Camden, NJ – The Brown men's crew recorded another terrific performance at the final day of the IRA National Championship Regatta on Saturday morning, placing four boats in the top-six in the country in their event, highlighted by a silver medal in the second varsity eight. Additionally, the varsity eight, varsity four, and open four each finished in the top six nationally, while the freshman eight placed eighth overall.
“I thought it was a good regatta this weekend overall,” said head coach Paul Cooke, a former IRA medalist as an oarsman for Brown. “The highlights for us were the second varsity's final and the varsity semi; those were both terrific performances.”
The second varsity eight turned in the highest finish of the regatta for Brown, taking second to perennial powerhouse Washington by just .3 seconds in one of the most thrilling races of the day. Despite a field of six strong boats, it quickly became evident that the race would be a dual between Brown and Washington, as the two crews moved away from the field right from the beginning.
The Huskies took a strong move just after the 500 mark, and briefly gained a few seats on Brown. However, the Bears answered back just a few strokes later, calling a ten of their own to pull even by 800 meters in. From there, the two boats rowed nearly stroke for stroke for much of the course, with neither able to gain a sizable advantage. Bruno appeared to finally break free with 300 meters to go, pulling out to a two-seat lead, but the Huskies showed their closing speed, mounting a furious final sprint to just edge Brown with a time of 5:32.1. The Bears crossed the line just inches behind in 5:32.4, as both boats beat the second varsity course record by nearly four seconds.
“The second eight showed great composure in their race,” said Cooke. “They were very steady throughout, and showed really good concentration. The guys accepted Washington's challenge, and turned in a great performance.”
Brown's varsity eight rowed a solid race as well, though it appeared that competing in a fourth race in three days, including an extraordinarily close semi on Friday, may have taken its toll. The Bears got off to a nice start out of the stake boats, rowing high in at attempt to gain the early lead, but Washington and Cal quickly moved away from the pack. The remaining four boats briefly battled for third, but Cornell and Harvard were also able to gain some separation, as the six boats spread out down the course. At the finish line, Cal took a thrilling comeback win over the Huskies, as the crews rowed 5:23.9 and 5:24.2 respectively. Cornell nabbed the final spot on the podium, as Brown crossed the line in fifth, rowing 5:40.5 to beat Syracuse.
“I thought our varsity really battled through this regatta,” said Cooke. “They had to go through the reps, then a very tough semi just to get to the grand finals today. Overall, I am very proud of how they raced. In the final, we tried to hold our speed with the other crews, but Washington and Cal went and we weren't able to hold them.”
In the first event of the day, the open four took the course, rowing a strong race in a very competitive field. Following much the same race plan exhibited on Friday in the semis, Cornell stormed out to a fast start, taking open water on the field by the 1000 meter mark, and leaving the rest of the field to fight for second place. Brown, Washington, Cal, and Wisconsin mounted a four-way battle for the remaining two medals, but the Bears were just edged for a spot on the podium, finishing fourth in 6:24.7. Cornell won the event in 6:16.8, followed by Wisconsin and Washington in second and third respectively.
The varsity four was the next boat to come down the Cooper River, also competing in the Grand Finals. Washington and Cal quickly jumped to the front of the pack, opening up a significant lead on the rest of the field. Though the Bears hung close to the pack through the first 1000 meters, they fell off the pace slightly in the second half, finishing sixth overall with a time of 6:27.5. Washington held on to win the race in 6:17.4, while Georgetown and Wisconsin came back on Cal to take the other two medal spots.
In the freshman eight, the Bears turned in another solid performance, placing second in the petite finals to finish eighth overall in the country. Boston University took the early lead, and led from start to finish, taking the win in 5:44.5. The five remaining boats fought for position down the course, without much separation emerging from two through six. In the final 700 meters though, Brown found a nice rhythm, and broke free from the pack, crossing the line in 5:47.5 to place second in the final.
Pictured: Brown's National Runner-Up Second Varsity Eight Battled Washington to the finish line.