Jumbos earn bronze at Head of the Snake

Members of the first varsity eight following their bronze-medal win at the Head of the Snake Regatta. From left to right: Glass, Bell, Zhou, Williams, MacMillen, Frankel, Merchant and McCullough. Courtesy Anna Lindgren-Streicher

The men’s rowing team made a strong showing Saturday at the Head of the Snake Regatta in Worcester, Mass., taking third place in the varsity eights race and ranking in the top third in the varsity fours race in their first performance of the fall racing season. 

The Head of the Snake Regatta takes place annually on Lake Quinsigamond. A “head race” is a time-trial competition that staggers each crew’s launch from the starting line about 10 to 15 seconds. The Head of the Snake takes place over a two-and-a-half mile distance, longer than the 2,000-meter races typical of the spring season.

The varsity four launched in the late morning to less than ideal conditions. A headwind worked against the crew’s ability to easily set the boat. The entry, made up of senior stroke Jackson Horwitz, senior tri-captain Jonathan Lapadula, senior Andrew Warren, sophomore bow Matt Cohen and senior coxswain Maria Karam, worked to overcome these conditions.

“The weather conditions [made] the boat feel very heavy for the rowers, so it was quite a difficult row — especially since we had only rowed for three practices in [this] lineup,” Karam said. “As a coxswain, the regatta actually went very smoothly. Problems can arise when [there is] miscommunication, but this race course [was] pretty straightforward.”

During the race, Colby College remained nearly a boat length behind the varsity four until the one-and-a-half mile mark, motivating the rowers to keep their lead. The Mules eventually pulled even with the Jumbos, staying that way for nearly 400 meters, before finally passing the crew by a quarter length at the finish line.

Tufts’ varsity four was ranked fifth in a field of 19 teams and clocked in at 12:29.879. The top four boats hail from schools that place emphasis on their varsity four, as opposed to Tufts, whose focus is centered on the varsity eight.

The first varsity eight entry consisting of first-year stroke Ryan Bell, sophomore Andrew MacMillen, senior tri-captain Jon Williams, first-year Chandler Glass, sophomore Tyler Hagedorn, junior Tyler McCullough, senior Zhuangchen Zhou, junior tri-captain and bow Zach Merchant and first-year coxswain Hannah Frankel launched in the early afternoon to favorable, less windy conditions.

Starting off the race two boat lengths behind the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Tufts’ first varsity eight quickly passed UNH and then focused its efforts on passing Middlebury — four boat lengths in front of Tufts. Taking the stroke rate up to a 33 during the sprint, the Jumbos managed to pull even with the Panthers, and the two schools crossed the finish line at the same time.

Tufts’ first varsity eight won bronze in a field of 18 with a time of 14:15.578 — only 15 seconds behind gold medalist Holy Cross, which competes at the Div. I level. The second and third varsity eights came in 15th and 16th place, respectively.

“We raced aggressively and ended up beating many fast crews,” Frankel said. “The highlight of our race was that we beat Bates College, the defending [New England Rowing Champions] by one second.”

Glass not only expressed his satisfaction with the result of the first varsity eight’s race, but also recognized the shortcomings that prevented the crew from reaching its full potential.

“I was very happy with the result, but from a technical perspective we actually did not have a very good race,” Glass said. “Our set was not very consistent, and we also got hit with a big wake in the middle of the race. However, [our] power application was crazy — power moves the boat and everything else just supplements [it].”

The Jumbos nevertheless hope to use the momentum from their bronze-medal victory at the Head of the Snake in their upcoming races this weekend at the prominent Head of the Charles in Boston, Mass.

“It really was a fantastic feeling putting medals around our necks Saturday,” Williams said. “Our medal finish has shown us what we are capable of on the water, and if we can reach our full potential [this weekend], I think we are going to make some serious noise.”