Just over a week into its spring season, the men’s crew team is already starting to face strong competition as it gears up for next month’s New England and Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships.
This weekend saw mixed but promising results for Tufts as it hosted Bates, Wesleyan and the University of New Hampshire on Saturday and then Amherst on Sunday for a set of races on the Malden River. The Jumbos finished Saturday second out of the four teams, behind the Bates Bobcats, but came back out Sunday to beat the Lord Jeffs handily.
With just the first and second varsity eight boats in action Sunday morning, the Jumbos swept the races with little difficulty. The first boat beat out Amherst 6:05.3 to 6:33.1 while the second boat took down the NESCAC rival 6:12.7 to 6:48.9.
Saturday, though not quite as dominated by Tufts, was certainly more interesting. With temperatures already in the 50s by 9:00 a.m., the Tufts first varsity eight boat opened the day beating out UNH 6:13.3 to 6:18.1 over the 2000-meter course. After moving on to the final, though, the team had trouble fighting the strong cross-headwind that picked up and fell to a solid Bobcats’ varsity eight 6:13.3 to 6:23.7.
“That’s the nature of racing: You aren’t going to win every race,” sophomore Douglas Burt, who rowed in the first boat, told the Daily in an email. “As long as we continue to put in 100 percent effort, the team will be happy with its performance, regardless of the result. We understand this and we’re moving forward with the confidence that we are only going to get faster as the season progresses.”
Tufts’ second varsity eight boat finished with similar results, easily beating out its Bates counterpart in the first round by 21 seconds before losing to a skilled Wesleyan boat by almost 16 seconds.
Junior Jon Williams, who sat in the stroke seat of the second boat, noted that it was difficult for the crew to replicate its first-round performance as it had to go into the next race almost immediately afterward.
“During our races, we really strove to continue to apply what we practiced during the week into the race setting, trying to optimize our efficiency out there,” Williams said. “It was definitely evident that we’ve made some improvement from last weekend, especially during our two well-rowed wins against Bates and Amherst.”
Continuing the trend, the Jumbos’ third varsity eight won its first-round race but lost its second-round contest. Racing against Wesleyan in its season opener, Tufts won on a technicality as the visitors were disqualified for moving across the buoy line on the inside of a turn roughly 700 meters into the course. The boat went on to drop three seconds off of its first round time in the second round to improve to 6:53.3 but still fell to the Bobcats, who posted a 6:35.8.
Tufts’ novice eight boat opened its season against UNH, but struggled as it fell 7:01.9 to 7:29.2.
“It was promising to see three strong performances across both the first and second boats, especially as we move forward in the season,” Williams said. “I think we showed a lot of depth this weekend, with everyone doing their part to contribute to the team’s success.”
Burt added that he feels the team has made significant strides to get to where it is now.
“I’m very pleased with the performance of the team and my boat,” he said. “We are a significantly better crew than we were last year at this time, and it’s showing on the water. We’re much faster, and we are competing and even beating some teams now that last year we couldn’t even come close to catching.”
Undoubtedly, rowing on their home course contributed to the Jumbos’ success this weekend. Burt explained the advantage that familiarity with the river gives Tufts’ coxswains and crew.
“Racing on our home course does give us a bit of an advantage, though it’s only a mental one,” explained Burt. “There’s a large S-shaped turn roughly 800 meters into our course, and while both lanes are the same distance and provide no physical advantage over the other, our experience with the course allows us to prepare mentally for the turn. We know to relax and not panic when another crew that has the first inside turn takes the lead, because in 300 meters or so the other lane gets an inside turn and everything balances out. Some crews struggle with this aspect of our course.”
It appeared that Wesleyan’s third boat coxswain fell victim to the Malden’s curves when the team cut the buoy and disqualified, allowing the hosts to take the win.
Following a strong race against Hamilton the weekend before that saw Tufts win both the first and second varsity eight contests, the team is looking solid under new coach Noel Wanner. But important tests remain for the program, which has a pair of important races this Saturday against Middlebury, again on the Malden, and Sunday in Worcester against WPI, RIT and Vermont before it heads to the New England Championships on May 2 and the ECAC National Invitational Championship May 10.
The race in Worcester this Sunday will be especially significant, as it will take place on Lake Quinsigamond, the same venue for the New England and ECAC championships.
“This week, we will definitely spend some time polishing some technical aspects of our stroke, trying to maximize the run of the boat so that we are getting the most output from our effort,” Williams said. “We have made some incredible progress already, and we absolutely want to continue to do so as NERCs and ECACs get closer and closer.”