Tritons in rough waters against national competition

    The Tritons’ men’s crew team set its sights on the competition at the East Coast Athletic Conference National Invitational Collegiate Regatta on May 8 and May 9 in Worcester, Mass., in a field of 18 of the country’s fastest rowing programs. After preliminaries, UCSD was in a discouraging 17th place overall, but went on to achieve the team’s fastest race of the season, only five seconds behind the overall winner, and took 14th place in the men’s varsity eight division.

    First-year head coach Mark Davis started the 2004 campaign by having the team establish a series of goals on which to focus during the season, rather than trying to dive into every race like it was the team’s last. The result was that the varsity eight boat went further than Davis initially thought possible and demonstrated that UCSD cannot be overlooked in discussions about which programs will soon top the nation’s list of the most esteemed regattas.

    “[The ECAC regatta] this year was the fastest regatta at this level that I’ve ever been to,” Davis said. “The boats that were there are all so fast that it wasn’t an issue of who the fastest team was, but who had the fastest race that day.”

    UCSD took off in the second heat of the preliminary races on May 8, competing for one of the top two positions in order to advance to the finals on May 9.

    “It was definitely a close heat,” senior co-captain Eric Hardeman said. “I don’t think that we had our best race [on May 8]. If we could have done it over, we’d have done it better.”

    Due to constantly changing conditions, it is difficult to make relative comparisons by time in crew. The course in Worcester on May 8 had a strong headwind that slowed leading boats down by almost 30 seconds.

    The Tritons crossed the finish line at 2,000 meters in 6 minutes, 30.004 seconds — 2.657 seconds behind the second-place finisher and Grand Finals qualifier George Washington University. Virginia won the preliminary heat in a time of 6:22.387.

    “We were less than three seconds behind the second-place boat,” Davis said. “We didn’t have a bad race, but it wasn’t our best race either.”

    UCSD’s performance qualified the varsity eight for the third-level final race on May 9, in which the crew came out to redeem itself.

    “We raced again [May 9] and took second place,” Hardeman said. “Our boat started in last place for the first thousand [meters] of the race, but walked past everyone except Holy Cross in the second half.”

    Holy Cross won the third-level finals race by less than 1.5 seconds, edging the Tritons, 6:03.061 to 6:04.529. The race was by far UCSD’s best show of the 2004 season.

    “The [May 9] final was our fastest time of the year,” Davis said. “The team that ended up winning the Grand Finals finished in 5:59.5 to our 6:04.5. That’s close.”

    The ECAC National Invitational Collegiate Regatta was the last competition for the Tritons this season. Hardeman is the only graduating senior in the exceptionally young Triton boat.

    “I was proud to be able to row with these guys,” Hardeman said. “They rowed with a poise and level of maturity that was greater than just about anyone I’ve ever raced with.”

    Davis said he will be back for his second year to coach the team as it seeks to improve and continue to draw national acclaim. The 2005 season looks promising for UCSD, he said

    “It’s good to be getting almost everyone back,” Davis said. “I think that we could be one of the dominant [Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association] programs next year — not just our varsity eight, but out junior varsity and novice programs, too. I think that it will be a goal next year to send more than just the varsity boat to the ECAC regatta, and instead try to send two or three boats.”

    Reflecting on the inauguration to his coaching career for the Tritons, Davis could not have imagined a better result.

    “This season was way better than I had expected,” Davis said. “I had a really strong group with a lot of good freshmen on the team. There is a lot of youth in this program. This year was outstanding and much better than anything I could have anticipated.”

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