NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A pre-season trip to China (last week of August) set the tone for a successful fall season for the Yale heavyweights. Nine oarsmen and a coxswain were invited to compete in the World Top University Rowing Challenge in Yunnan Province. Yale finished in second place behind Peking (Beijing) University, but defeated crews from Tsinghua University (third), Huanan Normal University (fourth), Shanghai Jiaotong University (fifth), University of London (sixth), Harvard (seventh) and Cambridge University (eighth).
The head-racing season started with a solid win by the varsity eight at the Head of the Housatonic over Northeastern, Williams and Andy Card's Yale lightweights, by 10, 22 and 29 seconds respectively. The 2V and 3V also defeated their respective competition and Yale also finished first in the varsity four. The freshman eight finished in second place behind the Brown frosh.
At the Head of the Charles Yale's club eight won gold in a big field of 46 boats that included crews from Brown, BU, Harvard (three boats) and Northeastern. The members were: junior Pat Vergara, freshman Philip Mastroyannis, sophomore Keith Pfirrman, junior Duncan Logie, junior Ben Ortiz, senior Henry Cole, freshman Don Leatherwood, sophomore Django Broer-Hellerman and sophomore coxswain Emma McBurney. Yale's champ four did not fare as well, but the champ eight had a good race and finished fifth among all college crews behind only California, Washington, Brown and Northeastern. The champ eight was comprised of: junior Alex Mastroyannis, senior Tony Sirianni, sophomore Joe Alagna, senior captain Lucas Spielfogel, junior Matt Ramlow, sophomore Tom Dethlefs, junior Derek Johnson, sophomore Ben Bowles and freshman coxswain Ian Forsyth. Yale passed Cornell going around the big turn in front of Cambridge BC, which made for some loud cheering going under the Eliot Street Bridge.
The last weekend of fall racing had the heavyweights traveling to Lake Carnegie and the Princeton Chase. Yale was defending champs from 2008 in all the major events: varsity eight, varsity four and freshman eight. The varsity eight raced first and had a two-second lead over Columbia and Princeton at the midway split, but eventually finished in second place behind the Tigers by 2.5 seconds. The last four years have seen the varsity eight alternate between only the Bulldogs and Tigers - Yale, Princeton, Yale, Princeton. The Yale freshmen were not able to repeat last fall's 17-second margin of victory and eventually finished 5th. This crew has a long way to go, but there are some good competitors in the group, and head coach John Pescatore expects we'll see a completely different freshman squad come spring time. Yale's varsity four, which only rowed together once before the actual race, managed a solid third-place finish, less than four seconds behind the Tigers and three seconds behind Syracuse.
Overall, from August to October, and from China to New Jersey, the varsity squad had consistently strong showings to end the year 2009. And only a few weeks into winter training a majority of athletes have already posted strong ergometer numbers. The team is re-energized and with great leadership coming from captain Lucas Spielfogel they have positioned themselves to get back in the hunt for medals in the spring.