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This past Saturday, MIT’s varsity heavyweight crew defeated the Princeton University Tigers for the first time since 1975. Coming into the 76th Compton Cup, MIT was ranked 17th nationally with Princeton and Harvard University ranked 11th and fourth respectively. Since the inaugural Compton Cup race in 1933, MIT has historically trailed both crews by margins of 15 seconds or more. Over the lifetime of the cup, MIT has won once, in 1962, and has placed 2nd only a handful of times. The finishing times this weekend were: Harvard (6:00.3), MIT (6:08.6), and Princeton (6:09.4).

Several of the oarsmen in the varsity eight have first-hand experience losing to these crews by margins of over 30 seconds. Just last year, in the same cup race, MIT trailed both Harvard and Princeton by 24 seconds. Overcoming a margin that large over the course of a year is unprecedented.

This year, Harvard flew off the line at 50 strokes per minute, gaining a boat length lead over Princeton by the 500 meter mark in the race. Princeton was also high off the line (45 strokes per minute) and established a three seat lead over the Engineers within the first 500 meters. Over the next 500 meters, Harvard would extend their lead over the field to a boat length of open water while Princeton extended their lead over MIT to half a length.

In the third 500, MIT finally found their rhythm into the 5-10 mile per hour headwind and slowly began inching their way back through the Princeton crew. At the start of the last 500 meters, Harvard was leading the pack by a comfortable margin, and MIT still trailed Princeton by two seats. The Engineers continued to move on the Princeton crew and with 400 meters left in the race, had finally pulled back to level. They maintained their momentum in the last stretch of the race and were able to defend a last minute Princeton charge. With 15 strokes left in the race, MIT drove the rate up to 40 strokes per minute and crossed the line 0.8 seconds ahead of the Tigers.

Tech’s victory this past weekend has earned them a nomination for Crew of the Week on row2k.com and has moved the Engineers’ rank up to 13th in the country. After being unranked for the past several years, MIT looks to continue moving up in the polls when they face No. 18 Dartmouth University, No. 11 Boston University, and the No. 2 University of Wisconsin in two weeks.

MIT’s varsity lineup is: (cox) Stephen F. Young ’09, (stroke) Luke S. Urban ’09, (7) Lucas W. Goodman ’11, (6) Thomas A. Larsen ’09, (5) William R. Nolan ’09, (4) Kevin M. Kelley ’09, (3) James T. Stenard ’09, (2) David P. Jenicek ’09, (bow) Matthew J. Pegler ’11.

The heavyweight men will face Colgate University this Sunday for their last home race of the season.