June 7, 2008

Varsity Eight's Third-Place Finish Highlights Historic IRA Performance

June 7, 2008

CAMDEN, N.J. - Yale's varsity eight added bronze at IRAs to its list of accomplishments Saturday afternoon on the Cooper River, taking third in the grand final. Combined with the bronze the Bulldogs earned at Eastern Sprints three weeks earlier, this marks the first time since 2005 Yale has medaled at both events. Adding to the excitement Saturday was Yale's first-place finish in the straight four grand final, which brought the Gordon Hoople Trophy to Yale for the first time. The freshman eight also turned in an impressive performance, placing 12th despite competing against a field of heavyweights.

"There were a lot of positives," said head coach Andy Card. "We accomplished some historic things, and we learned a lot while earning those gold and bronze medals."

The varsity eight race began with Princeton grabbing an early lead, but defending champion Cornell took control midway through. Yale and Navy, right next to each other in lanes four and five, eventually passed the Tigers with big pushes and battled to the finish. The Big Red finished in 5:39.184, winning the title for the third year in a row, but could not get open water. Navy (5:40.782) edged out the Bulldogs (5:41.203) with a surge right at the end for silver. Yale, in turn, came in seven-tenths of a second ahead of Princeton to earn bronze.

"Everybody was flopping at the finish," Card said. "Cornell seized the race in the middle and proved worthy. We held our place from Sprints, and we had to get faster to do that. We picked up a lot of speed between Sprints and IRAs."

The Bulldogs picked up speed despite losing a key member of the boat, senior Roman Rezanowicz, to injury after Sprints. Card was quick to credit senior captain Peter Reiser for stepping in to help fill the void.

While the varsity eight race capped the memorable day, the varsity four without cox race provided the first highlight. The Bulldogs had both their A and B boats -- the junior varsity eight divided into two -- make the grand final. The A boat did so with a win in its heat on Thursday, while the B boat earned its spot with a second-place finish in Friday's repechage.

The A boat delivered an impressive seven-second win in the grand final Saturday, bringing the Hoople Trophy to Yale for the first time since it was awarded starting in 1974. Navy was second with a time of 6:18.276 to Yale's 6:11.013. The Yale B boat was fifth (6:25.057).

"It was a dominant performance from the beginning," Card said. "It was also pretty remarkable to have both boats make the grand final."

The freshman eight's performance -- 12th overall after finishing sixth in Saturday's petite final -- was also noteworthy. The Bulldogs were competing against heavyweights, racing against competitors who weighed up to 60 pounds more than they did. Card had never attempted to race against heavyweights before in his 19 years at Yale.

"I can't remember another school that dared to put its lightweights up against heavyweights," he said. "It was an accomplishment just to get to the petite final. They had a great repechage (on Thursday), beating out teams such as Dartmouth and Gonzaga. That was their race."

The performance at IRAs ended an outstanding season for the Bulldogs.

"If I had one word to sum this group up, it would be `resilient'," Card said. "This team has seen some bizarre injuries and has had to deal with many different kinds of adversity. The future is bright as well. Our fundamentals are solid and we just need to get faster. We have back-to-back classes of Sprints-winning freshmen, plus a good crop of juniors that are about to become seniors."

Varsity Eight
Grand Final: 1 Cornell 5:39.194; 2 U.S. Naval Academy 5:40.782; 3 Yale 5:41.203; 4 Princeton 5:41.948; 5 Georgetown 5:45.827; 6 Dartmouth 5:50.715

Cox: Stephen Dobeck, So.
Stroke: Mikkel Krenchel, Jr.
7: Noah McColl, So.
6: Brendan McCook, So.
5: John Grunyk, So.
4: Adam Lukasiewicz, So.
3: Daniel Ensslen, Jr.
2: Peter Reiser, Sr.
1: Alexander Rothmeier, Sr.

Varsity Four w/o Cox
Grand Final: 1 Yale A 6:11.013; 2 U.S. Naval Academy 6:18.276; 3 Harvard 6:19.059; 4 Wisconsin 6:23.286; 5 Yale B 6:25.057; 6 Cornell 6:27.736

A
Stroke: Philip Lang, Jr.
3: Andrew Kaiser, Jr.
2: Jeremy Hopkins, So.
1: Michael Jonas, So.

B
Stroke: James Johnson, Jr.
3: Tyler Borek, So.
2: Matthew Evans, Jr.
1: Nathan Bruker, Jr.

Freshman Eight
Petite Final (Heavyweights): 1 Stanford 5:46.967; 2 Wisconsin 5:49.564; 3 Northeastern 5:53.644; 4 Syracuse 5:53.915; 5 U.S. Naval Academy 5:54.897; 6 Yale 5:59.596

Cox: Erin Anderson
Stroke: William Zeng
7: Colin Corcoran
6: Andrew Hakanson
5: Michael LeFevour
4: Carl Nunziato
3: Michael Buttrick
2: David Walker
1: Christopher Mayerfeld

report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity