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?