Friday, September 14, 2012

Novice Victory: Homecoming Cup, 2006

Considerable controversy surrounds the 2006 Homecoming Race. In retrospect, the circumstances were notably inauspicious: an untested novice crew--not in the boat yet a month--pitted against an invincible alumni and a determined varsity crew. The subsequent men's novice victory, much debated in the years since, was the defining event of the Generation XI team which would go on to make Murray Rowing a conversational staple among crews across the nation. Aaron Butler, the alumnus who probably has the greatest distance to travel to make it back to Murray (from Afghanistan), shares his perspective of this most important race for the coveted Homecoming Cup.
Aaron Butler
"Water slapping over the gunnels of the Elizabeth I. We sat, unsure but excited at our first chance at competition – we novice. We mingled behind the starting line, as crews often do; an assortment of all types; Cypriot, Russian, Southern, Northern, and ilk of all mind and opinion apart.

Keeping with tradition, the rules of the race were dictated by the head of the varsity crew (directed by the somewhat bifurcated Rowing Leadership Committee) and Alumni members of the Homecoming Planning Committee. The race would unfold as follows: in lane one, Coach McLean’s ace boat. In lane two, a wizened but formidable alumni crew for whom a sprint start was really no big deal. In lane three--a few strokes ahead of the rest of the pack--an esoterically stacked arrangement of oarsmen and technique designed by our own Drexel-educated Coach Cary. Even with a head start, how could we hope to win?

The alignment of boats at the start was disposed to give novices an advantage–though in the end, it was hardly needed. In our first start of the best out of three contest, the length of our lead easily surpassed the modest 20 meter “head start” we were given. In the second and third, our lead did by no means contract. The varsity managed to out-oar the alums for second position at the finish of all three heats--still half a dozen boat lengths behind the novice each time.

Prego's not amused
These results were much denied by the varsity especially by a certain William Sale Pregliasco who contended that the novice victories were somehow void due to the “advantage” they were afforded. The counter to this argument has been voiced by every last rower with a mind for the truth: if the rules specify that novices are allowed a modest advantage at the start (however marginal), then their victories should not be denied. It follows, of course, that if such a contention was true then no novice team could ever hope to win the race irrespective of however many boat lengths they surpass the rest of the field (which in our case, as I have said, were many and self-evident).

Prego’s bitterness and angst over the years has contributed much to the re-writing of this narrative. His subsequent Presidency during the '07-'08 season also considerably diminished the truth of this day’s events. His revisionism even went so far as to defile one our most sacred of artifacts; the cherished Homecoming Cup Trophy–effacing the record of a bona fide novice victory with the lie of a varsity win on that fateful day.

The truth lives on in the hearts and minds of those who witnessed that epic race and we continue to fight the re-education efforts of sore losers who like to project a different tale than was the actual adventure wrought. However, we as alumni brothers and sisters, in continuation of our hallowed traditions--rowing through the wake of those who rowed before us--shall commit ourselves to the furtherance of the annals of our beloved team and to the truthful telling of the adventures to come."

Editor's note: I asked Will if he had any response to Aaron's account of this race and the events that followed . His response was, "this memory of [Aaron's], we will let go untouched, he can have what little dignity he has left arguing this race, no further comment haha."

If you've got a homecoming story or trash to talk, please share it with the Racer Rowing Society!

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