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!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

In your post, you're talking about LW programs that compete in Dad Vails & why the competition is getting smaller-- it's clear to say that mostly all of the schools (exception: SJU & Temple) that race at Dad Vails are non- scholarship crews. Programs such as Villanova are loosing recruits because they don't have money to attract rowers. Whereas, Georgetown & Wisco have probably increased their recruiting potential by offering more perks. Go ahead, train your heart out and do it with passion as a lightweight. LW/ HW,,, it really doesn't matter at races like Dad Vails. If you look at the fastest crew there- I can almost bet you that the rowers in the boat are slim & that most have the potential to drop weight but would rather stay healthy...

sydskid1 said...

at dad vails, i really feel like the lightweight women's show-down is in the 4+. most dad vails schools just aren't big enough to fill a competative light 8... but a 4? that's where it's at. and there are some schools that are consistent for the 4+... carnegie mellon, georgia tech, ect... they just don't have the numbers to fill an 8. so while these programs are consistant, people don't recognize us because we don't row a big boat. there's more conpetition in the light 4+ anyways...

JW Burk said...

Anonymous:
When it comes to the top lightweight schools, I think only Wisconsin might offer scholarships. Of course, the others can offer admissions preferences which is a pretty big perk, but even there, admissions requirements knock out a lot of good rowers who then row at other schools. I think it might be true that a good lightweight is more likely to get a scholarship at a Dad Vail heavyweight school that occasionally becomes a lightweight school of convenience. Among Dad Vail schools, however, I would guess you're right - the heavy eights have a lot of lightweights in them. My final thought, though, was to wonder if these schools might be able to compete at the IRA level if they focused on lightweights. I do take exception, however, to your comment about "stay[ing] healthy." If a rower is unhealthy at 130 pounds, then that rower does NOT have the potential to drop weight. Schools with dedicated lightweight programs understand this and avoid it.

sydskid1:
Good point about the fours at Vails - I'll definitely pay attention to that this season!

Anonymous said...

I think the statement that there is more competition in the light 4 is a misleading one. The number of boats in an event doesn't necessarily make the field higher quality than a less entered one. It just makes the top tier boats have to race an extra race to get to the finals.

The race referenced here is Dad Vail, so lets look at the 4 and 8 finals...
The light 8 winner, timewise was 10 seconds slower than the open 8 winner. Whereas the light 4 winner was 15 seconds seconds off the open 4 winner.

Comparing times at races isn't always rational, but both comparison races were done within 20 minutes of each other so its a fair comparison.

Its true that any school regardless of speed would have been in the finals race of the L8 since only 5 boats entered, but a similar L4 entry would have had to go through heats and semifinals to make the finals. If your goal is to make semi's then the L4 would have "more competition", but if your goal is to finish in the medals, then I'd have a hard time buying the argument that the L8 is less competitive than the L4.

My 12 cents.