Jumbos finish fall season strong at Head of the Fish

Senior rower Zhuangchen Zhou competes in Saturday's Head of the Fish. Courtesy Anna Lindgren-Streicher

The men’s rowing team took the Head of the Fish Regatta in Saratoga, N.Y. by storm on Saturday, fielding 18 entries in eight events in their final regatta of the fall racing season. Boasting highly ranked finishes and taking home medals, the Jumbos left Saratoga on a high with eager expectations for the spring.

Dominating the competition in the men’s collegiate singles event were sophomore gold-medalist Andrew MacMillen and senior bronze-medalist Andrew Warren. MacMillen had finished in second place at this event last year and entered the race with high expectations for his performance this year, citing a less competitive field and his own growth over the course of the season.

“My closest competitors from last year were not present this time around, and I [have] been practicing in the single a lot more this fall,” MacMillen said. “Additionally, my fitness is much better now, and I relied on [that] much more heavily to get me through the race.”

MacMillen finished first in a field of 13 with a time of 12:50.11, holding a large margin ahead of Binghamton University’s Dylan Hartwick (13:15.09), who finished in second place, and teammate Warren (13:58.46), who finished in third place.

Following an early-morning victory in single sculls, Tufts competed in the men’s collegiate first varsity eight event with an entry of first-year Ryan Bell, MacMillen, senior tri-captain Jon Williams, first-year Chandler Glass, sophomore Tyler Hagedorn, junior Tyler McCullough, senior Zhuangchen Zhou, junior tri-captain Zach Merchant and senior coxswain Maria Karam.

This lineup of rowers has been left largely unchanged since the crew’s bronze-medal finish at the Head of the Snake Regatta in early October and has proven to be a formidable and competitive boat.

“The lineup for the fall was selected based on the power curve data the coaches collected during the season,” Zhou said. “However, [we] make a lot of progress during the winter, and in the spring the lineup might change a lot.”

Calm conditions at the Head of the Fish set the Jumbos up for success on the water. The first varsity eight was not passed by any of its competitors on the course, and the crew was able to row its own race, finishing in the top quarter of all entries. Tufts’ first varsity eight was ranked seventh in a field of 28 with a time of 10:34.60, just .17 seconds behind NESCAC rival Williams.

“We were not satisfied with our placement in [our race], as we know we have much more speed,” Zhou continued. “Placing behind Williams by [a fraction of a second] is both reassuring of our work on the water and inspiring for our winter training.”

The men’s collegiate lightweight four was fielded by an entry of senior stroke Jackson Horwitz, McCullough, sophomore Andrew Takasugi, sophomore bow Matthew Cohen and coxswain Karam. The crew was the first to launch in the time-trial head race based on their first-place finish for the past two years at the Head of the Fish.

Over the course of their race, the lightweight Jumbos were able to maintain their position, keeping a considerable distance between themselves and other boats. However, they were ultimately bested by New York Maritime College by a margin of 5.5 seconds, ranking second in a field of 10 with a time of 11:55.14.

“Second place is a good finish, but I would be lying if I said we weren’t disappointed,” Cohen said. “A few of us had been cutting weight so we felt pretty drained, but honestly I think we rowed the best race we had in us.”

Lightweight rowers are not permitted to weigh more than 160 pounds individually. As a boat, the average weight cannot exceed 155 pounds, taking the crew’s coxswain into consideration. Lightweight rowers must often restrict their diet while performing under the same expectations as open weight (or heavyweight) rowers.

“In the end I think we and [New York Maritime] both had good races, but they just slightly outperformed us,” Cohen said.

Quickly following was the men’s collegiate second varsity eight event, which saw two entries from Tufts that ranked sixth and 12th in a field of 17. First-year recruits like Rohail Rai competed in both collegiate varsity and novice events.

The “novice” distinction represents members of a crew who are in their first year of rowing. At the collegiate level, this is taken to mean the first year of collegiate rowing, regardless of whether the rower has prior experience. This made it possible for both the varsity first-year and walk-on novice crews to compete in the same collegiate novice eight event.

The experienced novice entry was comprised of first-year strokes Ryan Bell, Glass, Issac Mudge, Richard Gilland, Ryan Magnuson, Rai, Daniel Grichevsky, Alec Whipple and coxswain Hannah Frankel.

The walk-on novice entry consisted of first-year stroke Trent Turner, first-year James Miller, junior Jeremy Slavitz, first-year Tamas Takata, first-year Reed Collins, sophomore Hani Chkess, sophomore Chris Gregory, first-year bow Max Klaver and first-year coxswain James Grant.

Although the novice crews were troubled with too-close steering of other boats that is typical of a novice race, both teams performed admirably. The experienced novices ranked third with a time of 10:54.49, winning a bronze medal, and the walk-on crew finished 15th in a substantial field of 41 with a time of 11:47.11  These two finishes are indicative of the hard work and progress that the crew program has made over this fall season.

“[This race showed] the potential of the freshman class [in helping to make] Tufts Crew…a serious contender for the New England Rowing Championships,” Rai said. “[Head coach Noel Wanner] said that winning in the freshman boat will show other schools [that] our program is becoming faster.”

The walk-on crew was encouraged by its top-half finish following the support from, and the precedent set by, the varsity squad.

“Getting a pat on the shoulder and an approving smile from the more experienced rowers really made us feel that we are part of the team,” Chkess said.

The novice and varsity crews leave their fall racing season on a positive note. Looking ahead, the Jumbos have a highly intensive program of indoor winter training to prepare them for their championship races in the spring.