Crews prep for Eastern Sprints

by Jonathan A. Lee | 5/9/97 5:00am

It's the race for all the marbles and all the glory ever known to the Ivy League oarsman.

Yes, the 1997 Eastern Sprints Regatta is finally here, and the Big Green are sending crews south this weekend to Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. to get in on all the action.

"Eastern Sprints is the Olympics of college rowing -- every collegiate oarsman realizes that this one day is the culmination of a whole year of training," said heavyweight co-Captain Dan Perkins '97.

The varsity heavyweights are especially excited as they head into this weekend's races since they're hot off an upset victory over the 5th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers last Saturday.

However, things are a bit skewed with the heavyweight seedings for this weekend and this may make things a little tougher for Dartmouth's varsity eight.

"The final coaches' poll, which dictates the heat assignments, placed Wisconsin above us," said heavyweight co-Captain James Jarrett '97. "As a result, we'll be in a heat with very fast crews from Brown and Yale, with only two boats advancing to the Grand Finals."

Last year, Dartmouth's heavyweight eight came up huge in the preliminary heat as they upset three-time defending national champion, Brown, to advance to the Grand Finals. They finished sixth overall.

This year, they expect to do better.

"Psychologically, the crew is ready to race right now," Jarrett said. "Expect the heavyweight eight to row down the course with a balance of violent aggression and unshakable poise, running over anything between us and the medals dock."

Perkins has a slightly different approach to this weekend's races. He's been saving up all his energy for this one huge race that'll be one his last races for the Green and White.

"Every bead of sweat, every cry of pain, every drip of blood is directed towards this one day in which the top crews in the country try to prove their worth," Perkins said.

And the way he describes the whole event, the regatta almost sounds like a masochistic ritual. But that's precisely why Perkins has stuck with the sport for so long.

Victory through pain is what makes this guy tick.

"There's no magic 'zone' or mythical wall of pain to surpass," Perkins said. "The whole race is pure pain and that's why they have the helicopter and the ambulance at the finish."

"Most oarsmen won't even remember the last half of the race," he said. "And ideally they'll wake up in a hospital bed with a gold medal around their neck.

The lightweights will be shooting for that same dream of winning the gold. And for the varsity lightweight eight, Sprints will also be a good prelude to Nationals later this month.

"A good performance at the sprints would give us some much needed confidence to push us through the final three weeks of the season as we train for nationals on May 31," Austin Whitman '99 said.

But job number one for the lightweight varsity boat will be to do well in the qualifying heats to give them a shot at the Grand Finals.

"From on paper, it looks as if we'll have to race to get into the finals, and that's the mindset we're in right now," said coxswain Stephanie Yu '97. "But I think we're going to surprise a lot of people at Sprints."

Despite the squad's youth -- there are five '99s, three '98s and only one senior -- the lightweight varsity eight believe they can give the nation's top crews a run for their money at Sprints.

"We've been moving quite well in practice, and we've got a lot of potential," Yu said. "The key is to put everything we've been doing in practices together on race day."

Another boat to watch this weekend will be the JV lightweight eight. They've won every race so far this season and will enter Sprints with the top seed.

Last year, the JV lightweight eight took home the bronze medal at Sprints while the varsity eight fell short of medals with a fourth-place finish in the Grand Finals.

Both of the freshmen lightweight eights lead the pack this weekend and each squad has a solid chance at winning shirts.

The second freshmen lightweight eight and the third varsity boats will race on Saturday while the varsity eights and JV eights will race on Sunday.

The women's crews will race next weekend at a different Sprints race course.