Friday, December 30, 2005

How Many Lightweight Programs Are There? (cont.)

(Continuing with my last two posts, below)
So, what conclusions might we walk out on a limb and draw from this data?

- Women'’s lightweight rowing is strong (stronger than I might have thought) and may actually be growing. The boats that win Sprints and IRAs are at the top of a very big heap, a much bigger heap than most of the rowing world believes.

- If more regattas offered lightweight events, it seems as though there would be more consistent lightweight crews. If this is true, it wouldn'’t happen at once, because teams would have to believe that the events will be there on a regular basis before they would be willing to actually commit to them.

- These numbers, and experience with Dad Vail and ECAC level crews, suggests that the number of lightweight rowers is large, even though the big scholarship programs don'’t have lightweights at all.

- Low lightweight entries at a regatta like the Eastern Sprints reflects few Eastern Sprints schools with lightweights, not few schools throughout the country.

- The relatively large gap in speed from the top lightweight eights to the next group is a result of focus, not lack of rowers. Those schools that are beginning to focus on lightweights are moving into the top ranks. For examples look at Georgetown and Stanford. Now that URI and UCF are beginning to focus there, we'’ll see how they progress.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

How Many Lightweight Programs Are There? (cont.)

(Continuing with my last post, below)
Of the 71 schools racing lightweight boats in 2005, 20 did not race lightweights in 2004. Conversely, 23 schools did not race lightweights in 2005, but did in 2004. Among those racing eights, 15 schools dropped off after 2004 and 9 started in 2005, while among fours 18 dropped after 2004 and 23 picked up in 2005. I also wondered about the movement between eights and fours. Of the 9 additional schools racing eights in 2005, 6 raced fours in 2004. Among fours, of the 23 adds in 2005, 17 raced eights in 2004.

Assuming that these two years are typical years (which I cannot support statistically), there seems to be about 50 schools that consistently race lightweights, with another 40 (roughly 20 drops and 20 adds from ’04 to ’05) moving in and out over the years. This totals up to 90, which is similar to the 85 to 90 I got from adding the CRCA schools to either the 2004 or 2005 totals. By the way, the CRCA list totaled 53 schools which is, of course, darn close to the 50 consistent lightweight schools I’ve just calculated. So, although I really can’t say that this result is statistically sound, it sure feels pretty good. My conclusion, then, is that there are about 85 to 90 schools racing women’s lightweight boats at least every few years.

A few interesting points about these drops and adds. Purdue, winner of the lightweight eight at the 2004 Dad Vail, didn’t even race an eight in 2005. They did race a heavyweight eight, finishing fourth. Meanwhile Dayton, winner of the Dad Vail lightweight eight in 2005, didn’t race an eight in 2004 (although it did race the eight elsewhere in ’04). Dayton did not race any women’s boats at the ’04 Dad Vail. Perhaps Dayton saw the light in ’05 and concentrated on lightweights, believing (correctly) that they had a better chance there. The Purdue coach, though, needs to answer the truthteller question, “Which were you happier with – the lightweight gold medal in 2004 or a heavyweight fourth place in 2005?” I wonder how many lightweights were in that Purdue boat?

Next post, some conclusions.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

How Many Lightweight Programs Are There?

With so many new collegiate rowing programs, varsity and club, springing up around the country, it’s hard to keep track of how many schools actually have teams. Given the ephemeral nature of some women’s lightweight crews, this is especially true for that part of the rowing universe. Superficially at least, a count seems to be important as a way of establishing a baseline for the popularity of women’s lightweights as well as providing some context for how the category fits into US collegiate rowing. With crews racing as heavyweights one week and lightweights the next, counting is nearly impossible, but certainly worth a try.

I have to admit up front that although it took some work to gather the small set of statistics I used, that set is severely limited and my results should be seen only as anecdotal evidence. For my count I looked at all race results listed on row2k for 2004 and 2005. Alarm bells go off immediately because two years cannot show a trend (but counting more years = even more time consuming) and more races take place than those covered by row2k. In addition, row2k results are limited by the descriptions coaches supply and I suspect (although I can’t be sure) that some lightweight boats raced as heavyweights but didn’t note their lightweight status. In addition, some races were combination races of lightweights and other boats, and I didn’t count those unless the lightweight boats were designated. The race and school totals I have should therefore be considered to be minimum numbers. With those caveats, on to the statistics.

In 2004, a total of 74 schools raced lightweight fours or eights. Thirty-four schools raced eights and 58 raced fours (some raced both, of course). These schools raced lightweight boats 274 times (not counting “B” boats) – 143 eights and 131 fours. In 2005, 71 schools raced lightweight boats, with 28 racing eights and 63 racing fours. These schools raced 302 boats – 143 eights and 159 fours. In addition, a reader was kind enough to send me the list of schools claiming to have lightweight teams from the latest CRCA meeting. Comparing that list to my own, I note that there are an additional 14 schools which could bring the total up to 85 or so.

Does that number surprise you? It surprises me. The NCAA web site lists 144 DI, DII, and DIII schools that sponsor women’s rowing. I think 85 compares pretty favorably to that, particularly given that a lack of NCAA sponsorship for lightweights when heavyweights are sponsored amounts to a tacit campaign to kill lightweight rowing. (Keep in mind that the 85 is not a subset of the 144 because some of the 85 are club teams not recognized by the NCAA.) Contrary to conventional wisdom, not only is lightweight rowing not dying, it appears to be growing. A jump from 274 boats raced in 2004 to 302 in 2005 is a pretty big move. The sponsoring schools stayed roughly the same so there must have been some increase in racing opportunities for lightweight crews. At the very least, there was an increase in depth of field.

As you would expect, more schools raced fours than eights. Even though the number of eights raced is pretty close to the number of fours (even more in 2004), that resulted from fewer schools racing their eights more often. The greater number of fours could suggest that schools have fewer lightweights than heavyweights (assuming nearly all also race heavy eights), but it could also mean that coaches are using their best lightweights in their heavyweight boats. For all we know schools are racing heavyweight boats that are really mostly lightweights with a few heavyweights added in. In this case the prominence of heavyweight rowing blinds coaches to the opportunity they have to make a name for their program racing lightweights. It’s all speculation though, because the numbers alone tell us nothing about what is really happening.

In my next post I’ll look at how many schools dropped between 2004 and 2005 and how many added on.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

FISA Says Lightweights Rock!

Well, not exactly, but in a roundup of recent sports honors from around the world, a FISA report noted that lightweights (including men) won 7 of the 13 awards covered. Melanie Kok, a rower at the University of Virginia, was a member of Canada's world champion lightweight quad which won the Rowing Canada Aviron International Achievement Award. This is particularly interesting because UVa is usually seen as a "meat" program. Maybe that reputation is undeserved or maybe Melanie is the outstanding exception that proves the rule. Either way, it makes one wonder where the US lightweight national team members come from - the major collegiate lightweight programs, occasional lightweight programs, or smaller heavyweight programs. A quick look at last year's 7 national team members reveals their college teams to be Simmons, St. Joe's, Vermont, Cal, UCSD, George Mason, and Emory. As best I can tell, there are only two or three that frequently row lightweight (St. Joe's, UCSD, and Emory), and none with a dedicated lightweight program. The Cal rower, Julie Nichols, rowed as a heavyweight. I would have expected to see some representation from Wisconsin, Radcliffe, Princeton, Stanford, or Georgetown. The national heavyweight powers usually seem to be well represented on the national team, why not the lightweights? Of course, there are so few lightweight slots that any one year could give a distorted view.

This also suggests that there are a lot of good lightweights in smaller programs rowing as heavyweights. Perhaps if coaches weren't so fixated on heavyweights they would realize that they could boat nationally competitive lightweight boats instead of regionally competitive heavyweight boats. Maybe the problem is no lightweight events. As I go through results for the past couple of years to see how many schools row lightweight, it seems clear that many row heavyweight as a matter of course, but always enter a lightweight boat when there is a lightweight event. Regatta organizers would no doubt say that they would offer lightweight events if there was demand. It's hard to train and race a lightweight boat, though, when you never know if there will be an event for it.

Speaking of the national team, by now you've seen the USRowing yearbook. It was disappointing that of 9 color pictures of the US senior national team, the silver medal winning lightweight 2x was in none. Their only picture was as a watermark on the background of a page of text. What's a girl gotta do...? (There are some good shots of Wisco, though.)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Miami Also Brings in Lightweights

Miami announced the signing of five recruits for the class of 2010, three of whom raced as lightweights in high school. Of the other two, one is a coxswain. It's more likely that Miami plans to beef the girls up rather than start a lightweight program, but I think it's unusual to see a heavyweight program with three lightweights out of four early recruits.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Tulsa Recruits Lightweights

Tulsa announced that it signed four recruits for the class of 2010,three of whom are lightweights from Saratoga. The Saratoga Rowing Association has had a lot of success lately in lightweight junior rowing and these recruits sound like they have some impressive results on their resumes. Coach Kevin Harris said, "Lightweights are going to become more important as we move forward and we are glad to have them."

Better Late Than Never for Wisconsin

The Wisconsin State Journal published an article today titled, "Some love for UW's other coaching gems." Yup, one of those gems is Mary Shofner, the Wisco lightweight coach. The columnist, though, makes her split the credit for two national championships with heavyweight coach Bebe Bryans. Yes, Bryans is the head women's coach, but c'mon, this was Shofner's crew. Not to mention, Bryans was still at Michigan State for the 2004 title. Nonetheless, it's good to see Shofner and the Wisconsin lightweights getting some credit.

Post Frequency and Topics

Erg season (known as "winter" to the common folk) can be a slow time for rowing news. Heck, even Rowing News slows down its publication frequency. I'm going to try to stick to a schedule of posting at least once each week, probably over the weekend. It'll pick up, of course, when we get into the racing season.

Some topics I hope to cover over the winter:
- When is Four Greater Than Eight? Just how many lightweight programs are there?
- A discussion of the commonly given reasons for not having a lightweight program. (I already started this.)
- All Lightweights are Anorexic, Right? Yes, I'll discuss the eating disorder stereotype. It's a discussion that is usually uncomfortable and uninformed and I'll try to avoid both.
- Preseason ranking. V8s for sure, V4s if I decide I really don't mind making a fool of myself.

Finally, thanks for your comments, they are interesting, informed, and help give me post topics. Speaking of which, if there's anything you would like to see covered, let me know.

Monday, December 12, 2005

How Can You Compete Against Wisconsin's Numbers?

It only seems natural to wonder if Wisconsin might not become dominant in lightweight rowing, simply because with a larger student body than most of the competition they have so many more potential athletes to recruit from. Looking at last year's final top 10 rankings, there are two schools with larger student bodies - UCSB and Ohio State - but those programs are not varsity (I'm only concerned with undergraduate populations). Interestingly, last year's second place boat, Princeton, had the second smallest undergraduate population at 4,678, just 100 more than Lehigh. Wisconsin has 29,078 undergraduates. I also suspected that Wisconsin might offer some scholarship money for lightweights, but a reader told me that is no longer true. If Princeton, Radcliffe, and Stanford are able to offer some admissions preference to rowers, that certainly helps them compete for recruits with Wisco. Studies have shown that rowers are likely to be the smartest group of athletes on campus so that means that many are potential candidates for admission into those selective schools (and of course, lightweights are smartest among rowers!), but there are many more who are not. How then, can schools like Princeton and Radcliffe continue to compete with fewer high school recruits to choose from (due to admissions requirements) and fewer walk-ons to recruit (due to smaller student populations)? Radcliffe's situation is somewhat tempered by the fact that they have a large student body (9,519), but they certainly have difficult admissions requirements. Princeton has a very difficult situation with tough admissions and a small student body. Even worse is a school like Lehigh with very few, if any, recruits, selective admissions, and a small student body. On the other hand, some of the state schools should have a lot of potential if they can just improve recruiting. Ohio State has over 35,000 undergraduates from which to recruit. Of the 2005 top ten schools, however, only four have student populations over 10,000, a reflection of the dearth of scholarships and varsity programs in many of those schools.

This situation should even be worse for the heavyweights. With all of the scholarship money sloshing around those programs, Ivy schools, which are unable to offer scholarships, and small schools should have problems competing. Of last year's top ten heavyweight boats, 6 have student populations over 10,000 with a seventh, Radcliffe, at close to 10,000. Because of the lack of scholarship money in lightweight programs, the smaller schools are probably better able to compete and admissions preferences for varsity programs are a big recruiting advantage. It's hard to think of another sport (hockey maybe?) in which small schools can win national championships. It's hard to imagine that small schools can remain competitive in heavyweight rowing for too much longer, although only time will tell. Although every lightweight rower would like to be on scholarship, it's the lack of scholarships that make lightweight rowing as competitive as it is. There's a pretty wide disparity between the first tier and the second tier of V8s, but that seems to be narrowing as some occasional lightweight schools are adding permanent lightweight programs. The NCAA's presence in heavyweight rowing has had quite an effect on that sport, bringing big scholarship money, tiers of competition (DI, DII, DIII), and removal of the heavyweight women's championship from the wider rowing community. I've heard heavyweight coaches say this is all a good thing, but I have my doubts. I think that lightweight rowing is the place where small schools will continue to be nationally competitive, and smart coaches will increase their focus on lightweights for that very reason.

This discussion raises another question, - just how many women's lightweight programs are there? Over the next week or so I'll be doing some research into that question and will post my results to see if they square with what you think.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Fight in the Dog's Best in Show - 2005 Fall WLV4 Rankings

My 2005 fall rankings based on fall results:

1 Princeton
2 Radcliffe
3 Georgetown
4 Cal
5 SUNY Buffalo
6 Pitt
8 Villanova
9 Duquesne
10 NC State

Just like the V8 ranking, this is a fall ranking, not a spring pre-season ranking, so there is no speculation about who will do well in the spring. Also, when I mention race finishes below, I refer to finishing place among college crews only.

This ranking is controversial right from the start because although Princeton beat Radcliffe at the HOCR, Radcliffe beat Princeton pretty handily at the Chase. Nonetheless, I'll stick to my principle of the HOCR being the fall championship race so Princeton gets Number 1. In the V8 Radcliffe did well at the Chuck but did poorly at the Chase - maybe they were switching people between boats. Next is Georgetown which comes in at number 3 although they did not race in Boston. They move ahead of third place Boston finisher Cal because they were closer to Princeton at the Chase than Cal was at the HOCR. Cal comes in at 4 by virtue of its excellent performance at the Charles.

The rest of the field sorted itself out between the Head of the Ohio and the Head of the Elk where they all raced each other or raced someone who beat someone else who... SUNY Buffalo won the Head of the Ohio which propelled them into 5th, followed by Pitt who was second in Pittsburgh. Number 7 CMU might think they should be higher by virtue of their 3rd place finish at the HOCR, but they were 3rd at the Head of the Ohio. Number 8 Villanova was 4th at both the Head of the Ohio and the HOCR. Number 9 Duquesne makes the field by beating NC State, which comes in at 10, at the Occoquan Challenge.

The big question is what happened to NC State, which won the Head of the South and the Hooch? Once they lost the Occoquan Challenge to Duquesne, which was 6th at the Head of the Ohio, they were out of the running for a higher ranking. It's not clear this is fair, but in the absence of any other evidence, that's the way it is. NC State's result at Occoquan also devalued everyone who raced at the Hooch. Other than NC State, the only boat to race any other ranked boats was Miami (Ohio) which was last (among colleges) at both the Hooch and the Ohio. Given the relatively large field at the Hooch, it's hard to believe it wasn't a more consequential race, but the results speak for themselves. Of course, if NC State had beaten Duquesne at the Occoquan, this would've been much tougher.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Should the Weight Limit be Raised?

An argument I've heard several heavyweight coaches make is that it's not realistic to expect college age women to still meet the same 130 pound weight limit that high school girls meet. The difference between a high school freshman and a college senior is huge in all aspects - physical, mental, and social - and the weight limit needs to be higher in college. Underlying this argument, I think, is the notion that college women have to lose too much weight to get down to 130. I have two points in response to this, one more obvious than the other.

My first point is that I'm not sure the high school weight limit is relevant. The claim is that 130 is too low for college women, but maybe it's too high for high school girls. There may be an argument to be made that high school and college weight limits should be different, but that is independent of any argument about what the college weight limit should be. I've addressed that topic in a previous post. There I took a look at national height and weight figures which lead one to the conclusion that the average 19 year old woman is a 130 pound lightweight. I don't know how the 130 pound limit was originally arrived at, but I've not heard an argument why it should be different for college, only why it shouldn't be the same as high school. One argument would be that the average athletic woman will weigh more (muscle weighs more than fat) but, again, I haven't heard that.

Now for the obvious point. Raising the weight limit will not result in fewer women who need to lose weight to row lightweight, it will result in the same amount of heavier women who need to lose weight to row lightweight. Raising the limit simply shifts the "possible lightweight" weight range up by the same amount the limit was raised. Any issues with weight loss still have the same solution - responsible programs with responsible coaches who only race natural lightweights.

There may be an argument for raising the college weight limit, but if so, it has nothing to do with what the high school limit is. Actually, 130 seems about right to me. Lightweights now get pretty close to heavyweight boats and a boatload of 140 or 145 pounders would be right on them. The weight limit needs to be low enough to provide an obvious strength difference from heavyweights, but high enough to include a large proportion of the population. One-thirty seems to do a pretty good job on both counts.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Should Lightweights be Sculling?

Of the nine lightweight women who race in a world championship, all but 2 (LW2-, has that been raced since 2003?) scull. The two lightweight women who race at the Olympics (LW2x) scull. Should lightweight women be sculling in college?

Not every college rower has the desire to make the national team, and even fewer have the ability, but for those who do, their future lies in sculling. College students row for the glory of the sport and for the glory of their school, not because they are in a feeder system for the national team. In reality, however, they are. There are no LeBron Jameses in rowing and the national team relies on colleges to do their part in nurturing high potential rowers. Many of our best rowers don't even think about the national team until after they've graduated and their whole competitive experience until that point is college rowing, meaning sweep rowing. Because the United States gets thrashed year in and year out (my apologies to last summer's world silver medal winners in the lightweight 2x) in sculling, there has been much handwringing over the emphasis on sweep rowing in our scholastic and collegiate rowing programs. Given USRowing's new emphasis on small boats that hand wringing has become wails of lamentation. Of course, not much is being done about it because this country is in love with big boats. And why not? They're big, fast, and get a lot of people rowing. They're fun to watch. Nonetheless, in the Olympics they only count for one medal. In the past we've been happy winning one rowing medal as long as that medal is in the eight. No longer.

If you want to be an Olympian as a lightweight woman, you want to be a sculler. Chances are though, that you won't learn to scull until you are 21 or 22. The old saying is true - it's easier to teach a sculler to sweep than to teach a sweeper to scull - and our competition has been sculling for years longer than we have. Why not then, try to close the gap a bit and have lightweight collegiate sculling events? Sculling is better for the body, teaches better boat feel and boat handling skills, teaches sweep rowers to row on both sides, and quads go nearly as fast as eights. Just think how much more fun it would be if these big fields of fours at Dad Vails were big fields of quads! The A10 has made some efforts to bring sculling to its member schools and I believe a quad event is part of its conference championships. Maybe more conferences should do this, particularly for lightweight women. After all, sculling requires more skill so it should be perfect for lightweights!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Speaking of Ergs...

Columbia's Elizabeth Peters won the 19-23 lightweight women's race at the Euro Open European Championships in Copenhagen. Libby is a member of the US Indoor Rowing Team and won with a 7:22.8. The interesting thing about this is that Columbia doesn't have a lightweight women's team. No doubt she's beaten out a lot of heavyweights to make Columbia's V8. The women's open lightweight winning time? 7:07.3.

Ergs Don't Float, Do They?

A FITD reader wrote about her dislike of erg season because on the water her lightweight four is equal to or faster than her crew's heavy four, but on the erg they regularly get beat by the same women. As depressing as this may be, the first thing to remember is that for rowers, the erg exists for one reason - to help you go faster on the water. Crossing a finish line first, in a boat, is all that matters. Nonetheless, a cult has built up around the erg because in the ultimate team sport it provides a chance for individual glory. It provides a way to objectively measure and rank rowers and gives coaches a starting point for setting boats. For the less competent coaches it provides the only measure they need to set boats. Twenty-five years ago erg scores were taken with a grain of salt because, as everyone knew, ergs didn't float. They cost thousands of dollars and crews with tight budgets didn't feel a real need to spend money on one. As they became a critical part of national team testing procedures, however, it became obvious to all that they were useful tools and that no serious crew could be without them. (It also helped that Concept II came out with a much less expensive version.) At a time when Mike Teti has been quoted as saying (I'm paraphrasing), "Just give me a big erg, I'll teach him to row," it's understandable that a rower's world seems to revolve around the erg.

The erg, though, has actually helped make some crews go slower. How? The erg has produced "meat" coaches. Meat coaches are women's heavyweight coaches who recruit based almost solely on size, because size generally equals bigger erg scores. (Interestingly, meat coaches seem to be more likely at schools with major football programs.) These coaches are unable to get beyond a girl's erg score and therefore don't so much coach, as simply test. They are like athletic proctors, giving tests, ranking rowers, and setting boats. When recruiting, they only ask two questions - what is your erg score and how big are you? This is the recruiting scavenger hunt - they believe that if they can find the biggest girls, they'll have the fastest boats. What they fail to do (or can't do), is coach. As a result they get beaten by crews who have been coached and actually know how to row. These are the people who give women's rowing a bad name because they simply eyeball girls and offer them scholarships. No wonder other athletes, who have been working at their sport since they were twelve without earning a scholarship, believe women's heavyweight rowing is a joke.

Lightweight coaches, however, don't have the luxury of trying to "out big" the opposition. Everyone weighs the same so they actually have to teach women how to row and row well. If you want to find a good undiscovered coach look for a good lightweight coach. Ergs are just as valuable for training and measurement for lightweights as for heavyweights, but lightweight coaches know that they can't rely on erg scores alone to set boats. They know that there is more to it - technique, obviously, but also heart, guts, and determination. A will to win. There are days when a heavyweight lines up at the starting line, looks over at her opponents, and based on size alone knows that she should have an easy race of it. That never happens to a lightweight. She can never count on winning a race through size. This means that champion lightweights have to be more scrappy, more gutsy, and have more heart. Champion heavyweights are champions because they race like lightweights.

But back to the erg. Yes, heavyweights should be able to pull a better score than lightweights. (This, by the way, is why the Midget Basketball League argument against lightweight rowing is flawed. As erg scores show, rowing is a strength sport, which always have weight classes.) So then, how could a heavyweight lose on the water to a lightweight? Technique is an obvious answer, followed by all of the intangibles discussed above. But there is another way to use erg scores - weight adjust them.

Weight adjusted erg scores started out as a way for lightweights to feel good about themselves. They were supposed to measure some notion of efficiency, but who really cared about efficiency if you still lost the boat race? No matter what your weight you have to pull along your own body weight plus the weight of the boat and the weight of the coxswain. If you don't take this extra weight into account you're kidding yourself with a weight adjustment. Concept II, however, has a weight adjustment calculator that does take these things into account. It also accounts for the additional drag a heavyweight boat has because it sits lower in the water. The next time you take an erg test run your score and the heavyweight scores through this calculator to see how you really did. Both scores have to be adjusted because the calculator tells you the time for an eight made up of rowers with your score. You may find you're still behind on the erg (remember those intangibles), but you'll have a better picture of who can really move a boat.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dad Vail Fours vs. Eights

A reader posted a comment to a post on dedicated lightweight programs suggesting that the real race at Dad Vails is lightweight fours because that event has more competitors than lightweight eights. This comment was followed by another taking issue with that statement, saying that the light eight winner was closer in speed to the open 8 winner than was the light 4 winner to the open 4 winner.

Both are correct in their facts. There were 18 light four entries vs. just 5 in the light 8, but the light 4 was 3.3% slower than the heavy 4 while the light 8 was only 2.5% slower than the heavy 8. To try to understand what this means, we need to look for some context. We can get that by looking at other races. At Eastern Sprints the light 8 was 5.1% slower and the light 4 was 2.3% slower - the opposite of Vails! IRAs don't work because the heavies row in a different regatta and no fours are raced at IRAs. (Rowing in a different regatta means that times are not at all comparable, but what the heck, I'll do it anyway. The light 8 turns out to be 5.0% slower - a result I attribute to pure coincidence.) I've used 2005 results here, as opposed to going back and doing some sort of averaging over the years.

We've just succeeded in muddying the waters so now let's look at world records. I know they were all set at different times and on different courses, but as world records we can use them as measures because to set a world record the boats will have met up with generally the same conditions. No light eights or light fours race internationally so we'll use doubles and quads as proxies. Here we find that light quads are 5.1% slower and light doubles are 2.8% slower, the same pattern as Sprints. The men, by the way, also follow that pattern at Vails and in the world records (no fours at Sprints).

So, this suggests that the fact that at Vails the light eights are closer to the heavies than the light fours are is an aberration. I'm not sure why this is but I'll guess that it's because the heavyweights in Dad Vail programs are closer in size to lightweights than in the scholarship and national team programs. I think this supports the point I made earlier that if Dad Vail programs would concentrate on lightweights they can be much more successful on a national (as opposed to the Dad Vail) level. Think about the Truthtellers.

Back to the original question about which event is more competitive at Vails - I don't know. I think we can safely say that despite only having 5 entrants, the light 8 is as competitive as any other event. We don't know, however, if they're closer to the heavies because the heavies are slower or the lights are faster. As for the fours, they do seem to be a bit slower than they should be, but still close enough to be in the ballpark.

The other thing that comes out of this is the fact that the men are generally closer to their heavyweight counterparts than the women (except for the light eight at Vails). This probably is due to longer standing and better developed lightweight programs for the men. The good news for the light women is that they can look forward to improving their speed at a faster rate than the heavies.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


As I mentioned below, the "i am not a heavyweight" article reminded me of "truthteller" questions I've used on occasion to help me understand the priorities and philosophy of a coach. There is no right answer to these questions and there can be many of them, but a good series would be as follows:

- Would you rather make the Dad Vail finals in the light 4 or the Dad Vail semis in the heavy 8?

- Would you rather win a Dad Vail gold in the light 4 or make the Dad Vail finals in the heavy 8?

- Would you rather make the IRA lightweight 8 finals or win a Dad Vail bronze medal in the heavy 8?

- Would you rather win an IRA bronze in the light 8 or a Dad Vail gold in the heavy 8?

(I've left the Dad Vail light 8 out of this mix because all boats went to the final last year.)

Any coach who mixes lightweights and heavyweights (i.e. probably doesn't have a dedicated lightweight program) implicitly answers questions like these whenever she decides what boats to race and who to race in them. Of course, she doesn't have perfect foresight, but she consciously or unconsciously makes assumptions about her chances in these races. If you ask direct questions like these, many coaches would have a difficult time answering, but they answer them every season.

There are other questions like this that are more appropriate for specific programs, but you get the idea. Ask a coach these questions in front of both lightweights and heavyweights and you'll see why they are truthtellers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Lightweight Experience

A reader pointed me in the direction of the Georgia Tech Crew web site which contains a piece of that program's history recounted in an article titled, "i am not a heavyweight." I like this article for (at least) two reasons. First, I think it tells a story familiar to many lightweights - competing for seats with, and racing against, heavyweights. The way lightweight boats and rowers are handled says a lot about the philosophy and priorities of a program, and leads to a set of "truthteller" questions that I'll talk about in my next post.

Secondly, though, it conveys a mindset that is found in championship lightweight boats, but is missing in all too many others. A champion lightweight doesn't use her size as an excuse. Girls who row only as lightweights early in their career, tend to count close finishes against heavyweight boats as victories. Lightweights who also rowed as heavyweights only count winning as a victory. That girl may suspect, deep down, that all things equal a boat of heavyweights may beat her, but she needs to see it happen before she'll believe it. And then she works to prove that result a fluke. Sort of reminds you of that Nietzsche quote...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Fight in the Dog's Best in Show* - 2005 Fall WLV8 Rankings

My 2005 fall rankings based on fall results:

1 Wisconsin
2 Princeton
3 Radcliffe
4 Georgetown
7 Dayton
8 Stanford
9 Penn State
10 Ohio State

First of all, this is a fall ranking, not a spring pre-season ranking, so there is no speculation about who will do well in the spring. If a crew didn't race as a designated lightweight 8 (so that I could tell by looking at results), it's not in this ranking. That means that some schools I expect to compete this spring aren't listed, such as UCF, UCSB, and Bucknell.

Wisco and Princeton are pretty uncontroversial - they finished one-two at the HOCR and Princeton won the Chase (in Wisco's absence). To be serious about fall rowing you must race the HOCR. I know, not everyone can get an entry, but you need to try every year and once you do, race well. This means that the next four places are based on Chuck finishes. Of those four places, some controversy arises between Radcliffe and Georgetown. Radcliffe beat Gtown at HOCR but Gtown beat Radcliffe at the Chase. The Chuck is more important (but the Chase is close) and more prestigious so Radcliffe stays ahead. Dayton only raced once (that I could tell) but they beat Ohio State by over 40 seconds over 2500 meters, suggesting that they have some speed. Combine that with some credibility from last year, and they get 7th. They may be faster than URI and MIT but with only one race who knows, and the other two took up the challenge and raced in Boston. Stanford stayed on the west coast this year and mostly raced in heavyweight races, making results difficult to interpret. Nothing stood out as outstanding, however, so they fall in behind Dayton (which may have been where they would have been last year had Dayton raced IRAs). In a surprise, Penn State, which won the Head of the Occoquan and the Philly Frostbite regattas, comes in at 9, followed by Ohio State at 10, living off the credibility it earned last spring.

Several readers suggested a light four ranking and maybe I'll give that a try. We have the fall results so a fall ranking could be somewhat informed but a preseason ranking would be tough because you never really know who will race fours so you could rank a boat that never actually races.

One reader posted her/his own rankings in the comments section (although it may have been a spring preseason ranking?) so let me know your thoughts. Maybe in the spring I can also post a composite of readers' rankings.

*A reader already noted that the title is rather weak, so if you have a better one...

2005 LWV8 Spring Rankings

As a prelude to fall rankings, it's worthwhile to look at how things ended up last season. This is fairly straightforward but there is some judgment required:

1 Wisconsin
2 Princeton
3 Radcliffe
4 Georgetown
5 Stanford
6 Dayton
7 Ohio State
10 Lehigh

This is slightly muddled because UCF put a big scare into Stanford in their IRA heat, but Stanford came through in the final to beat Ohio State (which beat UCF at Vails) by 15 seconds, keeping Stanford at 5. There is generally a bias that if you want to break into the top ranks, you need to compete at IRAs. Ohio State made the grand final at IRAs but I kept Dayton ahead because they did beat the Buckeyes head-to-head in a championship race. UCF found itself in a tough heat at IRAs and may very well have finished higher if it were in the other heat, but we can't speculate about that here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Erg Season is Here

Fall racing is over and erg season is here. That means that there won't be a lot of race results to report or a lot of news to be had. Posting may be a bit slower here, but rest assured that I'll be constantly on the lookout for good scoop and post it when I find it. I'll also use the winter months to explore some simmering issues and perhaps generate some (civil) discussion. If you have any suggestions for topics to explore, please let me know. This site is about encouraging the spread of women's collegiate lightweight rowing and I'm always open to suggestions on how to do that!

One thing I think I'll do over Thanksgiving break is post head season rankings. Why wait for the coaches in the spring when I can do my own? "Dog's Best in Show" sounds about right. I'm sure it will be highly scientific with a methodology that will no doubt be too complicated to explain to mere rowers.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Foot of the Charles

The Foot of the Charles was yesterday and consisted of three (women's) races - varsity 4+, novice 8+, and varsity 8+. The results of the V8 race suggest that the entrants were something other than the top V8s, so I would treat the V4 and N8 races as the priority races.

Radcliffe and MIT were the only lightweight boats in the regatta, with Radcliffe besting MIT in both the V4 and N8 races. In the V4 race, Radcliffe was 9th out of 28 boats, 20 seconds out of third place. MIT was 56 seconds off of Radcliffe's pace. In the N8 race, Radcliffe finished 12th out of 24 boats, with MIT two places and 37 seconds back. That seems like a fairly good result for MIT. Both MIT and Radcliffe were able to enter N8 B boats, which has to be seen as a sign of strength for both teams. The V8 race was won by UNH, which beat two Radcliffe light 8s, a Radcliffe heavy 8, and an MIT light 8. It seems unlikely to me that UNH, two lightweight Radcliffe boats, and MIT lights would beat Radcliffe's top heavyweight boat, so I'm not sure what was going on there. Perhaps the UNH and lightweight boats (combining after the 4+ race) were the top boats and the heavyweight Radcliffe boat was something else. The first MIT light boat was 9 seconds off of Radcliffe, which would be another good result for MIT. If you know about this race, please drop me a line.

What About Penn?

Another Ivy League school that should be in the lightweight mix is Penn. Penn's had a difficult time getting both its men's and women's heavies up to speed, while its men's lightweights are coming on strong. There have been rumors about the school starting a lightweight women's program for a few years, and perhaps the men's success will spur some action. On the other hand, the current women's coaching staff is said to be opposed to lightweights, and without support there, it's unlikely anything will happen.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

More Results

Some results I missed:

At last weekend's FIRA Fall Classic UCF's lightweights won the heavyweight B race with a time that was third fastest overall (out of 10 boats).

At the Head of the South last week NC State won the lightweight 4+ over Atlanta and Jacksonville. NC State won by just one tenth of a second over what I assume was the same Atlanta boat that won the Hooch. A tenth of a second out of twenty minutes? That's as close to a tie as you'll see.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Will Yale Add Lightweight Crew?

Rumor has it that the Eastern Sprints schools have been asking Yale for a few years to start a lightweight women's rowing program. Yale would seem to be a prime candidate for the next major rowing school to start a dedicated lightweight program. Their key rivals, Radcliffe (Harvard) and Princeton, have successful programs and their lightweight men are national champions. For years no crew could come close to Radcliffe and that school took the lead in championing lightweight rowing giving the Ivy League a strong, positive tradition in the sport. You might think that "Keeping up with the Joneses" (or the Harvards) alone would motivate them to add lightweights. Radcliffe, Yale, Princeton lightweight races would be exciting (aren't all lightweight races?) and create a great tradition. Yale women were willing to lead in the past (remember "A Hero for Daisy?"), why not now?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Who Won the Belly Bowl??

I initially thought that using Princeton's lightweight women's time in the calculation of times for the Belly Bowl wouldn't have mattered (since corrected below), but an astute reader pointed out that my ciphering was off. In fact, if the lightweight time was used, as it should have been because that boat was the top Princeton boat, Princeton would have won the Bowl! This is Princeton's race, and they must set the rules, but they look silly this year. Again, if you don't have a separate lightweight race, how can you not count the lightweight boats racing in a heavyweight event when determining the winner of the Bowl?

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Freshmen Have at It

It was another beautiful day in Princeton for the Belly of the Carnegie, although we could have done with less wind. The lightweight freshmen crews from Princeton, Radcliffe, and Georgetown hit the water, all trying to draw the first blood of their collegiate careers. Radcliffe showed the most depth as it was the only program able to boat two boats of lightweights. Despite the Belly rule of even boats, since the other schools only entered one boat Radcliffe was asked to stack it's first eight so all crews could get a feel for where they stand heading into the winter. Although they started about two thirds of the way back in the field, Princeton went off first, followed by Radcliffe, then Georgetown, and then Radcliffe (2). Princeton and Radcliffe battled all the way down the course, even as the Tigers interlocked oars with a Villanova boat for 5 to 10 strokes. A power ten pulled them away and the real race continued. In the end, Princeton was 13 seconds faster then Radcliffe, who was followed by Georgetown another 58 seconds back, with the second Radcliffe boat another 62 seconds back.

Princeton and Radcliffe were 8th and 10th overall in this heavyweight event, with Princeton rowing faster than both of its heavyweight boats (of course, those boats were to be evenly matched). Princeton can now feel good about themselves for a few days, while Radcliffe and Georgetown can take solace in the fact that last year's Princeton freshmen, who won Eastern Sprints, were beaten at the Belly by Georgetown (Radcliffe didn't enter). Nobody takes solace, however, in the fact that Wisconsin wasn't there. The Badger freshmen remain in the midwest holding their cards close to their vest, hoping to spring a nasty surprise on the competition come April.

Finally, in one of those curious lightweight anomalies, both the Princeton and Georgetown lightweights were the fastest women's boats on the water for their schools, yet neither time counted in the calculation for the Belly Bowl. If you don't have a lightweight race, then the least you could do is count the lightweights as equal competitors and use their times if they're fastest. I really don't understand that.

Some row2k pictures (I think I'm linking to the right ones):

Princeton lights
Radcliffe lights
Georgetown lights
Radcliffe lights

Georgetown Ramps Up

The word at the Belly of the Carnegie on Sunday was that Georgetown's new coach, Jim O'Conner, was ramping up the intensity of that program. Georgetown has made a lot of progress, but seems to have been stuck in neutral the last few years. O'Conner is coming in to end the 4th place finishes and move into the medals, and it sounds like he's serious about it.

Dad Vail Redux

After finishing 1,2 at Dad Vails last spring, Dayton and Ohio State added a lightweight 8+ event to their fall dual race. This no doubt spiced things up for the race as Ohio State saw an opportunity for revenge. Alas, it was not to be as Dayton won the 2500 meter race by 44 seconds. A decisive margin to be sure, but a fall margin. This has the makings of a nice little in-state rivalry.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

More Penn State

Penn State was in action at Philadelphia's Frostbite Regatta, winning the lightweight 8+ over Loyola. In fours, Lehigh beat Loyola and Scranton. Penn State continues to appear intent on surprising some people in the spring.

Update: Penn State also raced Sunday in a heavyweight event in the Braxton in Philadelphia, coming in 15 seconds off of their heat winner (no finals at the Braxton).

Give Me a Break!

So, when I started this blog, I thought that a lot of the emails and comments I would get (assuming that anyone is reading it) would deal with the canard that all female lightweights are anorexic or bulimic - and here they come! I think this is worth a discussion, but I plan to post about it over the winter, when things will be really slow. But, a few words now.

You don't assume all female heavyweight rowers are obese, so why assume all female lightweight rowers are anorexic? If I had to guess, I would say that more heavyweights are obese, than lightweights are anorexic (is that inflammatory enough for you?), simply based on which is a greater health issue in America today.

I'll get to this, so save your thoughts until then...

Friday, November 11, 2005


An article in the URI student newspaper, The Good 5c Cigar (is that really its name?), says that this "year the team will be able to compete in all the lightweight (130 pounds or less) events. Last year the team was involved in more openweight (130 pounds or more) events than lightweight events." It's good to see URI back in the lightweight ranks this year and Head coach Julia Chilicki Beasely goes on to say, "This year I think we will definitely have a championship team." Is Coach Beasely throwing down the gauntlet?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Dedicated Lightweight Programs

Thinking about Dayton winning the Dad Vails last year makes me wonder if there are any Dad Vail schools with dedicated lightweight programs. Only five schools made it to the starting line last year and I'm not sure any of them have a dedicated program. Some have been racing lightweights for a long time, but with breaks in competition. Villanova won the national championship in 1998, but hasn't maintained that level.

I suppose the problem with dedicated programs is obvious - because lightweights are restricted by weight, fewer potential rowers can fit the category. Anyone can row heavyweight so a heavyweight program is the best way to maximize the use of all team members. On the other hand, you'll have trouble breaking into the top ranks of heavyweight programs mixing lights and heavies in your top boat. What could a program do that emphasizes lightweights?

Suppose Villanova, or Dayton, or Central Florida, or URI focused on lightweights. If they recruited lightweights and put their best lightweights in lightweight boats, rather than in heavyweight boats, how fast could they get? Every program I know wants to boat a heavyweight 8+ before a lightweight 8, but aren't there more athletic lightweights than heavyweights walking around a college campus? The chances that there are 9 girls walking around Dayton's campus that can beat Wisconsin's lightweights must be greater than the chances that there are 9 girls who can beat Cal's heavyweights.

Is that the real decision for these smaller schools - produce a heavyweight 8+ with a shot at winning Dad Vails, or produce a lightweight 8+ with a shot at winning IRAs?

The big heavyweight schools suffer from the same syndrome. I wonder if the Yale women are learning anything from their men. The heavy men beat their heads against a wall every year (i.e. race Harvard) while the lights go out and win national championships. Look at Penn - the heavy men have been down for years while the light men are in the midst of a resurgence. Why don't Penn and Yale add lightweight women? The very nature of a weight restriction means that everyone has a chance at winning. Superior skill, fitness, and coaching come into play. Superior coaching? Hmm.... Maybe that's why coaches are afraid of lightweight programs!

More Results...

A Varsity lightweight 4+ was raced at the Grimaldi Cup and was won by Fordham. I'm not sure I've seen Fordham race lightweight before, so this may be a boat of convenience. They were followed by Iona, Sacred Heart, and Manhattan. I do recall seeing lightweight Sacred Heart boats.

There was more lightweight rowing at the Newport Autumn Rowing Festival. The Stanford lights produced the most puzzling results. They apparently had an entry in the open 8, finishing last. They won the lightweight 8 however, with a time over two minutes faster than their boat racing open. Who raced the open event? Maybe a student newspaper story can clear things up. Meanwhile, Cal's lights finished 5th out of 5 in the lightweight 8 event, although they fared better in the open frosh 8 (16 out of 20) and open four (7/13). I wonder why Stanford didn't race their freshmen? Have they raced this fall?

Monday, November 07, 2005

More Lightweight Rowing in the Heartland

The Wichita Frostbite Regatta was contested last weekend and Tulsa won the lightweight 4+ (there was no 8). They beat Colorado, Oklahoma, Wash U., and Missouri. Nebraska was the lone entry in the novice lightweight 4+. These schools probably don't have dedicated lightweight programs, but it doesn't hurt to see them race.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Alabama Lightweights Win the Hooch

In a two boat race, Alabama won the Head of the Hooch over Texas. Alabama's women are scheduled to go varsity in 2007 so that probably means that the women racing this weekend will be without a sport while the new varsity coaches join the annual scavenger hunt (also known as heavyweight recruiting). If they want to continue they'll just keep the club going and race lightweight through the club, just as the Texas lightweight rowers are doing.

On the other hand, why not start your varsity program with lightweights? Why bother entering the crowded heavyweight field where you'll be just another large school putting big girls in a boat? Enter the less crowded lightweight field where you can have an impact much sooner. The level of competition is just as high as the heavyweights at the upper end, but with schools moving in and out of the lightweight ranks as the type of rowers on the team dictates, the middle and lower ranks are much less stable. More on this when I continue my discussion on reasons to have a lightweight program.

There was also a lightweight 4+ race with 19 entries, some of which were juniors. Atlanta Rowing Club won, followed by N.C. State. Other colleges entered included Jacksonville, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, UGA, Georgia State, Clemson, and Miami.

Penn State Wins Head of the Occoquan

Penn State boated a lightweight 8+ and won the Head of the Occoquan over Duquesne and Three Rivers. In a twist, the women's lightweight 8 event had more entries than the men. A look at the Penn State crew (a club program) web site shows a list of varsity lightweight women, so it looks like the team intends to race lightweights in the spring. Maybe a Dad Vail appearance? Duquesne just won the lightweight four at the Head of the Speakmon so it looks like they'll also be racing lightweights in the spring.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Dayton is Racing

Last year's Dad Vail champion University of Dayton raced a lightweight four at the Head of the Elk. The good news is that they were second. The bad news is that it looks like they lost to a high school crew. There was no lightweight eight event so Dayton may have raced an eight in one of the heavyweight races. In any case, the spring season is a long way off and Dayton will no doubt be ready for it.

Three Recruits for Stanford

This article in the Stanford Daily says that the Stanford lightweights brought in three recruits this year. A look at the roster suggests that the three are from Washington, California, and Massachusetts. It's good news that Stanford can bring in a recruit from the east coast, but three seems to be on the low end of a good class. Stanford, which has a stated goal of winning the Directors' Cup every year, doesn't bring on sports without doing its best to win a national championship. While certainly in the top echelon of lightweight rowing, Stanford's progress has been of the two steps forward one step back variety. As long as they have a varsity program, though, they're a danger to break through any year.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bucknell is Serious

Bucknell raced 7 frosh eights at the Head of the Schuylkill! The top eight, which finished 8th, contained all five lightweight recruits, suggesting that it was a lightweight boat. An impressive result since they beat other Bucknell boats that contained some of the 12 recruited heavyweights. It's not clear if the V8 was all heavyweights or if it contained some lightweights.

If Bucknell can boat 7 frosh eights, they must have healthy lightweight and heavyweight freshmen teams. These guys will be a power in the spring, certainly in freshman events if not in varsity as well.

The Stanford Daily Misses the Boat

In the Stanford Daily's fall preview article, the last paragraph begins, " Stanford'’s best national finish in the eight last year belonged to the lightweight women." Kinda makes you wonder why the heavyweights are mentioned first, doesn't it?

Monday, October 31, 2005

And Furthermore...

The biggest eight days of the fall rowing season have just concluded, yielding some answers (yes, Wisconsin is fast again), but leaving more questions (what happened to Radcliffe at the Chase?). The lightweight eight event at the Head of the Charles did what it could to sort out the field, leaving things in the fall looking much as they did last spring. The Princeton Chase followed to make sure that no one just got lucky in Boston.

At first glance, it looks like Radcliffe may have gotten lucky a week ago. Radcliffe finished about ten seconds behind Princeton in Boston, but about 50 seconds behind the Tigers and nine seconds behind Georgetown at the Chase. I doubt it was good luck in Boston though, more like bad luck (or a different crew) in Princeton. Radcliffe was rowing in traffic as they went under the bridge, so they could have easily gotten tangled up somewhere along the course. In any case, don'’t count on a slow Radcliffe in the spring. Georgetown had a credible row at the Chase and with a new coach on board will be raring to go come spring.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin raced at the Head of the Iowa, finishing 6th in the Open 8 event and finishing in the top ten of several other heavyweight events. It's never clear what these kind of results mean for lightweights, but we already know Wisconsin is fast.

Stanford, meanwhile, has chosen to stay on the west coast this fall, leaving the extent of their speed to the imagination. Racing in the Head of the American last weekend, they finished 14th out of 17 in the Open 8 event. Again, it's hard to know just what that means.

One last word about the Princeton Chase - this is one of the finest regattas of the fall, and certainly the finest for collegiate rowing. Some of the best collegiate programs in the nation show up to race over a beautiful course without the distraction of juniors, masters, or clubs. It's just school vs. school with most rowers racing twice and seniors often getting a last chance to row together as a class. It really doesn't get much better than this unless, of course, the lightweight field could deepen enough to warrant a separate event for the women. Meanwhile, in two weeks the freshmen do it - get ready for the Belly!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

First Shots Are Fired!

The first shots of the 2006 spring season were fired at the Head of the Charles Regatta last weekend. Once again, Wisconsin and Princeton were the top contenders, with the Badgers besting the Tigers in the lightweight eight by 14 seconds. Radcliffe was another 11 seconds back with Georgetown another 20 seconds away. If looks count for anything (and they don't), Wisco and Radcliffe take the honors, as both boats looked smooth and controlled about 500 meters from the finish.

Just entering an eight was a victory of sorts for Radcliffe as they had trouble scraping together eight varsity rowers last year and only entered the four (which they won, by the way). In one of those ridiculously titled articles (Harvard Dominates Head of Charles Regatta - uhh, Princeton, hello?) in the Crimson, the Radcliffe lights talk about the depth of the team this year. Is this a sign that Radcliffe will challenge Wisconsin and Princeton in the spring? Stanford didn't come east this year, so that program remains a mystery for the time being.

In the fours, Princeton came out on top of the American collegiate crews, beating Cal, CMU, Villanova, Radcliffe (which suffered a 1 minute penalty), and Fairfield. Perhaps this suggests that Princeton has some closely matched rowers and some hard spring seat racing will really draw out the boat speed.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

URI Makes Lightweights Permanent

URI head coach Julia Chilicki-Beasley said recently, "With the appointment of Tina Paniel as our new lightweight coach this season, we intend to make the lightweight program a permanent fixture now that there is ample coaching staff for the program." Good news for the program that had a boat finish 5th at IRAs in 2004.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Head Of The Charles Preview

It's almost the Head of the Charles and the lightweight fours and eights events will be the first real opportunity for many crews to show what they have. Last year Radcliffe won the fours over a strong Undine entry (there was a protest involved here somewhere, but I forget exactly what it was about). Radcliffe didn't enter an eight so the four was probably their strongest rowers, and proved it with the win. This year Radcliffe starts first, Brock University starts 3rd, and Princeton starts 5th. Minnesota, Carnegie Mellon, McGill, MIT, Victoria, Cal, Fairfield, Villanova, and NC State are also racing. Radcliffe has an eight entered this year, as does Princeton, which will dilute the strength of the fours a bit.

In the eights, Princeton is the first college team over the line, starting 2nd. Radcliffe follows 4th, and Wisconsin starts 6th. Hoya Boat Club (Georgetown, I presume) starts 8th. MIT, British Columbia, and URI are also racing. This should be a great race, with Wisco's presence (they didn't race last year) adding some spice. With the London Training Center and Radcliffe starting ahead of them, I don't think Wisco will have to thread through many slow crews, so their starting position shouldn't hurt them too much. It's good to see URI back in the mix. They made the final at IRAs a few years ago and we'll see how they are progressing this fall. This should be a great race with another chance for these crews to go at it at the Princeton Chase a week later.

There are no freshmen lightweight events but you can bet that some of the youth boats will have lightweights in them. We just won't know which ones so we can't get any early intelligence about the freshmen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Talk About Spin!

Women's crew dominates varsity eight in Head of Rock Regatta

Team controls Head of the Rock

These are two headlines are for two different teams that competed in the Head of the Rock (see previous post). The first is from the Wisconsin student newspaper while the second is from the Notre Dame student paper. This kind of spin happens all the time. As I see it, ND didn't win a race, yet this headline would have you believe they "controlled" the regatta. Granted, they may have had a good result for what they set out to do, but the only controlling was done by Wisconsin. Are these reporters and PR people so unfamiliar with rowing that they can't recognize first place from third place? Do you have to be familiar with rowing to understand that difference? If ND loses a football game by seven points, can they nonetheless claim to have controlled the game? This is silly.

And another thing, what is with all of this emphasis on "team" wins? Am I alone in this or is the only thing anyone really cares about is how individual boats do? If none of your boats win a race, but you still win the points trophy, are you happy? I'm not. I love to read stories that tell how a particular team "won" a dual race because their novice 8, novice 4, and 2nd varsity won, while "only" the varsity 8 and varsity 4 lost. Yes, I've seen this kind of reporting. Can't we just report wins and losses and stop trying to spin everything? Yes, particularly in the fall and early spring coaches try even boats and other combinations, but then just say that, don't let the reporter imply something that didn't happen.

Wisconsin Continues to Cruise

Wisco raced at the Head of the Rock last weekend and the lightweights continued to show their speed. Two results of particular note - lightweights won the open pair (over several Wisco heavyweight pairs) and the lightweight 8+ finished 5th in the Open Women's 8+, losing to the Wisconsin (2), Minnesota, and Notre Dame heavyweight eights. The lights were only 15 seconds behind ND's 8+ and only 10 seconds behind Wisconsin's 2nd eight. Notably, the lights beat Notre Dame's and Minnesota's 2nd eights.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

More Lightweights in Action

The Textile River Regatta ran a lightweight eights event which saw MIT, CRI, and UMass compete. MIT has a history of lightweight rowing, but I don't remember UMass boating lightweights recently. I wonder if this is a boat of convenience or if they are starting a lightweight team. Meanwhile, at the Head of the Housatonic, Holy Cross raced a lightweight four. There was talk about Holy Cross developing a lightweight program a year or two ago, but it seemed to die after the departure of one of their coaches. Maybe they're back. They also had a lightweight 8 entered in the Textile, but scratched. Maybe we'll see it come together in later races. Unfortunately there was only one lightweight four entry at the Housatonic, just as there was only one lightweight 8 entry in Tulsa's race at the Head of the Oklahoma (although there was a scratch).

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Why Aren't There More Lightweight Programs?

This is the key question for lightweight women's rowing and a question to which many answers are given. Over the next several weeks, I'd like to start a discussion about these answers.

A few years ago I asked this question of the head women's coach of an Ivy League rowing program that does not have lightweights. She offered three reasons for a heavyweight only program, the first being that lightweights would require a separate coach and a separate racing schedule. Essentially, this is a "lack of resources" argument.

The lack of resources argument can be made against any non-profit earning sport (which is all but a very, very few) and requires you to make an argument that the sport is valuable. I'm going to short-cut that requirement by limiting my argument to those schools with heavyweight rowing programs. This allows me to point out the obvious fact that by the existence of those programs, the schools have already recognized the value of rowing as a sport. I'm even willing to further limit my discussion to those schools with men's lightweight programs, which means they have also recognized the value of lightweight rowing. The task, then, becomes one of showing the value of lightweight women's rowing. The obvious path is to simply point out that in this enlightened age, what is good for men is good for women (as far as athletics go), but I'll leave that aside for now.

First, let me address an argument I hear against lightweight rowing in general. Let's call this the "Midget Basketball League" argument, or MBL. This argument states that having lightweight rowing is like having a basketball league for short people. We find that silly, so why do we have lightweight rowing? The obvious answer to that argument is that rowing is a strength sport, and all strength sports have weight classes - weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, etc. This isn't to suggest that strength isn't required in other sports, only that in those other sports the variety of positions allows for smaller stature players to excel. In football, a small guy is useless on the offensive line, but can be quite successful as a tailback or defensive back. A short basketball center is doomed, but a short guard can be a star. In rowing, everyone plays the same position, like weightlifting and wrestling, and strength is important.

Now, let's look at the purpose of athletics at an institution of higher learning. It is, simply, to educate. To educate its student-athletes about dedication, determination, motivation, and desire. About hard work and about sportsmanship. Ultimatey, about winning and losing and about life. There must also be an attempt to educate as many students as possible in this manner. This does not mean that all students get to be on a varsity team, for that would teach false lessons. It does mean that more legitimate sports are better than fewer, and that women should have opportunities similar to men.

When it comes to this kind of education, it seems to me that lightweights fulfill the objective even better than heavyweights. We've all seen big heavyweights with a poor work ethic and short on motivation who nonetheless end up with college scholarships. Their size may very well carry them through four years of collegiate rowing as well. At recruiting time, heavyweight coaches are on an annual scavenger hunt, searching for those unusually large girls they believe can sit in the middle of an eight and yank on an oar. Not so with lightweights. A lightweight is a dedicated hard worker or she doesn't row. She can't take off for a stroke because the similar sized competition is always clawing at her stern. When a lightweight crosses the finish line in first place, she isn't thanking mom and dad for giving her their "big" genes, she's thanking her teammates for putting in the long, arduous hours at practice just as she did, which allowed her boat to beat her competition, which is exactly the same size. There are no shortcuts in lightweight rowing - not for the rowers or the coaches.

The mean height of a 19 year old woman is just over 5 feet 4 inches. If that woman's Body Mass Index is 22, right in the middle of the "normal" range, she weighs 128 pounds. She's a lightweight. Even at 5" 6' and 130 pounds a woman's BMI is 21, well within the normal range. So, the average normal weight woman is a lightweight, which means that there are a lot more lightweights in the college population than heavyweights. Boating a lightweight crew would not only give more women a chance to row, it would also create a more competitive program since there are so many more potential lightweight rowers.

Finally, below the top four or five lightweight crews, chaos reigns. By that I mean that each year another crew is likely to emerge in the grand final at IRAs. The field is wide open. Even among the top crews, new powers are emerging. If a school's goal is to provide a lot of women with a varsity sport, and have an opportunity to win a national championship sooner rather than later, why would it overlook lightweights?

Why have women's lightweight rowing?
- Creates an opportunity for more women to compete than other sports
- The large available pool of potential rowers creates a more competitive program
- All competitors are the same size forcing successful lightweights to be dedicated, intense, and technically proficient
- The lightweight field is wide open offering new programs an early opportunity to make an impact.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Wisconsin Builds On Lightweight's Success

The reigning national champion Wisconsin lightweights are setting the standard for excellence in the new Porter boathouse. The heavyweight women, who have their own tradition of strong, fast crews, are looking at the lightweights as an example of where they want to be. Head Coach Bebe Bryans said, "The open weights are hoping to join the lightweights who have set the standard for what can come out of this boathouse." The Wisco lightweights are ten years old this year and it's great to see them get some recognition within their own boathouse. With or without graduating rowers, Wisconsin will undoubtedly be fast again this year. The interesting thing about this team is that they always come on strong at the end. Probably this is because of their late start on the water, but early races are only a taste of where they'll be later in the season.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dayton Looks to Continue Last Year's Success

Dayton's lightweights were undefeated last spring and one of this year's captains is a lightweight. Looks like they're giving lightweights some respect at Dayton.

Fall Racing Begins

The fall season has begun with Wisco racing at The Milwaukee River Challenge and Georgetown racing at the Head of the Potomac. Wisconsin looks to be off to a good start as they went out to beat up on some local crews. Well, Purdue was there so that's not entirely fair and didn't they win the lightweight event at Dad Vails not too long ago? The lights finished in second behind the heavies and before the 2nd heavyweight boat. Wonder if they were racing even boats? Georgetown lights (finishing fifth) also finished behind one varsity boat (3rd) although both lightweight eights beat the 2nd varsity boat. The lighweights raced even crews. Navy won the race. Other than a few head races here and there, the first real look at these crews will be in Boston when they'll race as lightweights.

Friday, September 23, 2005

NCAA Championships for Men?

The same article on the Trojan Navy web site (see previous post) states that "the PAC-10 has proposed legislation to make Men’s Rowing an NCAA sport with a championship." If this were to pass, what would happen to the women's lightweight national championship which is now part of the IRAs? If the IRAs essentially became the men's NCAA championships, women would not be allowed to race there. Would there have to be a separate regatta? In its great quest for inclusiveness, the NCAA just seems to tear rowing apart. Championship regattas should be a celebration of rowing that includes men and women. We train together, we race together, and on occasion we even race together in the same boats. The NCAA wants none of that. Separate but equal is the watchword for NCAA rowing, you can bet your shirt on that.


It's amusing to read about the current scholarship tussle in the PAC-10. One thing lighweight women aren't familiar with is getting paid (aka scholarships) to row. My guess is that few lightweight programs offer scholarships (Wisconsin does?), and that includes extra "need based aid" in the Ivies. Am I wrong? Lightweight women's rowing is probably the last real college sport in which the participants compete for the love of their school and their sport.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Georgetown Hires a New Lightweight Coach

Georgetown announced that they hired Jim O'Conner as their new lightweight women's coach. Last year Rebecca Besant became Georgetown's first (I think) lightweight women's coach. Previously Jimmy King acted as both the heavyweight and lightweight coach. Rebecca's move was good news for the program because it suggested that the school was putting some effort behind its lightweights. As well they should since their crews have been steadily finishing higher and higher at IRAs. The Georgetown example shows how a program with a good rowing tradition can put some effort into lightweight rowing and develop an excellent reputation (the men are good too). When Rebecca left (I think she moved to Africa) many people outside of the program were holding their breath to see if the school would remain committed to lightweights. Jim O'Conner's hiring shows that they are. A good move for Georgetown and a good move for lightweight rowing.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

ECAC Snubs Lightweights

Reading over the ECAC announcement that Princeton won the Boathouse Sports Trophy, I noticed that Princeton's lightweights weren't even mentioned when the school's results were discussed. It's as if they don't exist. This led me to look at the results for Eastern Sprints last spring. Lightweights don't count in scoring for the Willing Points Trophy. Novice fours count, for goodness sake! I don't know if lightweights count for the men, but I'll guess they do since they were listed in Princeton's results in the ECAC announcement. What's up with this?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

USRowing Testing Procedures

Why does USRowing allow lightweight women to weigh 140 pounds at the April test? This is 15 pounds over the international average, while lightweight men may only be 10 pounds over. I'm not sure why these large weight fluctuations are allowed (encouraged, really), particularly when we hear of collegiate coaches who believe lightweight rowing is dangerous. By making 140 (or more) pound women believe they should be lightweights, USRowing sanctions dangerous weight loss and limits opportunities for natural lightweights.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Healthy Lightweight Entries at Worlds

A look at entries at the World Championships in Japan shows a healthy number of women's lightweight entries. Only 7 of the 23 events have more entries than the women's lightweight 2x (the Olympic event) and only 3 have more entries than the light women's 1x. At 7 entries the light women's 4x has about the same number of entries as the women's heavyweight 4x (9) and heavyweight 8+ (8). This points to the popularity of lightweight rowing at the elite level and suggests that it would be in USRowing's interest to promote collegiate lightweight rowing.

Monday, August 15, 2005

75 to 10

That's the number of fours racing at the 2005 IRA Regatta compared to the total number of women's lightweight boats. (The lightweight men only have 12 boats so they're not much better off. They can, however, shift some lightweights into fours.) To accomodate those fours there are 48 separate races compared to 4 four the lightweight women. Why is that? Do we really need both a varsity four with and a varsity four without? Why is there an open four in addition to a varsity four? If just two of these races were dropped, they could be replaced with men's and women's freshman lightweight 8 races. Or even lightweight 4 races. The fours go on so long at IRAs that in the middle of it all it is doubtful even the referees know exactly which race is going down the course. This is very hard to understand.

Friday, August 05, 2005

With Friends Like This...

...who needs enemies? This is an old story (2004), but what is up with Kris Sanford of Syracuse? In this story, the writer claims that programs such as Massachusetts and Villanova have an advantage over Syracuse because they have lightweight teams and Syracuse doesn't. This supposedly gives them more rowers to compete for the top heavyweight boat. The reader is left with the impression that Sanford believes this as well. This reasoning misses the fact that these programs (Villanova anyway) put out lightweight boats when they have a good group of lightweights in their program, not because they recruit lightweights. Schools that recruit lightweights don't switch them in and out of the heavyweight program. Syracuse, meanwhile, has the advantage of being able to recruit enough heavyweights to fill the available seats. This is no doubt a coach simply talking up the opposition for a news article.

Far more troubling, however, is Sanford's implication that all lightweight rowers lose an unsafe amount of weight to row, as if there are no natural lightweights. "It isn't safe," she says. If a coach doesn't understand how to run a "safe" lightweight program herself, she shouldn't assume it can't be done. This troglodyte attitude plays into unproven stereotypes of lightweight rowers as emaciated sticks who never eat. Gee, I wonder how they ever pull on an oar? This just isn't an issue in responsible programs (which nearly all are).

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Does the NCAA Matter?

The NCAA does not hold a national championship for lightweights and some have suggested that this has held back the spread of lightweight rowing. The reasoning is that without an NCAA championship, schools will be reluctant to spend money on lightweights because they don't count toward the college's Title IX numbers. I don't think this holds water, though, because colleges make their own count of varsity athletes and undoubtedly include varsity lightweight women in those counts. If this is a problem, it's here for a while since the NCAA says it has no plans to hold a national championship for lightweights.

Worrying about an NCAA national championship misses the point. The IRAs work fine (although why have 6 million fours and no freshman lightweights?) and does anyone really want what the heavyweight women have - a small regatta that takes place in a different place at a different time than the end of year championship celebration for the rest of the collegiate rowing world? I don't think the lack of an NCAA championship is a barrier.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Cal Lightweight Rowing

Cal has what seems to be a pretty nice lightweight club program - why not make it varsity? They already have equipment and coaches, so how difficult can it be? Lots more varsity women athletes (and Title IX benefits) for not a whole lot of work. Cal has excellent heavyweight teams so they ought to take a shot at dominating lightweights too.

Navy Lightweights?

USNA - Spring 2005
This Web page has pictures of Navy's lighweight women's crew. Who knew?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Speaking of Dad Vail

Dayton's lightweights won the Dad Vail in 2005 and they had to have been the happiest boat on the river that day. I'm not sure if Dayton has ever raced this event before, but it was a great win for that program. The rowers couldn't stop smiling and they looked like they might float all the way back to Ohio. Hopefully this will give lightweight rowing some momentum at Dayton so the school can continue to put out competitive crews. Dayton doesn't talk about lightweights all that much, which makes it seem like they'll boat an eight only if they happen to have eight fast lighweight women. Maybe now they'll make it a bit more of a priority.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bucknell is Building Its Lightweight Program

Bucknell Women's Rowing Announces 20-Person Recruiting Class

Five of the 20 members of the Class of '09 are lightweights. Bucknell has had a very successful lightweight program over the last few years, winning at Dad Vail in 2003 and placing second in 2004. In typical fashion, when the eight won in 2003, the headline of the news release on the Bucknell athletic Web site reads, "Bucknell Women's Crew Places Second at Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia." The heavy eight, of course, placed second, while the lightweights just, well, won a gold medal! Bucknell had no lightweights at Dad Vail in 2005. I wonder what happened? Especially odd since they recruited lightweights this year. No matter, it looks like they're building the program now. I don't know why more schools like Bucknell don't boat lightweight crews. They're much more likely to find athletic lightweights than athletic heavyweights and the lightweight field is more open making serious success more attainable.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Why This Blog Was Created

Fight in the Dog was created to champion the spread of women's lightweight collegiate rowing in the United States. As women's heavyweight programs have become the sport of choice for Title IX compliance, their growth has exploded. We'd like to see lightweights experience some of that growth as well. The NCAA, and therefore many colleges and universities, treat lightweight women as an afterthought, although some would argue that lightweights are more athletic, efficient, and closer to the modern ideal of a female athlete than heavyweights. We intend to highlight the accomplishments of women collegiate lightweight crews as well as discuss the issues facing lightweight rowing. We do not intend, however, to push for an NCAA lightweight championship for women - IRAs are just too much fun!

Questions or comments here.