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Heavyweight Crew Shines in Pittsburgh

By Brian Kelleher Richter

The MIT varsity heavyweight crew team returned to Boston with two medals from the Head of the Ohio regatta in Pittsburgh last Saturday. The Beavers earned silver and bronze in two of the day’s premier events: a fours head race and an eights sprint.

The Head of the Ohio is the second largest regatta in the United States, surpassed only by the Head of the Charles in number of competitors.

In addition to entering the two events in which the Engineers medaled, they also competed in an eights head race. Each rower raced three times, allowing little rest, as only eight rowers and two coxswains traveled to Pittsburgh.

The fours head race came towards the end of the day. MIT’s top four -- Christopher J. Penny ’01 (stroke), Brian K. Richter ’02, Eugene Weinstein ’00, Mark H. Jhon ’01, and Amanda Y. Yang ’02 (cox) -- had the advantage of starting in front of the pack and easily pushed away from the visible Wyandotte Boat Club (15:09.5), who started behind the Engineers and finished third. The Beavers (15:00.3) were edged out by a very strong Pennsylvania Athletic Club boat (14:44.6). Penn AC, hailing from Philadelphia, has established a reputation as the top club and often challenges and sometimes beats the U.S. National Team for the privilege of representing the United States at the World Championships and the Olympic Games.

“We could have won if we were fresh like Penn AC,” said Penny, stroke of the top four. Nonetheless, winning silver in the four represents MIT’s best effort in the many years the team has been traveling to the Head of the Ohio. MIT’s second four (15:51.5) -- Andrew D. Copeland ’01 (stroke), Alan M. Heins ’02, Igor L. Belakovskiy ’01, Mehlan L. Parker ’01, and Yonathan A. Nuta ’03 (cox)--finished seven places back from MIT’s first boat, but still ahead of some formidable opponents.

In the morning, before the squad spilt, the Engineers finished fourth in a very competitive eights head race with a time of 12:36.2, behind Cornell (11:49.1) and two boats from the University of Michigan (12:06.7 and 12:27.9). MIT rowed a solid race technically, despite first race jitters. The Beavers were, however, outstroked. The winning Cornell team raced at a cadence of thirty-six strokes per minute to MIT’s thirty.

Later in the morning, in a very shaky, rushed event, MIT’s eight won bronze in the 500 meter sprint which Cornell also captured.

Team attempts to overcome youth

At the regatta’s close, Coach Gordon Hamilton told his crew “this is a very positive experience especially for a very young team.” Only three members of last year’s Head of the Ohio team returned as the rest were lost to graduation. Also, captain Weinstein was the only senior to travel with this year’s squad.

Understanding that a number of valuable team members were graduating, Karl Richter ’99, last year’s captain, charged the younger members of the team to step forward and assert themselves, as his class did their sophomore year when seven members of the Head of the Ohio boat were sophomores.

The remainder of the Heavyweight squad raced at the Textile River Regatta in Lowell, MA. Five experienced freshman joined the rest of the squad to put together the best lineups.

MIT’s faster eight at the Textile included four freshmen: Collins P. Ward ’03, Nicholas K. Abercrombie ’03, Stephen P. Bathurst ’03, and Patrick R. Buckley ’03 who rowed in the stroke seat. Other rowers in that boat were David T. Garcia ’02, Andrew A. Lamb ’02, Jorge A. Panduro ’01, and Mike J. Salamina ’00. “It felt very good technically but the power just wasn’t there,” said Panduro about the race.

The next racing action for the heavyweights is Saturday, September 17 at the New Hampshire Championships in Hookset, New Hampshire. The entire squad will be racing there including all of the freshman, many of whom have picked up the sport within the last month but already look very strong. The New Hampshire Regatta serves as the last chance for the Beavers to prepare themselves for the Head of the Charles on October 23 and 24.