Ledyard - At Harvard University's training camp in Gales Ferry, Red Top, freshmen are housed separately from the varsity and second varsity rowers, with a bridge between the dwellings that the freshmen are banned from crossing.
Then, after the annual Harvard-Yale Regatta, the Crimson's MP, as senior Pat Lapage explained the term - which stands for master of protocol - leads the freshmen across the bridge, where a team banquet is held.
"That just hammered it home to all of our class how hard we were willing to work. From a 2K race to Harvard-Yale," Lapage said of that moment he and his classmates crossed that bridge at Red Top.
"I don't know if we knew how good we could be. But we tethered it all together. We've always been known as guys who like to spend time together and work hard."
On Saturday, Harvard's senior class led the Crimson to their fifth straight sweep of the Harvard-Yale Regatta, the 147th in series history, which was rowed downstream on the Thames River with the four-mile varsity race starting at Bartlett's Cove and finishing at New London's Gold Star Bridge.
The varsity boat, which included Lapage, the stroke, for the third straight year, finished in a time of 19 minutes, 41.3 seconds to 19:51.2 for Yale. Harvard's second varsity won 14:55.5-15:27.2 and the Crimson's freshmen won 10:25.6-10:34.1 in a race that was halted in its midst after a motor boat's wake washed over both shells, then restarted with a half-mile to go.
The varsity boat also included seniors Mike DiSanto, the team's captain, Sam O'Connor and Matt Edstein, along with juniors Parker Washburn and James O'Connor and sophomores Caspar Jopling and Andrew Holmes. Junior David Fuller was the team's coxswain.
The win allowed Harvard (8-0) to finish its dual meet season undefeated for the 22nd time in the 50-year coaching tenure of Harry Parker and for the third time in the last four years. The Harvard-Yale Regatta, first rowed in 1852 on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, is the nation's longest-running intercollegiate rivalry.
Yale's varsity eight consisted of Zachary Johnson at stroke, Joseph Alagna, Benjamin Bowles, Jonathan Martin, senior captain Tom Dethlefs, Harry Picone, Grant Stegelmann and Owen Symington in the bow, joined by sophomore coxswain Oliver Fletcher.
The Bulldogs (4-3) are coached by Steve Gladstone, who formerly coached Cal to six national championships.
Harvard got out to a one-boat length by the half-mile mark Saturday and led by as many as 14 seconds at the 16:00 mark before Yale closed slightly at the finish. Yale last won the race in 2007.
"These guys are good racers; they're really good racers," said Parker, the Harvard coach, asked about his senior class, five of whom started in the varsity boat as sophomores and who have represented themselves ever since. "I'm going to miss them for sure. It's been an outstanding group, a very, very strong class."
Parker didn't necessarily work with the senior class during the rowers' freshman season. That task fell to then-freshman coach Bill Manning, now the associate head coach.
"They made a big improvement their sophomore year," Parker said. "They're clearly a committed group."
It's been a big week for the seniors, who graduated Thursday morning in Cambridge, Mass., and left to head back to Red Top by early afternoon. It was also a big week for Parker, who has won nine national championships. To coincide with his 50th season, Parker was awarded the prestigious Harvard Medal - for extraordinary service to the university - at graduation.
The Crimson will compete Thursday through Saturday at the IRA national championship regatta on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J. Parker's team was second last season.
"It's been a lot of fun. Each year's been slightly different," said Lapage, who is from Shrewsbury, England, and had hoped to attend Oxford, but was not accepted there, making Harvard his home instead. "It's been great. We've had such a good time together."