Worcester, MA—The Ephs travelled to Lake Quinsigamond for the first of their two championship races. The New England Rowing Championships brought men and women's teams from throughout the region for a long day of rowing. Crews rowed in heats in the morning to determine seeding for the afternoon finals. Clear skies, calm waters, and a regular 5-10 mph headwind treated all crews to fair rowing conditions.
The Ephs fielded four boats, two of which medaled, in tightly contested races. The second varsity boat captured gold and the first freshman boat captured silver. The men's squad earned 2nd place in the points trophy only 1.2 points behind Boston College with a tally of 52. The women's team earned second place finish behind Bates, but together the Men's and Women's team won the combined points trophy with a total of 146.7, which is 25.3 points more than second place Bates.
The first varsity boat faced a competitive heat of seven teams with the top 3 advancing to the grand final in the afternoon. The Ephs rowed to a second place finish behind Boston College and just slightly ahead of Wesleyan. This performance put the Ephs in lane 3 for the finals with Bates and Boston College to their left and Trinity, UNH and Wesleyan to their right. Judging from performances in the heats this final was prepared to be a tight one and it did not disappoint. All the teams got off the start quickly and were jockeying for position through the 750m mark before anyone made a definitive move. Boats stayed in contact all the way through the line, but Bates managed to separate themselves the most for a winning time of 6:14.34. They were followed by a string of boats fighting for second place. The next to cross was Boston College in 6:17.01, then Wesleyan in 6:17.75, Trinity in 6:18.78, and Williams in 6:19.74. UNH crossed in 6:29.06 for 6th place.
"It's been a really long week with several significant setbacks and challenges for the program," noted co-captain Peter Awad. "The heat was the second time we rowed this lineup and the final was the third. We knew this race was going to be a challenge, but we didn't fully step up to the plate to meet it. Fifth place is obviously disappointing, but we know we have more speed, so we have to keep our nose to the grindstone this week and get ready for an even tougher regatta next weekend."
The second varsity boat raced a smaller heat with Boston College, Bates and Tufts. They rowed to a second place finish, 5 seconds behind BC and 1 second ahead of Bates. The afternoon was a different story. The Ephs rocketed out to a lead with a commanding first thousand putting themselves a couple seconds out ahead of the field. Controlling the race from the front, the Ephs dug into the well to hold off stiff challenges. WPI mounted an exhausting offensive in the final 300 meters, but the Ephs were able to defend long enough to cross the line 0.44s ahead in a time of 6:20.19. To put it into perspective, this margin is about 2-3 meters over the entirety of a 2000-meter race. Wesleyan stole third place from BC by 0.06 seconds in a time of 6:25.206—a mere 1-2 feet.
"After a conservative heat we all committed to one another to win the grand final. I think that's what made it such a great race for the boat," commented 4-seat Philip von Hahn. "We took a risk," noted stroke seat Michael Polson, "and it paid off."
The first freshman flexed their muscles in the heat with a dominating 14.5-second finish over Boston College. Trinity, however, did the same to UNH in the second heat, which heightened the anticipation for an afternoon showdown. In the final, Trinity and Williams quickly separated from the field in what became a 2000m duel. Trinity carried a 5-6 margin coming into the last 300m, but the Ephs mounted an aggressive comeback, chipping away at Trinity's lead with every stroke. The finish line came too soon, however, and the Ephs missed out on first place by a tiny 0.44s margin. The Ephs finished in 6:21.96, with third place UNH back at 6:40.76. Though a heartbreaker for the frosh, it was a great step and an incredible race for the young group on an important stage.
The third varsity boat raced in just a final since there were only six boats entered. The Ephs raced a strong race for a fifth place finish in a time of 6:52.6, ahead of BC but behind winner Wesleyan, Bates, WPI and Tufts.
The Ephs will spend the next week on their home Lake Onota preparing for the ECAC National Invitational Regatta. There will be the notable additions of Michigan, Hobart, Bucknell, and Ithaca to the racing mix, among others. Racing begins Sunday morning and will continue into the late afternoon.