Men’s crew teams prepare for competition at Eastern Sprints

by Emily Wechsler | 5/14/15 6:01pm

The men’s heavyweight and lightweight crew teams will both travel to Worcester, Massachusetts, this weekend to begin their post-season competition at the Eastern Sprints Regatta, the annual rowing championship for the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges.

While the lightweight team only needs to finish in the top eight and the heavyweight in the top 12 to continue on to the IRA National Championship Regatta, both squads have set their sights on getting into the top six, heavyweight head coach Wyatt Allen and lightweight head coach Sean Healey said. The women placed second out of 13 teams at the Eastern Women’s Sprints on May 3.

The No. 14 heavyweight team, Jamie Billings ’16 said, is feeling more confident after sweeping No. 16 Syracuse University at the dual regatta last weekend.

“I’m really excited, especially coming off of the momentum from last weekend,” Billings said. “Across the board we put out a pretty dominant performance against Syracuse. I think I speak for the entire team when I say we’re really excited for this weekend, and we think we can do better than recent years.”

Dartmouth will send four lightweight crews and five heavyweight crews to the competition. For each boat to get into the top six, it must be in the top two in its first heat, putting it through to the grand final. Allen said, however, that many of the crews are ranked such that they are more likely to place into the petit final.

“It’s a really exciting venue,” Billings said. “You have 18 teams there from sort of across the Northeast, and it’s easy to get really excited but also really nervous. There’s a lot of chatter, a lot of noise, things are pretty hectic, there’s not a lot of area to warm up and so if you’re not careful, you can be thrown off your game plan.”

Despite the confusion of a large competition, the rowers, Allen said, have become seasoned competitors through the fall and spring seasons and should not be too affected by the larger numbers of boats.

The regatta will feature Ivy League schools as well as other universities from the Northeast.

“Our league, the sprints league, is always really competitive, but I think our guys are as prepared as they’re going to be at this point,” Allen said.

On the lightweight side, Cornell University and Columbia University are the favorites, but the rest of the field is more even and Dartmouth has a chance at success, Healey said.

Earlier this season, the Big Green lightweight team lost in every boat to Columbia, Cornell, Yale and Harvard Universities. The results and predictions of one week’s performances, though, can be turned on their head the next, Healey said, so he is still optimistic about the Big Green’s prospects moving forward.

The Big Green heavyweights have enjoyed more success in 2015, ranking as high as No. 10 in the nation.

“In my four years, this is the best spot that the team has been in going into the championship season, so it’s really exciting,” heavyweight captain Stuart Maeder ’15 said.

The success the heavyweight team is seeing is “a combination of a lot of little things,” Billings said. He said there has been a shift in mentality on the team that has positioned this year’s crew in a place to succeed in the upcoming races.

“Guys on the team are fitter than they’ve ever been — our erg scores this winter definitely showed that,” Billings said. “I think guys on the team are rowing better than they ever have, technically, and I think that technique on the team is more unified across rowers, across boats.”

In addition, the team has a new coaching staff this year, and players spoke highly of first year-head coach Allen and assistant coach Al Monte. It also is larger than before, featuring five boats of athletes who push each other to improve, Billings said.

The teams have been improving this season, particularly as they tried to come back from the latest start-date for practice on the water of any school. The start date of April 14 tied with 1978 for the latest ever, Healey said. Every other team, however, is also building toward this regatta, Allen said.

Dartmouth has won the varsity heavyweight 8 just once since it began in 1946, and it has won the lightweight 8 competition three times, including 2007 when it set the still-standing 5:38.894 regatta record.