.03) rowed past bronze medalist California (5:59.49) in the last 200 meters of the course. Navy (6:02.96), Princeton (6:03.16), and Dartmouth (6:08.71) rounded out the six-boat final.
"It was a strong row, I would even say a dominant performance," said coach Harry Parker after the race.
Harvard 3-seat Malcolm Howard admitted to race-day nerves but gained confidence as the crew motored down the course.
"I was really nervous, but we really executed well," he said. "When we went across the 1,000 and the other crews hadn't moved on us, I thought maybe we had it." The crew completed its second consecutive undefeated season; the varsity's last loss was to Wisconsin in the Eastern Sprints in May 2002.
"Before the race, Harry told us that the opportunity to complete an undefeated season doesn't come along very often, and that it was our job to take it," Howard said.
The crew will have an opportunity to test exactly how good it is in the next few weeks; Harvard competes in the 139th Harvard-Yale Regatta Saturday, will race in the FISA World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland, June 18-20, and in the Royal Henley Regatta July 1-4. The prospect of a collegiate crew racing in a World Cup is an unusual one; the crew will have to race as USA2, and wear United States uniforms.
"The crew wanted to test themselves against the really fast guys, and I felt like they earned it," Parker said. The Harvard second varsity placed second behind Washington, while the freshman eight finished second behind Cal.
Said freshman coach Bill Manning, "They faced adversity to get there and kept going, and put in a great effort and performance."
The Harvard lights broke down into a four to take gold in the men's freshman four with coxswain, while the Harvard third varsity eight also broke down into two fours to take second and third, respectively, in the men's open four with coxswain. The cumulative effort of the Harvard crews helped them take the Ten Eyck points trophy.
The Northeastern varsity eight finished second in the petite final to place eighth overall. In lightweight racing, the Harvard men placed fifth. The Radcliffe lightweights placed third.