Engineers Exceed Expectations at IRA National Championship Regatta
June 3, 2006
COOPER RIVER, N.J. - Last season, the MIT freshmen eight earned a national bid for the National Championship, but was knocked out in the semi-final. This year's crew took to the qualifying heats with the goal of reaching the Third Level Final; a feat that has avoided Tech's heavyweights in recent history. After a series of excellent races, the Engineers accomplished their mission and broke into a new level of national collegiate racing.
MIT's frosh drew a tough first heat on Thursday, finishing fourth in the six-team field. Though the Engineers rowed an excellent race (6:05.8), California took the heat and all the other boats were relegated to the second chance qualifying heat in the afternoon. Brown and Yale also finished ahead of Tech's clip, while the Cardinal and Gray defeated Michigan and Lehigh.
MIT fell to Boston University in the next qualifying heat to place it in the C/D semifinals, although the Engineers made a strong push. Both of the times MIT's rookie crew rowed during Thursday's session were faster than the crew had ever gone during the regular season, while Tech's late-season speed did not go unnoticed by many of the teams competing. Despite the second-place effort, the Engineers finished well ahead of Gonzaga and Ohio State.
Facing elinination, the freshmen eight needed to secure a top-three finish in Friday's semifinals to advance to Saturday's final. Syracuse took control and was able to qualify without having to sprint, but MIT, Michigan, Ohio State and Columbia were all racing for two spots. A coordinated push at the 1200-meter mark secured a spot in the final for MIT as the Engineers finished second in the race. St. Joseph's finished third to grab the last spot.
While the youth-laden Engineers had posted some excellent times earlier in the Regatta, the team never got on track in the Third Level Final. It was Navy and MIT out of the blocks, but the Engineers were unable to establish a rhythm, and quickly found themselves racing in the middle of a heated pack. Some of the crews which had been holding back, were able to execute some more moves, and MIT was unable to answer. Though the crew endured a tough, final race, they earned 18th overall in the Regatta, beating out the likes of Dartmouth, Columbia and George Washington, who were all eliminated.
The varsity heavyweights entered a varsity four with coxswain and a varsity pair at the championships. The varsity four, consisting of sophomore, Sam McMeety in stroke; senior, Mike Whitaker; sophomore Ben Kravit; junior Martin Harrysson in bow and sophomore, Joyce Gallagher as coxswain rowed two very good races. The quad finished third in it's heat on Thursday morning, losing to Gonzaga and Penn while closing ahead of St. Joseph's and Syracuse.
Placed in the C/D semifinals, the varsity four was scheduled to row on Friday at 2 p.m., however, thunderstorms and torrential rain forced at first a two-hour delay, followed by an indeterminate delay, and finally a rescheduling for Saturday morning. In this race, MIT needed to finish no lower than third to avoid elimination from the regatta and to advance to the Third Level Final.
Amid the pressure, this proved to be their best race of the regatta, as they lost to RIT by three seconds, Long Beach State by less than one, while pulling ahead of Syracuse by slightly less than one second and Minnesota by five seconds thereby advancing to the Third Level Final and putting both Syracuse and Minnesota "on the truck". Because of the postponements, this Final had to be rowed some two hours later. MIT came in fifth in a tight and exhausting race won by Long Beach State, followed by RIT, Navy and St. Joseph's. In their last race, the Engineers upended the University of Delaware.