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Men's Varsity Heavyweights Return with Bronze Medals

By Franz Busse
Team Member

MIT crew participated in the Head of the Ohio regatta held in Pittsburgh, Pa., last Saturday - for those who are confused, the race is named after the Ohio River. The varsity heavyweights competed in three events and returned with bronze medals from the first two events.

Overall, it was a good day of racing for MIT's heavyweight crew. "We rowed very aggressively," said Coach Gordon Hamilton. "We did a lot better against Brown [University] this year than last year. It's good start for us."

The first event was the open four event. This was a "head" race, where the boats start one at a time, about 10 seconds apart. MIT's A boat with Franz Busse '95, Lorin Theiss G, Jeff Tomasi '95, stroke Nate Crosswhite '95, and coxswain Conan Hom '95 started second after Brown University's A boat.

MIT's B boat, with Chris Putnam '96, Brian Smith '97, Adam Cotner '96, stroke Jon Singer '95, and coxswain Peter Yao '95 started fifth behind the Pittsburgh and Leander Rowing Club.

The A boat rowed at 31 strokes per minute for the body of the race, with the main goal of hanging with Brown, the national champions, as long as possible. Though Brown pulled ahead slowly, MIT kept attacking and steadily moved ahead of the rest of the boats in the race.

MIT's B boat went immediately after the boats ahead of them, and though Leander put up a strong effort to hold them off, MIT finally overtook and passed them and Pittsburgh.

In a display of the MIT's characteristic hubris, stroke Singer said, "Leander was really starting to make me angry in that it took us so long to pass them."

Once the B boat passed Leander, they came in fourth - after the MIT A, and Brown's A and B boats - out of 16 teams in the event.

MIT's A boat finished in 13 minutes 39.0 seconds, only 47.3 seconds behind Brown's A boat; last year they were more than a minute away. MIT's B boat was only 4 seconds slower, in a time of 13:43.0.

"That small margin is really encouraging," Hamilton said. "It shows a lot of depth on the team."

MIT places third in dash

The next event was the 500-meter dash. This was a sprint-style race, where the boats line up abreast and start simultaneously for a short, intense, and exciting race.

Eights were raced in this event, and MIT's lineup was, from bow to stern, Busse, Theiss, Smith, Putnam, Tomasi, Cotner, Singer, Crosswhite, and Hom as cox.

The water conditions were poor, and co-captain Tomasi said afterwards, "It was some of the worst water I've ever raced in. Because of the strong wind and current, it took considerable time to get all six boats in the event lined up. The starting command was only Are you ready, go!', rather than the usual count down start."

Brown and Cornell jumped ahead so quickly that some observers felt they took advantage of the confusion and bad weather conditions and started before the command.

However, there was no false start assessed, and the race had begun. Waves were almost continuously coming over the sides of the boat and slapping the oar blades, making it difficult to row well technically and making it mostly a contest of composure and power.

Both Brown and Cornell took early leads, which Brown held to win the event. After the rough start MIT moved back on Cornell and almost came even by the end of the dash. It was so close that Yao, who was watching from shore said, "If the race had been 50 meters longer, we would have beaten Cornell."

MIT came in third (1:17.5), Cornell second (1:16.9), and Brown first (1:14.9). Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Ohio State were also in the race, all finishing several seconds behind MIT.

Open eight race outcome unknown

The final race was the open eight head race. There were 15 crews in this event, and MIT started third after Brown and Cornell. With Yao as coxswain, MIT stayed focused on catching Cornell ahead of them.

"It was a tough race," said one oarsman. "Though we could see that we were pulling ahead of Michigan [who started fourth], we couldn't see Brown or Cornell ahead of us. We just had to pull with everything that we had and hope that it was enough."

Through the body of the race, Cornell moved a little on MIT, but in the last 500 meters MIT had a strong sprint and finished with about the same margin behind Cornell as they began with.

Due to technical difficulties, the race officials did not have official results by the time this article was written, so it is not known whether MIT actually beat Cornell.

"Regardless of the outcome, we rowed aggressively and had a good, strong race. It's good races like today that will make us a faster crew," Coach Hamilton said.