Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Time is Nigh

For two years I've offered my opinions about this sport. I've been honest, consistent, and willing to admit when I've been wrong. I've never censored your comments. I've said uncomfortable things that have needed to be said and I've made enemies of many people who wish no one would challenge their actions or their opinions. I've written all of my posts with a smile on my face because, let's face it, this is just a blog.

Now, as promised, my time is up. Those of you who have your own opinions about women's lightweight rowing - the floor is yours.

But remember, it's just a game.


[Update: New Georgetown coach: "We're going to be just like Bucknell." Has Bucknell doomed women's lightweight rowing for the sake of a coach's resume?]

[1/09 Update: The new CRCA Lightweight Committee Chair is Princeton HEAVYWEIGHT coach Lori Dauphiny!! What a joke! Yup, they're interested in keeping lightweight rowing alive. One thing's for sure, Dauphiny can spell NIMBY.]

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bucknell's Methods and Lightweight Rowing

Observers of women's lightweight rowing have to be wondering today what Bucknell's method of having heavyweights drop to lightweight for IRAs will mean for other programs. As I mentioned before, I was told that last year's Bucknell light eight had problems with weight. Bucknell's solution, apparently, was to race them as heavyweights and only require them to drop weight three times during the season (presumably timed for lulls in the competitive schedule).

I find two serious problems with this. First, Bucknell, which could lead the lightweight community, has instead chosen to use the lightweight community. While other programs spend the time and money necessary to create separate programs and race schedules separate from their heavies, Bucknell does none of that and simply goes pot hunting at IRAs. It's obvious, but worth saying, that if every other lightweight crew did what Bucknell does, there would be no lightweight league and no IRA championship. There would be no Dad Vail, Windermere, Knecht Cup, Crew Classic, ECAC (oops, that's already gone with Bucknell racing only heavyweights there), or Sprints lightweight events. While other programs put their blood, sweat, and money where their mouths are, Bucknell apparently sees the lightweight category as simply another way to burnish resumes.

Bucknell's manipulation of the category is further highlighted by the fact that last year, when the student newspaper was writing about the "light eight," the coaches asked the paper not to refer to them as lightweights, but to call them the "2V." Is this a program that supports lightweight rowing?

The second problem with the Bucknell method, is that the strategy of dropping heavyweights for key lightweight races is exactly the kind of thing for which the category is criticized and which the NCAA finds unsavory. Clearly the leaders of the lightweight category also find this unsettling. Last year, when I repeated the false rumor that in 2004 Wisconsin dropped two heavyweights into the light eight for IRAs, it was met with instantaneous and emphatic denial from the Badgers. UCF, although actually racing a lightweight schedule, was faced with the same opportunity as Bucknell to pull down some of their heavies into the light eight, but chose not to. For better or worse, the coaches there made the decision to allow their rowers to race in only one category. With Bucknell, however, we have a national champion who may not even field a lightweight eight next year. Will they have enough lightweights and near-lightweights to field a full eight? Will they be fast? If not, will they enter anyway in support of the category or will they take their ball and go home?

Let me quote instructions that went out from the CRCA lightweight committee with last year's new weigh-in rules:

The goal of the weigh-in documentation is to ensure that crews racing at the collegiate lightweight women's National Championship have been racing as lightweights with consistency throughout the season.

Clearly this procedure failed this year, and one must wonder if it needs to
be revised for next year.

While we're at it, let's dispose of the silly notion, put forth both last year and this, that Bucknell somehow makes faster lightweights by racing them as heavyweights. Any athlete would know this is spurious - it doesn't matter what your opponent is, it matters how fast your opponent is. Perhaps those making the argument are suggesting that no lightweights exist fast enough to challenge Bucknell, yet that was obviously not true last year, and this year when Bucknell raced the Princeton lights, a crew that just pushed them to the limit, they raced heavyweights. Is that supporting the category?

Bucknell is at a crossroads; it can become a leader of lightweight women's rowing or it can continue to ride on the back of the programs that actually do support and maintain the sport.

What's it gonna be?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Bucknell Ends Wisconsin's Streak

Proving the old adage that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't, Bucknell won the national championship by 3.5 seconds over second place Princeton. Wisconsin was another 1 second back, followed by Radcliffe, Stanford, and Georgetown.

In a race that, while still close, sorted itself out surprisingly quickly, Princeton and Bucknell fought a seesaw battle through 1000 meters. Through the third 500 Bucknell began to assert itself and once Princeton hit its personal dead zone - the sprint - the Bison pulled away to take the crown. It would surely be a compliment to say that Bucknell rowed a Wisconsin-like race - entering the lead pack early, allowing one or two other crews to believe they have a chance, and finally closing the door on the field through the last 500. Wisconsin occasionally threatened to make it a three boat race, but was never quite able to pull back until the very end.

As Bucknell and Princeton entered the last 500 meters, the Bison, with half a length or so lead, must've felt confident of the win, knowing the Tigers' problems with the sprint. Anyone who watched Princeton in a close race over the last two years knew what would come next - rushed slides and short strokes - as they lost ground to Bucknell ahead, and saw Wisconsin charge up their stern. If Princeton could fix this flaw, they'd be truly dangerous. Bucknell, meanwhile, showed no such flaws as they rowed a clean race from start to finish, looking as strong in the last 20 strokes as they did in the first.

MIT once again took the petite final, a nice turnaround from where the Engineers' season seemed to be headed just a few weeks ago. Ohio State finished after MIT, followed by LMU, UCF, Long Beach State, and Lehigh. It was great to see three California crews make the trip east and when the IRA moves west, hopefully all of the eastern crews will reciprocate.

So the lightweight field grows even stronger and crowns a brand new national champion. After all of the lightweight haters had their say about the lack of competition a few weeks ago, it's instructive to compare heavyweight and lightweight championship finals. The times are remarkably similar. Eleven seconds separated the field at IRAs while seven seconds separated it at NCAAs. (In fact, Bucknell's raw time was faster than Yale's raw time. I point this out not to suggest that Bucknell is faster, only to further make the point that spreads were very comparable.) This is really quite remarkable given how the proliferation of heavyweight programs and the abundance of scholarship money has spread the talent around the heavyweight world. Any such dispersion of talent naturally results in more crews of similar speed, but lightweights have had none of that.

The 2007 season ends without controversy and with a clear cut, if surprising, champion in Bucknell. Princeton, whose season began so promisingly, comes away with a gold in the four (which surprisingly turns out to be the only gold won by any Princeton crew at a national championship race). Wisconsin and Radcliffe move out of the dreaded "rebuilding year" and become major threats on the horizon, as does Stanford. Georgetown remembers how difficult it is to follow up on success. Another season down, an even stronger one on the way.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Princeton Rules the Four... Again

After rarely racing the boat all season, and almost missing out on an invitation to the race, Princeton boated a four at IRAs yesterday that staked its claim to fastest four in the nation. Winning the gold (yes, there were medals even if the correct ones will be coming in the mail) by 6 seconds over second place Wisconsin, and almost 13 seconds over third place Lawrence, the Tigers were emphatic in their statement of speed.

Princeton was somewhat less emphatic off the start, however, as they found themselves in third or fourth place after 20 strokes. As the 500 approached, the nature of the race began to become clear with Wisconsin up on Princeton by 3 or 4 seats, and Lawrence maintaining contact in third. Princeton put on what turned out to be the decisive move just after the 500 as they pulled even with the Badgers, who had no response. With every stroke moving them a few inches farther away from Wisco, Princeton just cranked it up to the finish line.

It was a nice row for the Tigers who were handed nothing by Wisconsin and Lawrence. Wisconsin also had a nice race, but just couldn't stay with Princeton. These boats were no doubt rowing together for only a few weeks so a fast race like this shows some skill and determination. Lawrence, on the other hand, showed that a small club program can hang with the big dogs. More than hang, they beat two Sprints schools and capped off a fantastic season. Judging by their margin over fourth place Duquesne (8 seconds here vs. 5 at Dad Vail), Lawrence stepped up it's speed over the last few weeks. They'll have a happy drive back to Appleton. Duquesne should also be proud of their season, also beating two Sprints schools (Georgetown and Radcliffe) in finishing fourth.

While there was a large spread within the field, some of that was certainly due to a bit of a late notice for the race (so not all invitees could make it) and the six boat only final. With more entries and heats, this race could certainly become an exciting addition to the regatta. As it was, this year's race was one of the more interesting on the schedule, although that was mostly because of the "unknown" factor.

The biggest loser of the race was absent Pitt. Certainly all of the competitors would like to have seen Pitt in the field, and with Princeton beating Pitt's Dad Vail margin over Lawrence by 5 seconds, the Tigers have every right to claim to be the fastest four in the land. In an ironic twist of fate, Princeton only got an entry slot because Pitt declined their invitation. To be sure, I doubt Pitt's absence was a case of the Panthers running from a fight, but with late notice of their invitation the crew just couldn't rearrange schedules to get to the regatta. That's too bad because it would've been a heck of a race.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

IRA Eights

Switch Princeton and Radcliffe, and we enter IRAs in a similar position to that of last year. Wisconsin coming off a Sprints win, Princeton (Radcliffe last year) coming off a strong regular season but with only a silver medal at Sprints, and Georgetown gaining speed throughout the season to finish third at Sprints. It all made for a rather unpredictable national championship regatta.

The favorites in this year's first heat are Wisconsin and Georgetown. Radcliffe probably has the best opportunity to send one of those two to the reps, especially now that they are able to bring the freshmen fully into the mix. Loyola Marymount will get a feel for an Ohio State crew that knocked off Long Beach State at Dad Vail, while MIT, which has struggled in the V8 this year, will see if it has a shot at the grand final.

The second heat may be the more difficult of the two, with Princeton and Stanford, two crews close in speed, facing UCF, Bucknell, Lehigh, and Long Beach State. UCF is a relative unknown, having last raced at Windermere in mid-April. Bucknell is a complete unknown, since they only boated a light eight twice, neither time against any crews at IRAs. Bucknell only lost a couple of athletes from last year's boat, but apparently some of last year's lightweights had some weight issues and may have made a permanent move to heavyweight. This will be a good test for LBS since although they've beaten Lehigh before, they haven't faced competition at the level of Princeton and Stanford. Lehigh gets a chance to show what they've learned from their Dad Vail experience. Of Stanford and Princeton, I actually think the Tigers may be in the most danger of finding themselves in the reps. Stanford is getting faster but having lost to Princeton before, will want to make sure no one sneaks up on them for second. If Princeton snoozes at all, they fall behind Stanford and are then worried about trying to stay ahead of Bucknell and UCF, two crews who could make a run at them. Sounds unlikely, but it happened to Wisconsin last year.

It's hard to imagine a final without Wisconsin, Georgetown, Princeton, and Stanford. Given Radcliffe's new pool of talent (even if there are no new faces in the boat), I suspect they'll pick up speed and make the grand. The battle for last place in the final should be a dog fight, and it's hard to call it now. Thanks to Stanford, I would guess that either Bucknell or UCF will race the petite after making last year's grand, but in no way is it a foregone conclusion that one of those two makes it in.

If we're completely honest about how the field looked at the beginning of the season, we'll admit that it looked weak. Other than Princeton, that is. While Wisconsin lost five from last year's boat, and everyone else lost at least two, Princeton lost none. None, by the way, from a boat that beat the Badgers in the heat in 2006. If this isn't the year of the Tiger, when will it be? Somehow, though, Princeton finds itself an underdog. The Tigers no doubt know what their issues are, and if they spent the last few weeks making some technical corrections and seat racing with that fast 2V, they could blow away the field. If they simply did pieces, they're in for disappointment. Wisconsin comes in with a young crew (four sophomores), but as the favorite. Their speed this year not only puts them in position to win their fourth national championship, but suggests that the string won't end this year. Stanford, meanwhile, could surprise everyone. With an even younger crew of three freshmen and one sophomore, the Cardinal is in a position to make a sustained run at the national championship. [Update: See comments for more information on the latest boatings.]

All signs point to another tight final this year, and given last year's surprising turn of events, just about anything can happen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

IRA Fours

The addition of the four to the IRA, even as an exhibition, is a great step forward for women's lightweight rowing. I don't know what will be used to determine if it becomes a permanent event, but I'm sure interest will be high. With a bit more notice more schools will be able to plan for the race and I would guess that it will become one of the more competitive events (both to enter and to win) at the IRA.

Pitt's absence from the field leaves us without an obvious favorite, although perhaps not everyone would agree. While Pitt beat up on the Knecht Cup field by almost 14 seconds, at Dad Vail Lawrence was within 7 seconds. The only boat in this field that didn't race either Lawrence or Pitt this spring is Princeton. The Tigers did, however, race Pitt in the HOCR, finishing 18 seconds back. This looked like a pretty big gap then, but now that we've seen Pitt race 2ks, it doesn't seem quite as large.

I think Lawrence, though, must be considered the favorite in this race. At only 13 seconds behind Pitt at Dad Vail, Duquesne can claim to be a likely second. Princeton's chances, I think, are tempered by how they approach this race. If they use it to race a fast boat - say the top four from their 2V - they've got to be one of the favorites. If on the other hand, they use it as a development race for some of their freshmen, they're not. The same goes for Wisconsin, Radcliffe, and Georgetown, although to a lesser extent since their 2Vs weren't up to Princeton's speed. With the quirkiness of the four though (meaning it takes more skill to row it well), any one of these crews could put out a very fast boat.

Lawrence's biggest enemy, I think, will be their lack of big race experience. Or really, just race experience. This didn't seem to bother them at Dad Vail, however, so they apparently know how to handle it. If they race with confidence and poise, Lawrence can pull this off. We can't count out Duquesne, however, because 5 seconds (Dad Vail time to Lawrence) isn't a huge gap to a crew that made up 20 seconds on Pitt between Knecht and Dad Vail. But with all of the Sprints schools unknowns, truly anything can happen. Without heats, each crew will have to watch the entire field for a sign of who will challenge, adding pressure to the coxswain's job. These fours could very well provide the most exciting racing of the regatta, a result that just might ensure a 2008 race.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Awards and Other Press

The CRCA scholar athlete awards came out and we have press releases for some of the winners. You can read about Radcliffe winners Blankstein, Conyngham, and Walro here. Stanford winners Coleman, Morawetz, and Prevost are announced here. [Update: You can also read about Buffalo's two scholar athletes, Barnum and Minardo, here, MIT's winner Schumacher here, and Georgetown's Goldman, Hupp, Moldawer, and Lipperini here. (Thanks to readers for pointing these out.)]

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin State Journal gives the Badgers some attention:

Over here is the men's rowing program, whose roots at the school can be traced to 1874. That's a good 15 years before football was introduced and 25 years before men's basketball came on the scene.

Over there is the women's lightweight program, which has won three straight national titles. The top-ranked Badgers have whipped all comers again this season and have an excellent shot at four consecutive crowns.

Their acute anonymity is tempered somewhat by the fact the men's and women's crews share new office and training headquarters inside the beautiful Porter Boathouse, which overlooks Lake Mendota.

For his "wow" statistic, the columnist notes that heavyweight coach Bebe Bryans said that "her student-athletes train more than 1,000 hours for every minute of actual racing."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Head of the Charles Changes Lightweight Limit

Although the elimination of Saturday practice seems to be the bigger news, the Head of the Charles also changed the limit for lightweight women. In the past lightweight boats averaged 130 with an individual maximum of 138 pounds. The new rule sets an individual limit of 133 with no averaging. I think this is a great move and I previously discussed my opposition to the old limits. The new rules were proposed by the lightweight committee of the CRCA. I'm still not at all certain why the limit isn't a straight 130. Why are you allowed to weigh more in the fall?

In any case, this is a good change and another sign of how the lightweight community is working together and starting to take control of their own destiny.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


While we languish in the calm before the storm (unless you're seat racing, that is), I thought I'd post a short video about the most recent US women's lightweight double. This is really a pitch for Philadelphia, but it talks about the 2x. Watch the video and take a look at this crew's length and catches. Pretty sweet.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lessons Learned

As we prepare for the 2007 IRA, one can't help but think about last year's dam opening that occurred during the championship races. Despite the fact that Rowing News and row2k never admitted that they published false information about the opening, there was one organization that acknowledged the problem and seems resolved to do their best to avoid a repeat - the ECAC, the regatta sponsor. While I still think it odd (and somewhat unethical) that the rowing press never admitted their mistakes in the reporting of the situation (Oh the shame, scooped by an anonymous blogger!), the ECAC had nothing to do with that and admitted the problem from the beginning. I'm pretty sure everyone will know when that dam is open and when it is closed this year.

About a month ago a story appeared in South Jersey's Courier-Post that gave some perspective to what the local authorities wrestle with when deciding when to open the Cooper River dam. This story dealt with local residents' concerns that the dam was kept open for the Knecht Cup, resulting in unnecessary flooding. This situation seems to be the opposite of last year's IRA when the dam was opened to the detriment of the regatta. (Recall that the issue last year, of course, was not that houses should be flooded for the regatta, it was communicating the state of the dam.) This Knecht Cup story leaves unanswered the question of why the dam wasn't opened until Sunday when the regatta ended Saturday afternoon, but it certainly gives you a good idea of the competing interests that must be balanced by the county. Take a look at some of the comments to this story to see just how sensitive an issue rowing on the Cooper is. Remember this when you're there in two weeks and have the urge to park in a no-parking zone or leave your Power Bar wrapper on the ground.

We're all praying for good weather for this year's IRA, but as an outdoor sport contested on nature's racecourses, problems will occur. This year, though, I feel pretty confident that they won't be of the man-made variety.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

IRA Notes

The MIT press release that came out last week noted that this year's Sprints was only the second time MIT has fielded a light eight in the event since becoming a varsity program. It also says that the novices will be in the mix for the IRA boat. Slowly but surely MIT is making steady progress in building the lightweight program. Their schedule includes the best the league has to offer so progress isn't always obvious, but it's there. Given a bit of time, MIT should be regularly challenging for Sprints medals.

Some readers wondered if UCF would have all of its lightweights available for the IRA even if the heavies are going to NCAAs. I said that according to NCAA rules I thought they would have everyone available other than any lights in the varsity boat (the only boat invited), but a reader responded by saying that rumor has it that UCF instituted their own rule barring heavyweight rowers from crossing over to lightweight for the IRA. The reason, apparently, is that the coaches don't want these athletes to worry about maintaining their weight during the heavyweight season for IRA. A short note from the hypocrisy file is that in larger scholarship programs there is often a great deal of pressure on "light" heavyweights (and often normal heavyweights as well) to gain weight. While I don't know if this is true at UCF, the notion of not worrying about weight often simply means that these women are encouraged to put on weight.

Another reader noted that these NCAA rules on how many championships a rower can race is one area where the NCAA has it right. I tend to agree. If you don't race the category all year you shouldn't race in a championship for that category. This is, however, a bit more problematic for lightweight women because the category is trying to grow and often happy for as much competition as possible. This kind of rule, of course, would exclude a boat like Bucknell. [Update: See reader comment disputing this, although it's not clear what "NCAA rules" have to do with lightweight rowing.]

Some readers have expressed confusion over the selection criteria for the IRA fours race. I agree that as stated there did seem to be a mix of purposes, but for this first one, I'd cut the organizers a bit of slack. Although it wasn't explained this way, it seems to make sense to me if you view the invitations as simply going to those boats that have won championships. By including smaller or "developing" school championships you get the broad range of fours available. I admit that the selection criteria for the "IRA programs" was somewhat less clear and the lack of a light four at Sprints will create problems in the future. Once some of the various champions were unable to make the event, the invitations did not revert to a "developing program" criterion, and shouldn't have. While there was not much of a drop off in speed going to Dad Vail silver medalist Lawrence, to continue to move down through that field would start to miss the point of the IRA. If the event continues, surely the only criterion can be victories in major regattas, since the IRA is not about simply providing a venue for a couple of races.

As other readers have noted, this year's event will not settle any questions of the fastest four in the nation. Some schools had scheduling conflicts due to the late notice (most notably Pitt), while it's not clear that the Sprints schools will be boating their top fours. Some of these schools may be using the event as a "development" race of their own. More important though, is the fact that this race is being staged at all. This is a huge step and, as another reader has noted, lightweight women beat lightweight men to getting a fours race at IRAs. That is a big deal.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rankings - For the Last Time

For the last time this year, we'll take a look at the rankings, starting with the coaches' poll. The top six boats stayed the same, but Ohio State made a huge jump from 14 to 7. This was precipitated, of course, by their Dad Vail victory. Long Beach State jumped from unranked to 8th, also as a result of their Dad Vail performance.

Buffalo drops one spot to 9th, and LMU also drops to 10th. LMU's rank below both Buffalo and Long Beach State is curious. The Lions raced LBS twice, winning both times. The last win was by a sliver, but a win nonetheless. They seem to be in the wrong place to me, but since all these boats should be going to the IRA, we'll find out soon enough. One other interesting move here is Bucknell's drop from 7th to 12th. I'm not sure what might have caused a coach who has been voting Bucknell 7th to now drop them, unless there is some concern about whether they can actually field a light eight or if the eight will be competitive.

In looking at the cMax rankings, we should begin by looking at last week's rank and margins, and how they compared to the actual margins at Sprints.

Margin cMax Actual Difference
Wisconsin - - -
Princeton 2.8 2.63 (0.17)
Georgetown 10.3 6.03 (4.27)
Radcliffe 13.0 12.57 (0.43)
MIT 24.5 46.36 21.86

With the exception of MIT and, to some extent Georgetown, it was awfully close. Georgetown got faster and most observers would have predicted a result closer to cMax's estimate. In the current rankings, the margins don't change a great amount, and once again OSU gets a big bump up from 18th to 6th. At this point, you should have a pretty good idea what a huge win Dad Vail was for the Buckeyes. UCF hangs in at 7 and here LMU is ranked 8th, above LBS and Buffalo. Interestingly, Dayton sneaks in at 9th. I'd say the cMax poll gives us a pretty good idea of where we stand right now.

As an aside, I want to mention the Georgetown press release on the Hoya's Sprints performance. It covers the usual ground, but includes this quote from Coach O'Connor:
Due to the success these girls have had over the last two seasons it might be easy for people to forget that only two years ago we lost this race by 19 seconds. The group has come a long way and it is a good sign of the continued improvement of the entire squad.
Excellent point and again, this is the same position Georgetown was in last year when they won silver at IRAs.

Comments on the IRA Fours

The Exhibition race for women's lightweight fours that will be held at the IRA (see previous post) is, of course, a tremendous step forward for lightweight women. Many programs that are unable to put out competitive light eights, are able to boat extremely competitive light fours. For this reason, a fours event at the IRA is even more meaningful for the lightweight women. The addition of this race (although on a temporary basis at the moment), is another sign of the growth of the category. At Sprints this year, the spread among the top three boats was as tight as among the top three heavyweight boats, with first and second even closer among the lights than the heavies. At Dad Vail, the spread was a little wider, but still compared favorably among the top three. At lower levels, of course, the category continues to see a wider dispersion, but it's not what it was just a few years ago. This is an exciting new initiative and I feel confident it will be successful this year and become a permanent event.

As for the selection process, it's hard to get too worked up about an exhibition race (which I suppose simply means no medals, no championship, and temporary for now), but let's take a quick look. It's pretty hard to argue with the idea of inviting the gold medalists from the A-10, WIRA, SIRA and Dad Vail. This provides an opportunity for boats who rarely, or never, race at the IRA to do so (perhaps the PCRC champs could be added). More importantly, however, it makes those championship regattas that much more meaningful. The boats that receive invitations because they are champions, earned their invitations on the water. Although a reader has posted that Pitt will not be racing, I desperately hope they can work out their conflicts because they deserve to race at the pinnacle of collegiate rowing. (BTW, see Pitt story here.) I'm also thrilled for Lawrence. I would argue that the Dad Vail fours silver should be invited before the WIRA eights silver, but Long Beach's entry in the eight mooted that concern. It can be hard to imagine what this kind of exposure can mean to a school like Lawrence if you've never worked your butt off for a club program that is all but unknown at your school (of course, this is true for most club programs, Pitt included). It's hard not to have a soft spot for this little school in Wisconsin that's coming to the big stage. As the winner of A-10s, Duquesne deserves an invite as well.

I find the IRA program invites a bit more curious. The theme for the other invites is that they earned it on the water this year. The IRA boats are invited based on what they did a year ago in an unrelated boat. Unrelated because the rowers in the four would come from the 2V eight, not the varsity eight. A look back at the past several years shows that rarely does the V8 winner also win the V4, suggesting that there is no correlation between the two.

It seems to me that there two more logical ways to choose the IRA program fours. The first, and best, is to pick the gold and silver medalists in the 2V at Sprints. The fours from these programs will be made up of athletes from the 2V and this is where those athletes proved themselves on the water. The speed of last year's 1V says little about the worthiness of this year's 2V athletes. The other option is to invite the gold and silver medalists from last year's Sprints fours final. Although it still relies on a performance from a year ago, at least it's in the right boat.

Now, let's compare. The IRA programs that are actually coming are Wisconsin and Georgetown (Radcliffe gets in through a loophole). If the preferred option were used it would be Princeton and Radcliffe. Given the Tigers' victory at Sprints, it's pretty hard, well, impossible, to argue that Princeton doesn't have the most deserving 2V athletes. I suppose it's possible that Wisconsin's and Georgetown's best four are as fast as Princeton's best four, and that the 20+ seconds was all due to the relative quality of the next four, but that stretches too far for me. If we used the second method the invitees would be Princeton and Radcliffe again. (Oh, and don't forget that Princeton was just after Pitt at the HOCR.) Because Radcliffe gets in through a loophole, it looks like Princeton is really the program that suffers here.

One is tempted to wonder about MIT. After all, they did beat a Princeton four during the season. The problem there is, with the Sprints programs concentrating on 2Vs instead of fours, we have no idea who was in either four. The boats weren't put together with an IRA invitation in mind, so we can't really look to that race. Nonetheless, it does seem as if MIT should be there, but I can't think of formula that puts them in the race.

The upshot of all this is that all of the right boats seem to be involved except for Princeton. It's difficult to get too exercised over an exhibition race, but it just misses being a race of this year's top fours.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

About the IRA Fours Race

Steve Kish was kind enough to explain how the lightweight four event at the IRA came into being and how the invitees were selected for this year's exhibition race:

CRCA Lightweight Committee met over the winter and one of the initiatives that came of its meeting was the goal of increasing participation in the lightweight eight at the IRA. In addition to encouraging the eights to attend (good to see LMU and Long Beach coming this year), the thought was to also encourage programs that are still developing and perhaps racing the lightweight four, in the hopes that the experience would lead those programs to put together an eight for the next year. It is not meant to be exclusive nor do we think it is the perfect system and I am sure there are plenty of ways to look at the idea and poke holes in it. Long of the short is that a number of programs who have never raced at the IRA will be there this year. We’ll see where it goes from there.

It took a while to get the idea off the ground and definitely on the program. Very happy that the IRA (Gary Caldwell) was supportive and the CRCA lwt committee is very happy that they agreed, as are all the coaches I have been in contact with. It is an exhibition and we’ll see how it goes. It is a six boat straight final on Friday afternoon.

The initial idea was to invite the gold medalists from the A-10, WIRA, SIRA and Dad Vail. The other two spots were to be filled by the top lwt eights programs based on their finish from the previous IRA. So, that is Wisconsin and Georgetown .

Duquesne accepted the invite. LMU is coming in the eight, not in the four. Georgia could not accept as a result of scheduling conflicts. And Pitt is still working on their scheduling conflicts but we hope they will be able to come. The scheduling conflicts are a result of me not getting the word out soon enough. Hopefully, if all runs well this year, it will be something that everyone will be aware of right from the start next year.

Without the WIRA champ available as they are coming in the eight, the next idea was to invite the WIRA silver, but that is Long Beach and they are also coming in an eight. The decision was then made to simply find the most competitive non-IRA program and invite it. So the next one on the list was from the Dad Vail, and that is Lawrence . They have accepted. Brock was considered but the IRA would like to keep the regatta as a US championship, as is the general IRA as well as the NCAA, etc.

So, the sixth spot has been filled by Radcliffe, as they were third at last year’s IRA.

Stanford made a case for their four which won the PCRC’s. But, again, based on the spirit of what we were trying to do, it didn’t make sense to bring a VL4 from Stanford, when Stanford is also rowing a lwt eight. Radcliffe on the other hand, is being invited based on last year’s finish, similar to Wisconsin and Georgetown .

So, currently it is Duquesne, Lawrence , Wisconsin , Georgetown , Radcliffe and hopefully Pitt.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

About Last Week

This blog is about lightweight women's rowing and therefore the growth of lightweight women's rowing. One of the things holding back that growth, is the commonly held idea that lightweight women rowers are more likely to have eating disorders than their college attending female peers. I have never seen any studies that support that notion and therefore I believe it to be a red herring. I could certainly be wrong, but I just have yet to see anything to suggest that.

This idea seems to be held most strongly by the NCAA and certain athletic directors and heavyweight coaches. As a counter, I like to point out the hypocrisy of thinking proportionately more lightweights have eating disorders, while not also worrying that proportionately more heavyweights have a BMI above 25. (Both of which, by the way, I suspect are false.) The Yale "Food" video was a perfect example of this. As I said, had this been done by lightweights, alarm bells would have been rung all over campus. I, however, thought it would have been as funny done by lightweights as it was done by heavyweights.

In this case, my target was the NCAA and all of those who believe that lightweights are destined to eating disorders. The heavyweights simply suffered collateral damage. As those who have read this blog for any length of time know, I'm not about to let worries about political correctness stop me from telling the emperor he has no clothes.

There is another point. I've known for some time that certain readers were using FITD to mock lightweight rowing. Although it was unintended, the "Food" post smoked those readers out. I could not ask for a more powerful statement of why lightweights cannot leave their fate in the hands of predominantly heavyweight organizations (i.e. CRCA and NCAA) than the kind of sentiments that were posted as comments. (This attitude is hardly new. We've come across it before.) It's hard to work to grow the category with people who don't even believe you should exist. I'll no doubt refer and link to those comments for some time. When you read them, you have to ask yourself if they're shared by those readers' coaches, the very CRCA coaches entrusted with ensuring the health and growth of women's lightweight rowing.

Monday, May 14, 2007

2007 Pacific Coast Rowing Championships

The West Coast did some racing last weekend too, as the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships were held on Lake Natoma. In the eight, it was no surprise as the number three ranked boat in the nation, Stanford, easily took care of Loyola Marymount. This may seem like a sideshow to the weekend, but I would suggest that the eastern crews take notice. While we saw Georgetown and Radcliffe close up on Princeton and Wisconsin, Stanford widened its margin over an improving LMU crew by over 10 seconds! Clearly the Cardinal hasn't been sitting still. Need I remind you that Stanford only lost to Wisconsin by 3.1 seconds, while Princeton just lost to them by 2.6 seconds. And Stanford raced the Badgers 2 weeks ago. One could make a good case that Stanford should be ranked second right now. This year's IRA is shaping up to be potentially the best ever (uh, wasn't that just last year?).

In the fours, Stanford also came away with gold, beating second place Humboldt State by 18 seconds. UCSD was third, followed by University of the Pacific and Cal.

Wingnuts and Washers From the Weekend

A presser about Dayton's silver in the JV eight at Dad Vail originally called the boat the "lightweight eight." Perhaps they did a Bucknell after all. This link, though, goes to the "2nd varsity" story.

The Stanford and LMU pressers about PCRCs are here and here.

Sprints stories are up for Wisconsin, Princeton, and Radcliffe.

Wisconsin also won the inaugural Konrad Ulbrich Team Trophy, another feather to put in the Badger cap. Also, a few people mentioned that one of the Wisco rowers was a bit wobbly on the awards dock after the race. Unbelievably (because I watched the medal presentation) I missed it all. You know, rowers always joke about passing out on the last stroke of the race, but few actually pull it off. This woman apparently came pretty close and nothing more can possibly be said about giving your all. What a testament not only to the intensity of the race, but to the spirit and heart of that athlete.