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Heavyweights Sit Ready for Sprint Racing Season

Yale's second varsity eight. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Yale's second varsity eight. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Seven months of high-performance training will finally come into play as the Yale heavyweight crew team enters the spring racing season this Saturday.  The Bulldogs have the usual lineup of dual races on the schedule, followed by the Eastern Sprints, the Yale-Harvard Regatta and the IRA National Championships. 

This year's senior class includes Joseph Alagna, captain Tom Dethlefs, Alexander Krey, Jonathan Martin, Keith Pfirrman and Morgan Welch.  Under the veteran leadership of these six seniors, the Bulldogs have brought a heightened level of awareness and greater sense of purpose to every training session.

This past fall the Bulldogs made two stops on the head racing circuit.  Yale fielded a number of different boats at the Head of the Housatonic, including a first-place pair of Alagna and Dethlefs.  A four-boat crew of Alagna, Dethlefs, Zachary Johnson, Robert Michel and coxswain Oliver Fletcher took first place in the men's collegiate 4+ (IRA) event, and the Yale freshmen won the novice eight category.  The Bulldogs had four boats racing at the Head of the Charles with Yale's club four having the best finish, coming in fourth place on the first day of racing.

In December the Bulldogs returned to the waters of the St. Lucie River for a weeklong training trip in Stuart, Fla.  The heavyweights had seven straight days of two-a-days to break up the long winter in the erg room of Payne Whitney Gymnasium.

Most recently the heavyweights have been in the midst of two-a-day spring training sessions on the Housatonic River.  Yale is one of the only schools in the league with two full weeks of spring break, and the Bulldogs have been taking every measure to capitalize on it.  The weather this year combined with less snow melt than last year's spring break has meant much better water time, which should give the heavyweights lots of momentum as they approach these first dual races.

"We've been hard at work raising the bar since September," said Dethlefs.  "In the months since the entire squad has stepped up to create a competitive environment at all levels. Between a productive winter training trip and a healthy dose of crushing on the ergs during the last two months I think the Bulldogs have entered the spring season with some promising speed."

The spring racing season will be in full swing on Mar. 24 when the Bulldogs take on the Brown Bears at home.  Last year this season opener was contested at Brown on the Seekonk River and the varsity eight missed out on a win by 0.43 seconds.  As a three-year varsity member, Dethlefs will be leading the charge to finally make good on this matchup and kick the season off in winning fashion.

After a weekend off from racing following the Brown race the Bulldogs will host Dartmouth for the Olympic Axe on Apr. 7.  Yale has not lost the Olympic Axe since it was first awarded to the winner of the dual race between the two schools.  Last year was no exception, and at their last home race as seniors the Class of 2012 will be fighting hard to defend their home course once again.

The next two weeks Yale will be on the road.  First the Bulldogs head to Orchard Beach, N.Y., to race against Columbia and Penn for the Blackwell Cup on Apr. 14.  Last year Yale won both the varsity and second varsity races, but due to deteriorating weather conditions the freshman race was cancelled.  This race will be one where the Class of 2014 will look to step up and show their strength as part of this year's varsity squad.

The last dual race on the schedule is against Cornell and Princeton in Ithaca, N.Y., for the Carnegie Cup on Apr. 21.  Last year the Yale varsity and second varsity fell to both the Big Red and the Tigers, but both boats came back at Sprints and outperformed Cornell's top two boats.  This time around the Bulldogs will look to take down both teams the first time around as they did in 2010.

The following three weeks will not include any racing.  During this period the heavyweights will wrap up their studies and build more base speed before heading into the Eastern Sprints Regatta on May 13.  Last year the Yale varsity had the fifth-fastest time in the east, winning the petite final while the second varsity made it to the grand final, finishing sixth.

Gales Ferry will then take in the Bulldogs for the two weeks leading up to the 147th Yale-Harvard Regatta on May 26.  With a smaller but more elite squad this year, the Bulldogs will likely be unable to field an eight for the combination race of third varsity and second freshman oarsmen that is usually contested the Friday before.  All eyes will then be on Saturday's freshman two-miler, second varsity three-miler and varsity four-miler.

Finally the IRA National Championships will take place in Camden, N.J., from May 31 – Jun. 2.  Yale's varsity eight has seen an upward trajectory at the IRA in years past, finishing 11th in the petite final two years ago and 10th in the petite final last year.  Come June Dethlefs and the other seniors will be putting it all on the line to take that result to new heights in their last regatta as Bulldogs.

Report filed by Yale Sports Publicity