Friday, February 24, 2006

2006 Season Preview - University of Dayton

Dayton had perhaps its most successful year last year, winning the lightweight varsity eight at Dad Vail. I wish they had gone on to race at IRAs, but I assume there was a scheduling conflict of some sort that didn't allow it. Dayton enters Spring 2006 as the school to beat among Dad Vail competitors.

The Flyers open the season March 25 at home against Duquesne, who has raced lightweight boats the last two years. This race should be a nice tune up to start the season. Next up are Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, and Indiana. I don't think any of those programs has lightweights, although I seem to recall that Eastern Michigan was talking about adding them not too long ago. The first real test for Dayton will come at the Knecht Cup. As I've mentioned, this race has become a great event for lightweights as the top crews in the country usually compete and I think this year is no exception. This will give the Flyers an early read on where they stand.

Dayton then gets into its championship season as two weeks after Knecht is the A-10 championship. Dayton will be the crew to beat here, although URI might put on a good show, and I just have a feeling that St. Joe's has a lightweight surprise or two up its sleeve. Three weeks after A-10 is Dad Vail. Only time will tell who actually shows up at Dad Vail, but it's guaranteed not to be a cakewalk. Despite the sometimes low number of entries at Vails, as I've noted before, the Vails lightweight eight was a bit of an anomaly in 2005, given that the times were much closer to the heavy boats than one might expect. Dayton will be the crew to beat, but they'll have their hands full, even without UCF. After Vails comes IRAs and as it is listed on their schedule, it looks like Dayton plans to race. I expect they'll earn their attendance and should put in a good show.

Dayton was a relative newcomer to the top ranks of lightweight rowing last year. Their inability to race at IRAs robbed them of an opportunity to see if they really deserved membership in the Big Dog Club. This is the year for the Flyers to step it up. They tasted victory last year and know that it's sweet. The only thing more motivating than remembering what a gold medal feels like around your neck is wondering what one feels like. Those crews chasing Dayton are wondering. This is the year for Dayton to pull out all the stops - they CAN compete with the top crews, but WILL they?

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