Sunday, January 29, 2006

2006 Season Preview - Lehigh

It's almost February, some crews have already gone south for water time, others will be headed there in the coming days and weeks. In about eight weeks the season will be in full swing. Plenty of erg days lay ahead, but soon we'll be slipping and sliding on icy docks as we carry our boats to the water. (If you row in the south, well, please gloat silently.) With all this in mind, it's a good time to look ahead at the coming season. Most schools have published their spring schedules, so I'll take a look at what will be some highlights. I'll go through school by school, starting with last year's number 10 V8 and ending with last year's number 1. Doing one or two teams each week brings us to the season. By the way, since I have the only season ending ranking, by default my ranking is the OFFICIAL national ranking.

This week we start with Lehigh. It can be problematic to do a preview for some of these programs because we can't even be sure they will race a lightweight boat, much less know which races on their schedule will include a lightweight race. In Lehigh's case, they have raced lightweight boats in 2004 and 2005, so I'll assume they will continue, and press on.

Lehigh begins the season on the Schuylkill in Philadelphia against Delaware and St. Joe's. Delaware doesn't race lightweights but St. Joe's often does, so there may be a light eight or four race that day. St. Joe's has the potential to make some noise in the lightweight ranks so if they race a light eight this year, this will be a good test for both. The next week is Villanova in Philly. Villanova often puts out lightweight boats so there may be another opportunity to race. Lehigh may just as well camp out along the Schuylkill because the following week is the Murphy Cup. The Murphy Cup usually has a good field of light fours.

April Fool's Day brings the rivalry race against Lafayette. In 2004 a light eight was contested while in 2005 only a light four was raced. Whatever is raced this year, Lehigh needs to win it if they hope to play any national role.

The following week is the Knecht Cup in Camden. The Knecht Cup has become one of the premier lightweight women's events, but Lehigh hasn't raced it recently. If they have a serious light boat, this is chance to find out what it's made of. The next race with lightweight possibilities is a dual with Bucknell. Bucknell wasn't a factor last year, but they are getting serious about lightweights so maybe they'll have a varsity boat to pit against Lehigh. If so, this will be a key race for Lehigh. The Patriot League Championship follows. This may or may not have a lightweight race so it probably won't be a highlight. Next come Dad Vails and IRAs to end the season.

Early races are just that - early races. They are important for training, less important for results. The Knecht Cup will be big, but still a bit early. The Bucknell race is late enough, however, that if both crews are racing lightweight eights, this will be a key match-up and can provide some good momentum entering the championship season. Of course, if Lehigh doesn't actually race a lightweight eight this year - NEVER MIND! [Update: Lehigh has confirmed that they will be racing lightweights this spring.]

Next up is the University of Central Florida.

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