Boys' Varsity Crew
vs Smith Cup
Score/Result: 16-0 W
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
On Wednesday, May 15, the Taft crew team traveled to Lake Waramaug to compete against Gunnery, Berkshire, and Canterbury for The Smith Cup. The weather looked ominous as we left campus, and there were “possible thunderstorms” forecast throughout the afternoon. When we arrived at the lake, the wind was blowing hard out of the south and there was a brief shower as we unloaded the trailer. Conditions were actually not too bad on the race course, though; because of the wind direction, the first half of the course was relatively flat, and the conditions on the second half of the course were not nearly as choppy as they first appeared to be. Contrary to the forecast, the weather improved during the afternoon, and the sun was shining brightly by the time the last races went off.
The fifth boat race was first off the starting line for the boys. Coxed by Shelby Hetherington, the lineup of Henry Conlon (s), Matt Liebers (3), Phil Holt (2), and Gabe Mennesson (bow) pulled even with Berkshire off the line and battled with them all the way down the course. Midway through the race, Taft was down to Berkshire and looked in danger of being beaten, but our boys kept their cool and stayed close to the other boat through the 1200m mark. The high point of the race for the Taft boat was certainly their sprint, as they walked through the Berkshire boat to win by the slim margin of 1.4 seconds. It was the tightest contest of the year for this young group, and an impressive job of racing against a nearly equal opponent.
Due to an AP exam taking place that afternoon, the normal race schedule was rearranged to put at the end of the docket the races which involved rowers taking the AP exam. This meant that next on the line were the 2nd Varsity boats. Taft’s 2V had been rowing together for a solid two weeks, and were beginning to find their swing. Coming off an 8-second victory in the duPont Cup races the previous week, and a bronze medal at the Founders Day Regatta the week before, this foursome led by Aleksa Lambert in the coxswain seat—Ben Tweedy (s), Mark Schiller (3), Carl Sangree (2), Jared Carson (1)—felt confident and was eager to try to break the 5:00-minute barrier. They jumped out to a strong start, as has been their wont, earning a one-deck lead by the 100m mark. By 500m, this boat had a lead of open water on its opponents, which they increased to a full boat-length by the 1000m mark. With no one to push them, these rowers had only pride and their own goals to motivate them. In the end, they rowed a very fast race, finishing in a time of 5:01.93, three boat lengths ahead of the next crew across the line.
Taft’s 3rd Varsity boat also had a strong start to their race, but were likewise challenged by their Berkshire counterparts right off the line. Taft settled into their base rating after the opening strokes of the race, and Berkshire’s boat was right next to them. Neck and neck were the two boats as they sped down the course, with one boat pulling ahead slightly, only to be challenged and overtaken by the other boat a few strokes later. At the midway point of the race, though, coxswain Kathryn Chesebrough urged her crew to a strong move, and led by Nate Wawer at stroke, Sam Barnhill (3), Elias Clough (2), and Isaac Morrier (1) all swung together and opened up a lead on their foes that proved to be insurmountable. Indeed, this surge seemed to break the will of their worthy opponents, as Taft’s boat went on to finish 8.2 seconds ahead of Berkshire—a margin that they earned entirely in the second half of the race.
The excitement of the first three races only increased in the last two thanks to the College Board. Called to the desk to demonstrate their knowledge of European History were Rico “Oarslayer” Gilland of the 4th Varsity boat and Jack Torney of the 1V. While the hope had been to get them up to Waramaug in time for the races, it was not meant to be, and so last-minute lineup changes were necessary. Matt “California” Liebers barely had time to catch his breath after the breathtaking 5th boat race before sitting back down in the same shell and rowing up to the head of the course to race with the rest of the 4V: Emma Lux (c), Chris Capece (s), Henry Froland (2), and Sam Barrett (1). In the opening half of the contest, the boys from Rumsey Hall showed their spirit by taking a half-boat lead over Taft. But the Rhinos demonstrated their calm determination to join the other Taft boats on the top step of the metaphorical medal stand and responded to Rumsey’s boat with an assertive move at the 750m mark. Rumsey’s four manifested great courage as they attempted to respond, but the Tafties proved too much for them on this day, and pulled away to a 7.8 second victory over Berkshire and an 8+ second win over Rumsey.
Subbing for Jack Torney in the 1V was the ever-indomitable Carl Sangree, who seemed fresh as the proverbial daisy after finishing his race with the 2V just moments before stepping into the 1V shell. The 1st Varsity race was the contest that would decide the winner of The Smith Cup, a trophy that Taft had never won in the nearly 20 years that it has been in existence, and so there was extra tension along the shores of Waramaug and in the shells themselves as the four crews lined up at the starting line. Taft got off to a solid start, but found themselves down to Berkshire by a half a deck after 100m or so. Gunnery, too, challenged for the lead in the opening third of the race, and it looked early on as though Taft’s fastest boat would have a tough go ahead of them. As in the other races, though, Taft’s competitors began to fall back after the 500m mark, unable to maintain the same pace as the charging Rhinos. With Alli Elkman at the helm, Liam Carty at stroke, Hayden Pascal in 3 seat, Carl in 2 seat, and Rob Brown in bow, Taft’s 1V rowed across the finish line a full 7.6 seconds ahead of Berkshire and 17.6 seconds ahead of Gunnery in a dominating performance that ensured The Smith Cup would be taking a trip to Watertown for the first time ever.
On May 22, Taft’s lower boats will return to Lake Waramaug for the Lower Boats Regatta. On May 25, Taft’s top four crews will travel to Worcester to compete in the New England championship regatta.
Times for this race and all of Taft’s races can be found on the results page at www.row2k.com