Sunday, February 26, 2006

2006 Season Preview - Stanford University

Stanford has been bouncing around the bottom of the top five nationally ranked crews for several years now, and it's time they make a move. Their first opportunity comes at the Sacramento State Invitational. Although other lightweight crews may compete, Stanford's major worry should be the Cal Lights. As the two major lightweight crews in the West, these two boats will run into each other several times during the season. Two weeks later comes another big race at the Windermere Classic. Here the Cardinal should meet up with Princeton and Radcliffe, and get an early, probably too early, read on their season. One week later comes the Crew Classic and Wisconsin, as well as Cal once again. Haven't had enough yet? OK, head straight to the East Coast for the Knecht Cup and see Wisconsin, Radcliffe, Princeton, and Georgetown. Now, take a week off.

Whew! What an opening schedule! Stanford has an opportunity to make a name for itself quickly this season, or get pounded for three straight weeks. Despite being a West Coast school, by the time of the Knecht Cup Stanford will have had the most experience in the field racing the major powers - only Georgetown will have been unseen by the Cardinal. That will make the trip interesting because Stanford has been closest to catching Georgetown the past few seasons.

After Knecht comes Cal (again), St. Mary's, and Santa Clara. At this point Stanford will know if it has an easy week or a dogfight since it will have raced Cal a few times already. Next listed on the schedule are the Cal heavyweights. This looks unusual, but I'm guessing the Stanford heavies are racing and the lights though they'd tag a long and see what they could do. It will be motivating to race heavies, but I'm not sure this is the right match-up for an upset. A few weeks later are the Pacific Coast Championships (another date with Cal, most likely), and then the IRAs. I hope the Cardinal has the PCC date circled on their calendars, because I'm pretty sure UCF does. UCF has something to prove on their trip west, and they have it to prove to Stanford. The loss to Stanford at last year's IRA cost UCF quite a bit in the final standings and this will be their first chance for revenge. As much as they'll be missed at Dad Vail, UCF's presence at the PCC will be great for Stanford and West Coast rowing.

Stanford is certainly going after it this year, scheduling tough crews and putting their season on the line. This is the only way to improve and Stanford has been treading water long enough. Some schools might be happy with a fairly constant 5th or 6th in the nation, but I don't think Stanford is one of them. When this school makes a sport varsity, they do it for one reason - to win, and the learning curve is just about over. I'm not sure Stanford is ready to break out just yet, but I do think they'll be knocking on Georgetown's door. One way or the other, we'll see Stanford break into the top three in the next few years.

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