Bears challenged by blustery weather in season openers

In choppy conditions, women defeat Princeton, Michigan on road, while men fall to Yale at home

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 30, 2015

The men’s crew team rows down the Seekonk. Last year’s national runners-up, the Bears opened their season on a sour note with a loss to Yale.

After a long winter on the ergs, the men’s and women’s crew teams finally took to open water for their spring season openers Saturday, with the men at home on the Seekonk against Yale and the women facing Michigan and Princeton on Lake Carnegie in New Jersey.

Despite blustery conditions — winds gusted up to 17 miles per hour — the women won four of their five races, earning the Class of 1987 Trophy for the second year in a row.

“Opening our racing season is always very exciting because we haven’t yet seen how winter training pays off as we line up against other tough crew(s),” said Rachel Gotlieb ’15, one of the five  “Pentagon” captains, as the team calls them. The race gave the women an opportunity to showcase their speed and depth, Gotlieb said. The top varsity eight stole the race in 7:14, beating Princeton and Michigan by eight and 14 seconds, respectively.

Both the A and B varsity four boats won their respective races in 8:26 and 8:02. Also victorious was the second varsity eight, which finished in 7:10. The third varsity eight finished a solid second, only three seconds behind Princeton’s third varsity boat at 7:29, but ahead of Princeton’s fourth varsity.

Last season, the women won the Ivy League team championship and qualified all three boats for the NCAA Grand Final at Nationals, finishing third overall as a team. “I was really proud of how people raced at both Ivies and NCAAs, outperforming our 2013 season and stepping up to the challenge of tougher and tighter competition,” Gotlieb said.

Captain Katherine McKeen ’15 lauded the women for remaining cohesive despite the adverse weather conditions Saturday. “In particular, our varsity fours handled some of the worst conditions in a very impressive way,” she said.

The women will compete at Radcliffe on the Charles next weekend and look forward to their home race April 25 against Cornell for the Dunn Bowl.

The men had a less successful season debut. The Bears were victorious in the second varsity and third varsity races but fell short in the fourth varsity and varsity eight races, costing them the inaugural Albert Cup.

They were originally scheduled to race Yale Friday and Boston University on the Charles River Saturday, but frozen conditions led the matchup against BU to be canceled. The Yale regatta was pushed back a day but still held despite snow, sleet and 15-mile-per-hour winds.

Co-captain Walker Mills ’15, a Herald opinions columnist, said the team went into the race with few expectations. “Because it’s the season opener … we didn’t have a good gauge of either team’s speed beforehand,” he said. “All we knew going in is that Yale is a serious competitor, but that we intend to put our bow across the finish line first.”

“I was happy to see the team get the chance to compete against Yale this weekend,” Head Coach Paul Cooke ’89 wrote in an email to The Herald.  “Yale has a strong program, and any time we have the chance to race against fast crew(s), we learn from the experience and get faster ourselves.”

The fourth varsity, a boat of mostly walk-ons, faced a more experienced Yale fourth varsity in the first race of the day. The Bulldogs won by a sizeable 14-second margin, finishing in 6:19.

“The race didn’t go quite as well as we hoped,” said Dan Meyer ’17, who was in the 4V boat. “The boat did not have a lot of experience racing at the collegiate level, so the race was a really important learning experience that should be a springboard to future successes.”

The third varsity race featured Brown’s 3V, Yale’s 3V and Brown’s freshman boat. The freshman boat won comfortably in 5:54, with Yale’s 3V trailing by six seconds and the Brown 3V placing third with a time of 6:22. Cooke commended the freshmen, saying the victory showcased their depth.

In the 2V event, the Bears and Bulldogs raced neck and neck before Brown pulled ahead in the second quarter of the race and held on to win in 5:46.

The top eight raced last, just as the snow began to pick up and lowered visibility. Despite a solid attempt, Brown finished at 5:42, behind Yale’s 5:35.

“We held Yale’s varsity and came even with them around the middle of the race, but they ended up taking better strokes in the choppy water in the second half of the race and pulled ahead,” said David Lazris ’17, who rowed in the varsity eight.

“The varsity was defeated, and we will have to find a way to row a more mature race, but that is part of the process and I know they will work hard to do it,” Cooke wrote.

The men will race reigning national champion Washington next Saturday, April 4. Brown finished second to the Huskies last year and third the year before at the IRA national championships. After three years of flying to Seattle to race, the team looks forward to hosting Washington in Providence.

“They’ve proven themselves the best rowing team in the country, and we know that if we want to win a national championship, we need to beat them,” Mills said.

As for the rest of the season, the men hope to capture the regional and national championships in May. After the second-place national finish, “anything less than that leaves guys hungry for more,” Mills said. “Our goal is always the same: to win a national championship.”


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