Old Lyme's Corrigan hopes to cap Harvard career with strong effort at regatta

Ledyard — Harvard senior Liam Corrigan wore a white T-shirt with the blue Yale logo on Wednesday afternoon.

An interesting choice especially considering he's preparing to face his rowing program's fiercest rival on Saturday afternoon in the 154th running of the Harvard-Yale Regatta, the nation's oldest collegiate sporting event, on the Thames River.

It made sense after the Old Lyme High School graduate explained that it is tradition for a race winner to collect shirts from competitors.

"This is from my freshman year, the (second varsity), when we beat Yale," Corrigan said. "And we beat them in (Eastern) Sprints, IRA (national championship in 2016) and also here. So I have three Yale shirts. I just picked this out this morning because it was clean."

"... To get another Yale shirt this year, that's the goal."

The odds are against Corrigan, who competes with the varsity eight, adding another T-shirt to his collection on Saturday.

The days of Harvard dominating the regatta series have ended, at least for now. The Crimson had a streak of capturing 27 of 30 races from 1985 through 2014.

Since then, Yale is undefeated, winning three times with one "no result" in 2016 when Harvard's boat was swamped in rough conditions.

Last week, Yale earned its third straight national championship, accomplishing the feat in California. Harvard placed third, trailing the champion by five seconds.

Saturday will be a chance for Corrigan and teammates to end their drought in the Harvard-Yale Regatta.

"Definitely, the biggest thing on everyone's mind is getting a win in this race," sad Corrigan Wednesday sitting inside Red Top, Harvard's home base. "Obviously, Yale's a fast crew; they've won the national championship the last three years and again this year in Eastern Sprints.

"This is a different race. We're confident that over four miles we can get the win. ... That would be the best possible way to cap off a career here at Harvard."

Corrigan's connection to the regatta started well before his college days. Growing up in Old Lyme, he became familiar with Harvard-Yale, which later influenced his college choice. He started rowing as a high school freshman.

"The decision was between Harvard and Yale because I was aware of the history of this race and also the two weeks that are spent here at Red Top and Gales Ferry," Corrigan said. "Both of those sounded like a really cool (opportunity) to be able to spend two weeks with your teammates and train here on the river and race."

If Yale coach Steve Gladstone had his way, Corrigan would have rowed for Bulldogs.

"Wanted Liam Corrigan," Gladstone  said. "The home visit, the whole deal. Went after Liam. He's a great kid. ... I'm not sure why Liam chose Harvard over Yale, but Harvard certainly had a much, much deeper history of success than we did.

"... He's fierce. He's really good."

Corrigan is soaking in his final Harvard-Yale experience. When not training, they pass the time playing board games, reading and exchanging conversation instead of text messages.

He called this time each spring at Red Top two of the best weeks of his life.

"It's a really close team," Corrigan said. "The guys really like each other. We have skits tonight, so you stand up with your boat and basically make some jokes, but that's a lot of fun. There's all kinds of stuff like that. We do a ping pong tournament. It's really just about bonding with this group."

"... It's just really special to be able to spend this much time with this group of guys here for basically two weeks a year. It's definitely something probably honestly more than anything else in my college experience that I'll miss after graduating."

He plans to continue his rowing career and then possibly go back to school. He's a physics major.

"Next year, I'll be rowing basically full-time to try a shot at the Olympics in 2020. I'll do that for a year and after that is still kind of up in the air."

Harvard coach Charley Butt is just happy that Corrigan picked the Crimson.

"It's been fantastic," Butt said of Corrigan's career. "As a freshman, he came in and they won the IRA (national) title in the second boat, he and Lars (Lorch) and Sam Meijer. It was a great start to their academic and to their athletic careers. All of these guys have turned out to be fantastic students. Prize-winning guys."

g.keefe@theday.com

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