WORCESTER, MA--The Ephs spent the weekend at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, MA for the annual New England Rowing Championships, their penultimate race of the year. The New England Championships, or NERC, is their first of two championship races of the year; the other being the National Invitational Regatta held next weekend at Quinsigamond. In a day marred by heavy winds and race cancellations, the Ephs still managed to string together some strong performances.
The first event of the day was the men's Novice Eight. The Novice Eight raced a time trial in the morning to determine seeding, to be followed by a final in the afternoon. The time trial took the form of a 1650 meter run of the course with a rolling start. In the time trial, the Eph frosh found their rhythm early and maintained a strong and smooth pace through the base of the piece, before winding it up and unleashing a vicious sprint to the finish line. In what was the novice eights strongest race of the year, they finished the time trial in a leading time of 5:03.8. They were followed soon behind by Tufts in 5:05.4 and Boston College in 5:06.9. Unfortunately due to wind, the afternoon's final was canceled and the Ephs were unable to test their strength against their opponents in a true race. However, medals were awarded based on time trial results and the Ephs took home the gold.
Coach Nate Clark was disappointed the frosh were unable to compete in a final, but was excited for the opportunity for the frosh to test themselves against many of the same crews next week: "It would have been nice to actually race a final in the Frosh 8 but we take joy in knowing that the competition won't make it easy next week when we see many of the same crews again."
Next up in the morning was the men's Novice Four. Going up against a stiff headwind and top Novice Four programs from many other schools, the Novice Four showed great strength. The frosh ultimately came just short of a medal, finishing fourth in a time of 8:53. WPI won the race in 7:56.
The Ephs 2V had an excellent day of racing in which they began to meet some of the lofty expectations they set out for themselves at the beginning of the year. The goal for the morning was to advance to the afternoon's grand final by placing at least second in their heat. As the race came down to the final stretch, Tufts was pulling away with the lead and the Ephs trailed Trinity by several seats. In the final 300 meters coxswain Jamie Sullivan gave the call to attack. The Ephs wound it up and passed Trinity right before the finish line in one of the day's most exciting finishes. The Ephs placed second to Tufts, just ahead of Trinity by 0.7 seconds.
After a long delay due to the headwinds that canceled many other races, the Ephs 2V took to the course to compete in the day's grand final. Lining up against New England's best, the Ephs showed great poise in their race. According to Coach Clark, the Ephs "continued to mature" in their final, ultimately placing fifth in a time of 7:03. The race was won by Bates in a time of 6:46.
Last up was the Varsity Eight. Coach Edward Slater viewed NERCs as a chance for the Ephs Varsity to demonstrate their hard work and progress over the year: "after a regular season of tremendous growth, [the Varsity Eight] ventured into New England's prepared to prove what they were truly capable of." In the heats the Ephs pulled off one of the largest upsets of the day, taking down top overall seed WPI to win their heat in a time of 6:38 to WPI's 6:41. Both crews advanced to the afternoon's grand final.
In the final race of the day, held at 7:10 pm after the day's delays in racing, the Ephs waged a back and forth battle in an incredibly close final race. WPI took a lead through the midsection of the course by rating very high at 39 strokes per minute, but they were unable to put the field away. The rest of the field followed in hot pursuit of WPI. As the finish line drew near, WPI began to stretch their lead and the field spaced out, but not by much. Coming into the final stretch, the Ephs battled bow to bow with rivals Wesleyan, ultimately falling just short of Wesleyan at the line. The Ephs finished fifth in a time of 6:34, behind winner WPI's time of 6:23.
As a whole, coach Slater was pleased with the day's results and is excited for next Friday's ECAC regatta: "The New England Championships provided William's Crew the opportunity to realize our true capabilities, bringing our practice to the race course, each of our boats seized it. Humble and hungry, we are on to next Friday's end of season National Invitational Rowing Championship to show many of the same competitors our continuing growth."