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Lightweights Finish in Fourth at Sprints

By Erik S. Balsley
team member

The varsity lightweight crew team finished fourth in the 52nd annual Eastern Sprints Sunday on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester. It was the first time since 1983 MIT was one of the six boats to race in the Lightweight Varsity Grand Final.

The lightweight varsity boat, from bow to stern, was made up of Kris Kendall '98, Dan Frisk '99, Erik Balsley G, Paul Oppold '99, Jean-Paul Folch '97, Chris Liu '98, Torrey Radcliffe '97, Garrett Shook '97 (stroke), and Joe Irineo '98 (coxswain), finished third in their morning final to advance to the grand final in the afternoon. The boat had been ranked seventh entering the competition.

The team faced Princeton University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Georgetown University, and the U.S. Naval Academy in their morning heat. For Cornell, Columbia, and MIT the race was a rematch from earlier in the season.

In the earlier race Cornell and MIT clashed oars which slowed down the times of both boats, and resulted in a Columbia victory.

Off the start, MIT was in the lead pack along with Princeton, Cornell, and Columbia. By the halfway mark Princeton was slightly ahead of all crews, with MIT in second, Cornell in third, and Columbia fourth. In the final 500 meters, Cornell made a drive which just barely inched them ahead of MIT.

Columbia also made a strong sprint in the final 250 meters of the 2,000 meter course, so that at the finish line no one was sure who finished third. The times for the top four finishers were within 2.2 seconds.

The close race was especially enjoyed by the many cheering spectators. "The excitement from the spectators was incredible," said Bill Chernicoff '97. "It was like we were all there taking each stroke with them," he said.

In the end, Princeton, who was ranked second and was last year's lightweight champion, finished first in a speedy time of 5:54.80, followed by sixth-ranked Cornell in 5:56.0. MIT finished only .2 seconds behind Cornell in 5:56.2, and Columbia took fourth in 5:57.

In the Grand Final, MIT again faced Princeton and Cornell, in addition to Yale University, Harvard University, and Dartmouth College, the top three finishers from the other morning heat.

The final was once again an aggressive, tough race. Harvard developed an early lead which they held throughout the race. Despite the loss to Yale earlier in the day, Harvard finished first in a time of 5:55.20. Yale finished second in 5:58.8 while Princeton took third in 6:02.8.

MIT finished fourth in a time of 6:08.9, followed by Cornell in 6:09.8, and Dartmouth in 6:11.60. Although the team did not medal, they met their season goal of entering the Grand Final. In addition, they beat Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth, teams which had defeated them earlier in the season.

It was a vast improvement over last year's performance where MIT finished 11th out of the 11 participating crews. As the team lifted the boat out of the water, spectators, some who were there to support their competitors, spontaneously began to clap loudly and congratulate the team on their performance.

The second varsity boat finished fourth in their Petite Final, to finish 10th overall. They finished in a time of 6:29.6 to best Georgetown's time of 6:31.7.