CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - All four of MIT's varsity
squads participated in the 43rd Annual Head of the Charles Regatta
on Sunday, delivering some of the best performances by the
Engineers in years. More than 8,000 athletes from 600 Universities
competed in 26 different race events on one of the most challenging
race courses in the world. Fifty-four athletes representing six MIT
crews competed against Division I rivals as well as successful club
and elite international crews in near perfect racing
MIT's men's heavyweights continued a strong fall campaign with a fast trip down the course in the championship eight. Rowing in the regatta's premier event for the first time since 2000, the Engineers finished in the top half of the field, guaranteeing themselves a spot in next year's race. The big boat's time of 15:06 in the three-mile circuit placed it in the thick of the Eastern Sprints schools as the Cardinal and Gray closed two seconds behind Penn, one second behind Cornell, and well ahead of Columbia, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Rutgers, George Washington and Holy Cross.
In the championship women's eight race the Engineers did not know quite what to expect, as it was their first time competing in the premier event of the regatta. They did understand that it would be a stiff challenge to be pitted against some of the best crews in the world. Racing upstream on their home course, MIT clocked in at a time of 17:41.4 to finish 29th of 39 entries, which encouraged Coach Metcalf.
"We finished just behind the University of Rhode Island, and we came in ahead of Holy Cross, George Washington, Rutgers, and Boston College," said Metcalf. "All of those are opponents we'll face in the spring, which shows the kind of progress that the team has already been able to make this fall."
The Engineers also raced on Sunday in the lightweight eight, starting as bow number 13 out of 14 crews. Tech pushed hard out of the starting chute at a race cadence of 33 strokes per minute and quickly gained an enormous lead on Trent University from Canada who started just after MIT. Holding a pace of 32-33 strokes per minute, the Engineers fought hard to gain on the crews that started ahead. For most of the race, MIT was unobstructed by other boats and raced down the course alone. However, coming in to the daunting turn just before Elliott Bridge, Tech caught up to Penn State and UMass and behind a gutsy move by varsity coxin, Mindy Du, passed both crews on the inside of the course, which allowed MIT's eight to secure an advantage around the turn. At the last time check at Cambridge Boat Club, Tech was one second up on Radcliffe, before eventually falling to Radcliffe by six seconds at the finish. In the final half-mile of the circuit, MIT continued to fight but could not find as much speed as it had in the middle of the race. The Engineers finished the race eighth overall and secured the fifth-best finish among the intercollegiate contingent behind Princeton, Wisconsin, Stanford and Radcliffe. The solid performance of the crew boated four seniors, three sophomores and two freshmen.
The varsity lightweight men competed against one of the deepest fields for lightweight men in some time, which boasted the world champion eight from Holland as well as strong lineups from Canada and the United States. The Tech Lights finished 21st in a field of 28; the best result MIT has achieved since 2001 when the squad finished 12th. A minor blemish on the day was a 20 second buoy violation incurred when the squad passed Trent University of Canada early in the race and was forced off course. The resulting time penalty hurt the overall finish but the team was encouraged by the result.
"When we needed to pass teams, we got through them" commented senior Maria Telleria on her squads ability to prevail on two boats starting in front of the Engineers. "It was tough to see the buoys in the sun and I missed them" she added in regards to the steering error under the Boston University bridge.
"Overall the team put forward a strong performance in its first race and the guys are pleased with [their] effort" said Head Coach Ted Benford.
On Saturday, MIT boated men's and women's club eights in a very large field of competitors. The lightweight freshmen men enjoyed an excellent outing as the squad came together for a week of practices prior to the club eight event and carried positive momentum into the race. Competing against a deep pool of varsity, freshmen, heavyweight, lightweight and alumni boats, the youth-laden unit finished a solid 34th out of 68 crews, achieving an automatic invitation to return next year. Coach Hilton felt the result was less important than the experience.
"It was exciting for these guys to represent their school in such a prestigious regatta. It also gave them a real charge to row down their home course with their teammates cheering them on."
Four women from the heavyweight and lightweight squads teamed up to race in the women's club eight race. The crew started in 30th position out of a field of 52. Coming across the starting line strong and racing at 32 strokes per minute, the crew quickly gained on the boats starting before MIT. The crew used this as motivation to move up on boats ahead of them and was able to pass numerous crews during the three-mile race. The crew finished 22nd overall and secured a guaranteed entry for the race next year, by finish in the top half.
Up next for the Engineers' varsity squads is the three mile Princeton Chase on Sunday, October 28th, while the freshmen's next event is the "Green Monster" in Hanover, N.H., on Saturday, November 3rd.