Cherry Hill, NJ- The Ephs hit the water this Saturday for the 31st Memorial Murphy Cup Regatta to cap off their spring break training trip and start the official spring racing season.
The weather cleared up for the regatta, gracing the course with 55-degree weather and sunny skies. There was a building tailwind throughout the day that created slightly faster times overall in the afternoon.
The Murphy Cup is one of the largest season opening regattas on the east coast attracting 16 different crews at the varsity level this year. The regatta was formatted championship style with heats in the morning and finals in the afternoon. With only a single grand final for each event, making it to the afternoon became an accomplishment in and of itself. For the first and second varsity events there were three heats, with the winner of each heat and the next three overall fastest times advancing. For the freshmen event, the top two finishers and the next two times moved on to the six boat final.
First on the water, the Williams freshman eight placed second in their heat by a mere 0.03 seconds in a time of 6:32.85. The frosh edged out University of North Carolina (UNC) in a photo finish and were a ways away from a very fast crew from University of Virginia (UVA). With their impressive performance in the heats the boat advanced to the finals where they placed 6th in a time of 6.36.50, but due to a disqualification of another team because of unsportsmanlike conduct they were upgraded to 5th place.
"We were very excited about our performance in the heat," notes frosh stroke Phillip Oung, "but we got out-matched in the finals by crews that were simply much larger and stronger. Nonetheless, it was a great experience for everyone, especially the guys in the boat that have never been in a spring 2k race."
Next on the water, the second varsity boat fought hard for a second place finish behind Temple in the heats in a time of 6:23.62. The Ephs qualified for the last spot in the finals by 0.06 seconds. In the finals, the boat put together a focused effort for 5th place in a time of 6:13.41, four seconds ahead of a Temple crew that they finished behind in the heat. They crossed the line behind UVA, UNC, Drexel, and Bucknell, respectively.
"We got off to a solid start in both pieces, but the body of the pieces didn't have the speed we needed to catch the other crews," comments 2V bowman Marshall Akita. "In the finals, we found enough energy to kick into another gear and pull away from Temple to get 5th."
The last boat on the water for the Ephs was the first varsity, which is actually the youngest boat besides the freshmen. The Ephs put up the second fastest overall time of the morning at 5:57.00, two and a half seconds behind leading UNC. With that time, the 1V advanced to the final along with UVA, UNC, Drexel, Bucknell and Temple. The number one seed at the Murphy cup was UVA who put on their speed in the final, throwing down a 5:49.65, over six seconds faster than second place Drexel. The Ephs raced a composed and consistent piece to come in fourth with a time of 5:59.54, missing out on a medal by 1.62 seconds to a Temple crew that they beat by three seconds in the heats.
"Obviously we hate to lose, but considering the amount of time we have spent on the water and the level of competition, we are happy with where we finished," notes captain Zach Tarlow. "The great thing is we know our strengths and weaknesses as a crew and we feel that there is room to improve."
The competition at the Murphy Cup is likely to be the most difficult of the year until New England's and ECAC's at the end of the season. The ability of the team to place all of its eights in the finals is a testament to the depth and consistency of the program. Facing such stiff competition early in the season allows the Ephs to see how they measure up against the gold medal standard, as times are incomparable across different races and regattas. The lineups were as follows:
The water on the Ephs home lake is still frozen over so alternative plans are being worked out to try to find water to practice on. The crew is scheduled to race Hobart and UNH in Saratoga Springs, NY on Saturday April 6th, however, this is contingent on water conditions, as the Northeast is going though a prolonged thaw.