When freshman Justin Jones first joined the Northeastern University men’s rowing team, his coaches made a promise: in four years, they would send a crew to the Henley Royal Regatta, no matter what it took.

That was in 2010.

At the time, head coach John Pojednic and university athletic director Peter Roby’s pledge seemed a distant dream. The Northeastern men’s varsity eight had not competed in the finals of the prestigious London races since 1978.

But the coaching staff was adamant.

“They basically put a stake in the ground and said, ‘We’re going,’” recalled Jones, now a senior and captain of the men’s team.

The promise became a reality this past July. Jones and his crewmates found themselves in a boat on the River Thames, rowing for first place in the Ladies’ Challenge Cup against Great Britain’s No. 2 national team crew.

Northeastern lost by a stern’s length, but only after leading the race for the first 2,000 meters – the traditional racing distance. Great Britain took over in the last 112 meters, the additional stretch unique to the Henley Regatta.