Every win is important, but this one was huge. After a grueling week of practice, the Boys Crew’s first boat triumphed over a perennially strong crew from New Hampshire’s St. Paul’s on Saturday. The SPS Pelicans, who won the New England Interscholastic Rowing Association Championships in 2000, are always tough to beat, and this year’s crew was no exception. Despite losing six seniors from its 2002 B1, which finished fourth at last year’s NEIRA Regatta, just ahead of the 5th Place Big Blue, SPS has a reputation for its depth; that is, they consistently refill empty spots with solid young rowers. As Captain Taylor Washburn ’03 noted Saturday, “They are like a factory for good rowers.” That notwithstanding, in the first boat race, the Blue proved too much for St. Paul’s. The race began with Andover’s typical 30-stroke start, which took the Blue through the first 250 meters of the 1500-meter race. St. Paul’s countered with a starting sequence of its own that took them about 400 meters into the race and two seats ahead of the Big Blue. Andover took their landmark “Power 15,” a move at the 500-meter mark, pulling within one seat of St. Paul’s. Once through the 500-meter mark, Andover went to work. For the week of practice up until the race, B1 had pledged to increase their toughness in the middle-500 meters, which is always the toughest parts in the race. As Coach Peter Washburn notes, “Races are won and lost in the middle 500. Whoever is tougher there can win.” This new attitude towards the middle 500 had come as a result of Andover’s loss to Exeter at the Worcester Invitational, two weeks prior, when Andover had the chance to put the Big Red away in the middle of the race, but did not, only to be walked through in the last 200 meters. The Blue refused to let that happen again. Slowly the Blue pulled even. Then it happened. One seat. Two. Three, four, and finally Andover was ahead by five seats at the 750, when SPS took their patented move. In that move, all they got back was one seat. And then it was the Blue’s turn to walk away. With 600 meters left in the race, Andover took a monster move, which ate up three seats out of a spent St. Paul’s crew, which turned into a length lead in the final 500. The Pelicans tried to counter in their sprint, but it was no use as Andover crossed the finish line a full length ahead of St. Paul’s, 3 seconds ahead. 6-seat Will England ’03 was more than pleased with B1’s performance last Saturday and had only one thing to say after the race, but it spoke volumes. “We owned the middle 500.” In the second boat race, Andover was not quite as potent. B2 has a strong start, and pulled ahead in the first 500, perhaps by a few seats. Nevertheless, SPS’ massive move at the 750 proved to be too much for the Blue. Taking a four-seat lead with 500 meters to go, Andover began to charge back. Onlookers at the boathouse (150 meters to go) noted that B2 was down two seats there, but charging back. In the end, however, it was the Pelicans, who triumphed, but only by a 1 and seats, a mere second. Members of the previously undefeated second boat commiserated at their loss, yet put it in perspective. “We needed a dose of humility [after going undefeated for so long]. This will give us something to work for,” noted two-seat Alex Minasian ’03. Indeed, one of the greatest motivations can be a loss. “And this was a close one,” continued Minasian, “We know we can get them by Interschols.” In the third (JV) boat race, there was never any question of who would win. The Blue led pillar to post, dominating an uncharacteristically weak SPS third boat by an astonishing eleven seconds. B3 appears to have gained much speed since the beginning of the season and should prove to contend at the NEIRA Championships on May 24th. Tomorrow, the Andover Boys Crew team takes on archrival Phillips Exeter Academy, who dealt the first boat the spring 2003 season’s only loss three weeks ago, and the Tabor Academy Seawolves for the last home race of the season.
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