Freshman Four: First-Years Enter with International Experience


In preparation for the Junior World Rowing Championships, national teams are thrown into the fire immediately. Without knowing each other beforehand, the athletes begin preparation almost immediately. Generally, they have about three weeks of intense practice before the actual competition, which is held in early August.

Some of the freshmen on the Harvard men’s heavyweight crew team know this life well, as five of the first-years walked into Newell Boathouse with plenty of international experience. This past August, four of them competed at the Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

At the event, Sam Meijer won Great Britain’s first Junior Men’s Quadruple Sculls to back up his silver in the same event at the 2014 Junior Worlds in Hamburg, Germany. His compatriot James Clarke came in fourth in the 2014 edition with the Great Britain Eight.

Liam Corrigan and Benji Cohen rowed on the same boat for the U.S. this year, placing fifth in the Junior Men’s Four. Corrigan also competed at Hamburg against his future Harvard teammates in the Junior Eights race, while Cohen obtained the same result in the same race.


“Two summers ago, I raced a couple of the [Harvard freshmen] who were in the Great Britain Eight and Australian Eight,” Corrigan said. “It’s a little weird, but it’s a fun thing.”

Another freshman, Lars Lorch, won the bronze medal for Germany in the Junior Men’s Eight.

As the freshmen prepare to race their first Head of the Charles donning the H, they will have a chance to prove themselves alongside their upperclassmen teammates. Just last season, the Crimson’s freshman and upperclassmen programs merged to form one team, an arrangement that made the team slightly more competitive.

All college freshmen experience a particular set of challenges, and a freshman heavyweight rower has to handle them while also managing multiple practices a day.

“From high school, college rowing is a huge step up,” Corrigan said. “[The practices are] harder and longer. In comparison to the Junior World Team, it’s a similar level of work. The only difference is now you have school on top of that. It’s definitely a lot more to try to balance rowing and school and whatever else you want to do.”

The balance of school and a varsity sport can be a challenging endeavor. However, the strict schedule of training for Worlds has helped some of the freshman adjust to the new lifestyle.

“I do all my homework after my evening sessions… and [I] have to work two or three hours every night,” Clarke said. “I seem to be on top of my work, though. I’m in bed by 11 or 12.”

The strong rookie class appears poised to rise to the challenge this weekend. Arthur Doyle, a freshman from London, will row in the 1V, while Corrigan and three other freshmen will row in the 2V.

“I’m very excited,” said Corrigan, who will race in the Head’s Championship Eight event for the first time in his career. “I think we have a really fast boat.”

Of Corrigan’s three previous races at the Head of the Charles, his best finish came last year. Going into the event, he did not expect much more than a top-20 finish—maybe top-10 if his boat was lucky.

Like all Head of the Charles races, Corrigan’s event wasn’t a head-to-head race—total time was the marker. No one on his boat knew how well they were doing until they crossed the finish line. When they did, they received some good news.

“We got off the water,” Corrigan said, “and one of our coaches was standing there and said, ‘It said here you guys have the second-fastest time.’ We were stunned.”