HKS Club Four wins ‘Fastest School’ title at Head of Charles

Andrew J. Swab
Andrew is an MPP candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School.

A record two Harvard Kennedy School crews raced in the 54th Head of the Charles Regatta on Saturday Oct. 20, competing against 54 other club eights, and 35 other club fours from across the country, and the globe.

This year’s HKS Club Four captained by Andrew Swab HKS ’19 beat several teams in its race including Notre Dame, West Point, and Alabama. The Rowing Club at HKS club thus proudly earned its title as the fastest graduate school in its event at the regatta. The club eight crew captained by John Lian HMS ’20 beat crews from the United Kingdom and an elite New Jersey prep school.

The world’s largest two-day rowing event, the 2018 Head of the Charles, attracted more than 7,500 athletes from the around the world and drew close to 400,000 spectators during the weekend.

“Rowing for Harvard in some way represents a dream I have been imagining and picturing, ever since I did recreational rowing at Harvard’s boathouse during Harvard Summer School in 2007,” said Andrew Swab, club president and men’s team captain. “Eleven years is a long time. I cannot thank the guys on this team and Coach David Levy enough for making this dream possible. Through long practices rain, cold, and tough erg pieces, we did it. By returning to the world’s largest regatta, and putting a record-breaking two crews together we have already won.”

The competition for a seat for this year’s race remained fiercely competitive across Harvard’s graduate schools, with members waking up at 5:30 am to make 6:00 am endurance practices four days per week leading up to the event. The year’s team included rowers from Russia, Germany, Canada, the United States, and a dual citizen rower from the United Kingdom and France. This includes rowers from programs at Cambridge University, West Point, Syracuse, MIT, Harvard, and club programs at Potomac Boat Club, and Capital Rowing Club in Washington, D.C.

Team members on this year’s “fast four” boat include Phoebe Stoye College ’17 (Coxswain), Andrew Swab HKS ’19, (club president, and men’s team captain), Troy Peterson HBS ’19 (stroke), Nico Kernick HBS ’19, and Joshua Polacheck HKS ’18.

This team members on this year’s eight boat were Emily Silari HBS ‘19 (Coxswain), John Lian (boat captain  and  stroke), Sam Stemper HKS ’20, Nathan Miller HBS ’19 (stroke), Marc-Philipp Pfeil HMS, Christopher Murray HMS/HBS ‘20, Nick Moore HMS, Jann Spiess HKS/GSAS ’18.

The entry earned the endorsement of HKS Dean Douglas Elmendorf, and Dean of Students Debra Isaacson. It represents the first time HKS crews rowed in the Head of the Charles while a HKS alumnus, Larry Bacow, serves as president of Harvard University. The club proclaimed Bacow was an “honorary oarsman” in the lead up to the event. The club also earned the support of the Kennedy School Student Government and credits a grant from Harvard’s Coop bookstore for allowing this bid to happen.

After launching from both Newell and Weld Boathouses, both crews faced sunny, weather with blustery headwinds for the 54th edition of the Head of the Charles. The tenacious HKS crews chased down opponents in both the men’s club 4 and men’s club 8+ races held at 1:35 PM and 2:21 PM, respectively. Club members especially noted the cheers from fans at the Weeks Footbridge, on the turn toward Weld Boathouse.

The team’s on the water workouts included sprint and endurance rowing at high stroke ratings, with outings up to four days a week in the month leading up to the regatta. The club hopes to return to competitive rowing in spring season regattas at the Wharton Sprints in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in April.

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