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NATIONAL CHAMPION: Harvard Lightweight Crew Takes Gold at IRA

CAMDEN, N.J.—The Harvard lightweight varsity eight completed a perfect collegiate season with the program's eighth national championship, winning the grand final in course-record time at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships Saturday on the Cooper River.

The Crimson held off Dartmouth by nearly a second and blew away the IRA men's lightweight course record by three seconds with a time of 5:33.059 to put the perfect finish on a collegiate campaign that included a 9-0 dual record, Eastern and Ivy League championships and a course record at Princeton. The Crimson lightweight four, made up of four freshman rowers, placed fifth, racing against varsity boats, in its grand final Saturday.

"I'll always remember this one; it was amazing," said coxswain Angela Chang, who guided the Crimson to its first national title since 2003 and its sixth medal in the last seven years. "I'm so happy it worked out, such a successful season. I'm really proud of the guys."

The medalists were the same as last season, but this time Harvard, which placed second in 2011, had an answer for every move by defending champion Yale and Dartmouth. The Crimson went out fast in tailwind-fueled conditions, making it a point not to get behind. Harvard kept up the pace as the race went on, building the lead that the Big Green could not erase with a strong sprint. Dartmouth finished less than a second behind the Crimson in 5:34.035.

"I thought it was our best piece, because we stayed right with the fastest boats in the first 300 meters, and at the 500 we knew we had to assert ourselves, not just for 20 strokes, but for an entire 1,000 or 1,200 meters," said Charley Butt, the Friends of Harvard Lightweight Rowing Coach for Harvard Lightweight Crew. "And they did just that. I was quite happy to see them get enough distance on very dangerous Dartmouth, Yale and Princeton boats and Georgetown, enough that in the end we didn't have to have a desperation sprint."

Yale finished third in 5:36.671, and fourth-place Georgetown missed a medal by about 1.3 seconds. Six-seat Tim Moore helped Harvard place third in the 2010 IRA grand final, when Princeton set the previous course record of 5:36.06. He was happy to aid in the Crimson's effort to break that mark, part of a Harvard lineup that has remained intact since leading all collegiate lightweight crews at October's Head of the Charles Regatta.

"I'm ecstatic," Moore said. "It's pretty much four years of work coming to a big win in my last collegiate race of my career."

Joining Moore and Chang in the winning varsity were juniors Florian Mayr, Alex Newell, Nicholas Gates,  Stuart Taylor, Erich Schultze, and Matt O'Leary and sophomore Michael Wales. All nine athletes were also first-team All-Ivy League honorees this season. Mayr, Newell, Gates and Taylor won gold in the varsity four at the 2011 IRA regatta, while Chang, Moore, Schultze and O'Leary were part of the runner-up Crimson varsity a year ago. The varsity will remain together to compete in the Temple Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta June 27-July 1 in England.

The lightweight four held its own against varsity competition. The Crimson placed second in its morning heat and in the grand final finished three-fifths of a second behind fourth-place Yale in 6:25.759, missing a medal by less than four seconds.

Varsity Eight
Heat
Harvard 5:46.667
Dartmouth 5:46.729
Princeton 5:47.093
Yale 5:47.574
Columbia 5:49.581
Georgetown 5:49.756
Cornell 5:51.040

Grand Final
Harvard 5:33.059
Dartmouth 5:34.035
Yale 5:36.671
Georgetown 5:37.966
Cornell 5:42.397
Princeton 5:43.258
Columbia 5:47.795

Varsity Four
Heat 1
Wisconsin 6:23.510
Cornell 6:24.286
Yale 6:25.954
Columbia 6:38.922
Georgetown 6:50.325

Heat 2
Navy 6:31.934
Harvard 6:35.822
MIT 6:39.572
Milwaukee School of Engineering 6:46.198

Grand Final
Navy 6:18.126
Cornell 6:20.519
Wisconsin 6:21.931
Yale 6:25.215
Harvard 6:25.759
MIT 6:28.804