WORCESTER, Mass. – Competition concluded Sunday at the 2011 Eastern Sprints Regatta with the Yale heavyweight varsity crew posting the fifth fastest time in the east. The Bulldogs showed solid improvement over last year's finishes at Sprints on an overcast day in Worcester, Mass. The heavy rain held off until midday, then came and went, flattening the waters of Lake Quinsigamond and making for some fast times in the varsity eight finals. With four boats entered on Sunday, the Bulldogs had two petite final appearances and one grand final appearance. The best finish of the day came in the second varsity eight, which finished sixth in the grand final. Yale concluded competition at Sprints with the varsity eight winning the petite final to take seventh place overall.
In the second of the morning's third varsity eight heats, the Bulldogs were poised for a great race. The Yale 3V arrived in Worcester undefeated and with a No. 3 ranking. With only four crews in the heat – the other three being No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 6 Navy and No. 7 Princeton – Yale had to defeat but one other boat to get a second race. Off the line the four crews quickly began to separate. Yale was out front, though Wisconsin took the lead after the first 700 meters; Princeton and Navy were neck and neck about a length back from Yale. Wisconsin continued to pull away in the middle thousand meters of the race whilst Princeton and Navy battled with each other to close the gap on Yale. With the stronger sprint Navy pulled through to take second. Yale crossed the line in 6:17.602, right behind Princeton in 6:17.597 – a margin of .005 seconds or just over an inch. With a field of only nine crews there was no second level final, marking the end of the season for the Yale third varsity crew until it reappears as a combination eight for the Harvard-Yale regatta at the end of the month.
The Yale freshman eight was the first crew to get a second race. In a stacked heat of Harvard, Cornell, Brown, Yale, George Washington and Rutgers the Bulldogs took fourth with a time of 6:14.775. Brown took third with a time of 6:03.949. In the afternoon's petite final Yale took third, ninth overall, with a time of 6:06.850. The Bulldogs closed the gap on the Bears, who won the petite but were just over a length out with a time of 6:02.408.
The Yale second varsity raced next in the third of three heats. By all means this crew had a great race, getting out quick in the first thousand and hanging tough through the second. Coming into the last 500 meters the Bulldogs looked to be trading the lead with Princeton. As the finish line came even closer it appeared Princeton had a slight advantage but that it would be these two crews headed to the grand final. Yale finished in 6:00.608, in second position and less than a second behind Princeton (5:59.808). The second varsity put up another good fight in the afternoon's grand final. There the Bulldogs finished sixth with a time of 5:58.990, improving on their time from the morning in a finish with almost no open water separation between all six crews and giving the team its best finish of the day.
Last year's varsity eight heat at Sprints sent the Bulldogs to the petite final by a margin of less than two tenths of a second. This year, the result in the heat was the same though the separation at the finish somewhat less heartbreaking. Early in the race the Bulldogs had their bow out front and were contending with Princeton. In the second thousand BU came on strong and with a stronger sprint the Terriers were able to jump into the number two spot. Yale crossed the line third in 5:49.690, two seconds back from BU (5:47.056) and another two seconds back from Princeton (5:45.299). Yale's was in the fastest heat bar none, as Princeton's time was the fastest posted out of all 18 varsity crews in the heats.
This speed became evident in the petite final where time was finally on Yale's side. Yale took the petite in winning fashion, crossing the line in 5:46.747 to finish seventh overall and markedly improve upon last year's 11th-place finish. Going by time the Bulldogs would have finished fifth this year, as they were over two seconds faster than sixth-place BU and about half a second faster than fifth-place Syracuse, both of whom rowed in the grand final. Had Yale been placed in the first heat instead of heat three the Bulldogs may well have beaten Syracuse out for a spot in the grand final and would have been contenders for the medal dock and the title of Eastern Sprints Champions.
"We saw hard racing from all the Yale boats this weekend," said junior Joe Alagna, six seat of the varsity. "Obviously everyone would have wanted the results to come out more in our favor, but it provided invaluable experience, racing and otherwise, as we move further into the championship portion of our season."
The Bulldogs will spend the next two weeks training at Gales Ferry before competing against the Crimson in the 146th Harvard-Yale Regatta on May 28.
Report filed by Yale Sports Publicity