W. crew shines, men falter at Head of the Charles

The crew teams traveled to the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston Saturday and Sunday for their most important competition of the fall season.

Among the most notable performances of the weekend, the women’s crew team finished third in the women’s championship, just behind the U.S. and Canadian National teams. The team finished first among the women’s collegiate crews, with their closest competitor, Princeton, finishing 10 seconds behind them.

“I think we got pretty excited when we passed Ohio State, and that momentum stayed with us the whole race,” captain Melissa Merritt ’03 said.

The women’s championship four, made up of rowers from the second varsity eight boat, finished sixth, just behind Brown. The freshmen eight finished 11th overall.

For the seniors, this weekend’s race marked their most successful showing at the Charles in four years. But despite their achievement, the ladies remain humble, praising the performance of their coxswain, Katie Marshall ’03.

“She did an amazing job steering the course and really kept us focused,” Merritt said.

Women’s head coach Will Porter was proud of his young squad, emphasizing the importance of performing well despite the pressure of such an event.

“How can I not be happy with a result like that,” Porter said. “But more importantly, I am really happy with our performance — all the little things are starting to come together.”

Though the team is excited about their progress, the women know that they must continue to work hard and improve — especially now that they are the team to beat.

“This is a good checkpoint for us that has given us confidence, but we are definitely not complacent,” Jordan Pearce-Bristol ’03 said, “We know that Princeton will be gunning for us next weekend at the Princeton Chase, so we’ll need to be ready for that.”

The lightweight men already had every team gunning for them when they returned to Boston as the two-year defending champions. The Elis fell short of the three-peat, finishing fourth.

“Having won the race the past two years, we went into this year’s race with the goal of winning again,” Eric Feins ’03 said. “To come in fourth was a bit disappointing.”

Despite their initial disappointment, the Elis are using their fourth-place finish at the Head of the Charles as a building block for the spring.

“There were many parts to our race plan and we thought we executed some better than others,” captain Ben Hamilton ’03 said. “We learned several valuable lessons on Sunday.”

The Elis have no time to dwell on their disappointing finish, as the lightweights will join the other crew teams at the Princeton Chase Sunday.

“We are confident that the foundation is there to put together another successful varsity squad this year,” Feins said. “It is very early in the season to be obsessing about how fast we are right now. The important thing is that we stay patient and get fired up to get faster during the coming months.”

The men’s heavyweight fared worse than their lightweight counterparts, finishing 14th in the men’s championship eight and fourth in the Ivy League behind Harvard, Princeton and Brown. However, the Elis’ performance Sunday had a silver lining as the Bulldogs stayed within 5 percent of the winning time to qualify for next year’s regatta.

“The actual racing felt pretty good,” Andrew Brennan ’04 said. “Sometimes races start well but then get worse as people start to get tired, but we were able to maintain our boat speed pretty well throughout the three miles.”

Though there is room for improvement, the heavyweight men have already improved from last year, finishing only 4.1 percent off the winning time this year compared to last year’s 4.9 percent differential.

“This fall our coach has been working hard to foster in us a ‘never give up, ever, no matter what’ attitude and a relentlessness while racing that our team hasn’t really had before,” Brennan said.

The Elis head to New Jersey this weekend for the Princeton Chase, which is their last regatta for the fall season.

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