Camden, NJ – Brown enjoyed another outstanding day at the IRA National Championship Regatta on Friday morning, as four of five boats qualified for the Grand Finals, giving them a shot to compete tomorrow for a national title. The Open 4, Varsity 4, Second Varsity 8, and Varsity 8 each earned spots in the top finals in their events, while the Freshman 8 will compete in the Petite Final, with the opportunity to finish as high as seventh in the country.
“I thought the squad as a whole did really well,” said head coach Paul Cooke. “Having both fours and the two varsity eights qualify was a big deal, and a great day for Brown.”
The morning started with the Open Four, which rowed an exciting, come from behind race to nip Harvard for the third position, and grab a Grand Finals spot. Cornell wasted little time in establishing its position out of the blocks, rowing very high off the start and taking open water by the 500 mark. For the middle 1000, four boats were left battling for the remaining two spots, though they began to separate with about 600 to go. Washington took a length on the field in second, and Harvard appeared to be set in the third position. The Bears made a tremendous final push though, and nipped Harvard by just over a second for third place, finishing in 6:30.2.
The next event was, incredibly, even closer than the first, as the Varsity 4 also earned a bid to the top final. Washington and Cal got off to quick starts, and gained some separation from the field for the top two spots. Brown and Temple remained in a dogfight down the course though, with neither squad able to gain a significant advantage. The Bears again turned in an impressive sprint though, and it proved just enough to secure the third position, as Brown crossed the line in 6:31.0, just ahead of Temple's 6:31.2.
“A lot of our boats were in very close races today, and the team showed great character and resolve to finish where it did,” said Cooke. “I felt like our guys really influenced and inspired each other, and everyone on the team had a part in our energy today.”
After a brief break in the action, the racing picked back up with the Freshman 8. Washington quickly stormed out to the lead, going on to win with a time of 5:48.5. Princeton and Cornell took the other two qualifying spots, fighting to the end to finish within .2 seconds of one another, with Columbia in fourth, just ahead of Brown in fifth, at 6:00.0. Wisconsin rounded out the field, finishing in 6:02.9.
The second varsity eight saw another terrific race, as Washington and Brown dueled down the course. The Bears took the lead off the start, and held a two-seat advantage over Washington at the 300 meter mark. Washington pulled even by 750 though, and two squads traded the lead for much of the middle of the race before the Huskies pulled away, crossing the line in 5:45.8 for the win. Brown followed close behind in 5:46.8, with Wisconsin taking the third spot in 5:52.2.
Expectations were high for the varsity eight semifinal, which saw all six lanes filled with Ivy League crews, and the race did not disappoint, as the field turned in an instant classic. Princeton and Brown shot out of the gate together, taking an early two-seat lead on the field, but no boats could gain separation, and all six came through the 1000 mark within three seats of one another. In the third 500, Yale and Princeton began to fade, but the other four crews mounted a terrific sprint to the finish, fighting hard for the three qualifying spots.
With a raucous crowd drowning out the PA, Harvard was just able to edge the Bears for the win, as all four boats crossed the line in a span of just over a second. After a lengthy photo review, the Crimson were declared the winner in 5:37.3. Brown followed in 5:37.79, with Cornell in 5:37.82 and Dartmouth finishing just out of the top three in 5:38.4.
“The varsity eight was very, very close, obviously,” said Cooke. “However, I did feel like we were in a position of strength for most of the race. We rowed the way that we wanted to, and were able to have a great push at the end. There was a lot of tension and pressure to perform, and I thought our guys handled that really well.”
The Bears will be back in action tomorrow morning, beginning with the Grand Finals of the Open 4 at 9:12 a.m.