Sacramento, CA - The men's crew wrapped up an impressive first day of competition at the IRA Championship Regatta on Thursday, qualifying two boats directly into the grand finals, and moving the varsity eight into the Friday semis. Both the second varsity eight and the freshman eight turned in outstanding races, winning their heats to earn a day off on Friday.
The varsity eights led off the morning, with the Bears finding themselves in a difficult heat, as Harvard and Syracuse were among the competition. Brown was fast off the start though, and held a slim lead over Harvard at the 500 meter mark. Bruno continued to lead at the midway point by less than a second, but the Crimson came back with a strong move near the 1500-meter mark, and took the lead. Harvard went on to a narrow win with a time of 5:54.2, while the Bears took second in 5:56.2, and Syracuse was a distant third at 6:05.9. The second place finish was enough to move Brown past repechages, however, and put them directly into the Friday semifinals.
Next up for the Bears was the second eight, which appeared to have a slightly easier path to the finals, as they had recently beaten Boston University in a dual race, and Cornell, Columbia, and Dartmouth at EARC Sprints. The Terriers went hard off the line though, attempting to establish an early lead and throw Brown out of its rhythm, and BU led through the first 500. However, Bruno stuck to its race plan, and pulled even with Boston by the halfway mark, slightly ahead of the rest of the field. From there, the Bears continued to pull away for the remainder of the race, going on to take a comfortable win in 6:01.2. Boston University and Cornell were second and third in an extremely tight race, finishing at 6:06.4 and 6:06.7 respectively, while the other crews were well behind. With fewer entries and a different format than the varsity eight, the second varsity was able to earn a spot in the grand finals with the win, and will have Friday off.
With the opportunity to match the second varsity and move on to the grand finals, the freshman eight turned in an impressive race of its own. The Bears led from start to finish, blasting off the line to take a two-second lead after 500 meters. Cornell hung tough throughout the race though, staying within striking distance of Bruno as the two crews pulled away from the field. In spite of Cornell's best efforts, however, Brown held on for the win, crossing the line in 6:06.3. The Big Red was next at 6:08.9, while Stanford was well behind in third at 6:18.9.
The varsity four was the final race of the day, looking to cap off a solid morning for Brown. However, racing in arguably the toughest heat of the day, the Bears struggled to find their rhythm, and held fourth throughout the race. Washington and Cal crossed in a photo finish, as the Huskies got the win with a time of 6:34.4, with the Bears of California coming in at 6:34.5. Wisconsin took third in 6:49.3, followed by Brown at 7:01.3 and San Diego at 7:25.4.
The Bears will be back in action on Friday, as the varsity eight and four will resume racing. The eight will compete in the semis, needing a top-three finish to move into the grand finals and have a shot at the national championship, while the four will need to win its repechage to advance.