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Lightweight crew edges by in season's opener

By Stephen Celuzza

The varsity lightweight crew team narrowly defeated four other boats in a race on the Charles River on March 24. This traditional season opener saw MIT hosting crews from the University of Rhode Island, Connecticut College, and the State University of New York at Albany. URI had two entries in the varsity race: a lightweight boat and a heavyweight boat.

There was a moderate headwind blowing down the 2000 meter racecourse, and the air temperature was chilly at around 40@#F. The MIT crew, consisting of Melissa Norcross '91 (coxswain), Paul Tempest '92 (stroke), Jeff Nielsen '92, Jeff Kuehn '92, Francisco Galletti '90, Scott Jacobsmeyer '92, Harald Quintus-Bosz '90, Stephen Celuzza '90, and Craig Griffen '92 (bow), had an excellent start, winding up about one boat-length ahead of all the other crews after the first 30 strokes. They maintained that lead, dominating the first half of the race.

As the crews passed under the Harvard Bridge, the halfway point in the race, Coach Peter Holland was worried that Connecticut College would make a move on MIT. Connecticut was rowing with slower, more relaxed strokes, and it seemed that they might be able to power up to MIT, as they had done one year ago. However, MIT kept their lead up to the MIT boathouse with 500 meters to go.

At the boathouse, both URI crews started to move up on MIT. Norcross ordered the stroke beat rating up, and urged her crew to keep their lead for the last part of the race, but the URI crews kept gaining. Just before the finish line, she called, "We're three seats down!" indicating that URI had taken the lead by about three meters.

After the finish, the URI crews were rejoicing in their apparent victory, while MIT sat silently, recovering. The jubilation switched from URI to MIT, though, when the officials announced the results. MIT had won, with a time of six minutes, 57.5 seconds, followed by the URI lightweights, 6:58.0, URI heavyweights, 7:00.9, Connecticut College, 7:02.0, and Albany, 7:23.1.

Since the finish line was not perpendicular to the riverbank, what seemed like a URI victory was in fact an MIT victory, although a close one. While the official times reflected a half-second difference between first and second place, the actual margin was more like a tenth of a second, according to Coach Holland, who thought the timer was not able to move his thumb on the stopwatch button fast enough. Reviewing the videotape of the finish, it was verified that MIT did indeed win, by about one foot.

In the junior varsity race, which pitted the URI and Albany second boats against MIT's, URI emerged victorious in 6:08.3, ahead of Albany (6:11.7) and MIT (6:23.1). The fast times were due to the fact that the race was restarted after about 350 meters, after a URI oarsman caught an over-the-head crab.

In the freshman race, MIT came in second, in 7:54, behind Connecticut (7:44), and ahead of URI (8:01) and Albany (9:11).

MIT's second and third freshman boats raced Connecticut College's second freshman boat. With 700 meters to go, Connecticut was ahead, followed by the second and third MIT boats, in that order.

But then the two-man in the MIT second freshman boat broke his oarlock, rendering him useless for the final third of the race. Due to this mishap, the third boat came from behind to beat the second boat, while Connecticut rowed to victory. According to Holland, it looked like Connecticut would have won the race even if the MIT second boat had had all eight oarsmen rowing.

(Stephen Celuzza '90 is a member of the men's lightweight crew team.)