March 14, 2014

Season Preview: Heavyweights Poised for Spring Racing

NEW HAVEN, Conn.- The icy waters and cold conditions of the Housatonic remain an afterthought as the Yale heavyweight crew team focuses in on the most important part of its year; the spring racing season, which will begin a week from Saturday.  After hundreds of hours of high-performance training over the course of the past seven months, the crew will finally be able to show its worth on a 2,000-meter course. This spring the Bulldogs have the usual lineup of four dual races, followed by the Eastern Sprints, then the IRA National Championships, and finally, the Yale-Harvard Regatta. 

 

This year's crew will be led by a class of seven seniors: Oliver Fletcher, captain Zachary Johnson, Lawrence Lopez-Menzies, Robert Michel, Grant Olscamp, Emery Schoenly and Owen Symington.  These seniors have brought leadership and experience to the squad, establishing a standard of excellence for every workout while also creating an environment most conducive to the success of every member of the team.

 

Competing with the upperclassmen for spots in the top boats will be the large number of freshman and sophomores on the squad.  After the 2012 season, the IRA Stewards voted to allow first-year students to race in varsity boats.  As a result, some current sophomores have experienced the quality and competition of the fastest college boats in the country.  Along with their experience comes the hunger and youth of nine freshman oarsmen, all looking to compete with the older members of the squad in order to form the fastest boats possible.

 

This past fall the Bulldogs made two appearances on the fall racing circuit, one at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston and the other at the Head of the Housatonic on their own course.  At the Head of the Charles, the Bulldogs competed in the Championship Four and Eight events, as well as the Club Eight event in which they finished 10th in a field of 47.  At the local regatta on the Housatonic, the squad took first with the fastest time of the day.

 

In addition to a fall filled with training outdoors and a winter of indoor workouts, the team also prepared for the spring season by taking its annual winter training trip to Florida. There they were able to take advantage of the unfrozen waters of the St. Lucie Lock, and the team was able to log 18 training sessions over the course of its 10-day trip. The trip provided invaluable time for the team to refine its technique and has only gained importance in retrospect as less-than-ideal conditions have prevented the team from training outside every day in the past weeks.

 

Despite these conditions, the heavyweights have been logging two-a-days over their spring break from classes.  In the next week they will prepare their starts and finalize a race plan for their season opener against Brown.  It is important to note that the Bulldogs will be returning all the members of their varsity eight from last year.  These rowers have the experience of a season's worth of competition at the highest level in the country under their belts, and are now looking to use the gains they have made over the course of a year's worth of training in order to end up on top of the podium.

 

The spring season will officially start next Saturday when Yale hosts Brown at home.  The two teams will be racing on Mar. 22 on the Housatonic River.  The race will provide great competition for the varsity as the contest in the past two years has been decided by no more than a second and a half. 

After two weekends off the next race on the schedule is against Dartmouth at home for the Olympic Axe on Apr. 12.  The heavyweights have not lost this matchup since the two teams started racing for the trophy in 2004, and last year was no exception.

The following weekend Yale will defend the Blackwell Cup at home, on Saturday, Apr. 19.  Last year the squad travelled to the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia to retain the prize.  This cup has been in Yale's possession each year that the Class of 2014 has been on the crew and so the seniors will seek to defend this trophy.

The Bulldogs will then travel to Princeton, N.J., to chase the Carnegie Cup against Cornell and Princeton on Apr. 26.  The last time the Bulldogs won the cup was four years ago on their home course.  In 2012, Cornell was able to defend its home course for the win, and last year Princeton was able to win it on the Housatonic. The Bulldogs will want to end their dual-racing season strongly as this race will be the final one to determine seedings for the Eastern Sprints.

After final exams end at the end of the first week in May, the team members will move to their historical home at Gale's Ferry in New London, Conn., where they will spend the rest of their season. The Bulldogs will have three weeks to train after the Carnegie Cup before travelling to Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass., to compete in the Eastern Sprints.  The Sprints, which will be raced for the 68th year this spring, will draw the top teams from the eastern half of the country.  The varsity finished eighth at Sprints two years ago and fifth last year, and hope to continue the trend of improvement this year. The Sprints will be held on May 18.

The team will then travel to the world-class course on Mercer Lake in Mercer, N.J., for this year's IRA National Championships.  Last year the varsity won the petite final, finishing seventh overall.  The regatta will take place over three days from May 30 – June 1.

The season will conclude with the 149th Yale-Harvard Regatta.  This race is the oldest intercollegiate sporting event in the country, and it will be held on Saturday, June 7 in New London, Conn.

 

 Report filed by Ari Zimmet '16, Yale Sports Publicity.