Friday, March 31, 2006

"Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me" - Stanford Men

The Stanford men continue to whinge about how their competition has more scholarships to give so the playing field isn't even. Why should women's lightweights care? Because Stanford's, and the Pac-10's, solution is a NCAA championship for the heavyweight men which would undoubtedly end the IRAs and leave the light men and light women without a national championship regatta. I've written about this several times before and suggested that you (or your coach) take a position against this proposal. We're in the comment period now but I believe it ends soon. Many heavyweight coaches, as well as lightweight coaches, are against this proposal, but the NCAA seems to be favorably disposed. Now is the time to act against it!

Dayton Concentrates

This release from Dayton makes me feel good about my rank of seven (not twelve, as the coaches did) for the Flyers. It notes that they will be racing the Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, and Indiana heavyweights this weekend, followed by the Knecht Cup next weekend. The most interesting statement is a quote from Coach Mike Farrey who says, "After the conference regatta we will begin concentrating on our lightweight eight that will race at Dad Vail and IRA's." Yeah, I just don't think that's the number 12 boat in the country. URI was tied with Dayton and the release I noted below also makes me feel good about ranking them higher.

Yankee Cup

It looks like the Yankee Cup will have some good lightweight races as press releases from both UMass and URI mention their lightweights. The UMass press release lists crews for both an eight and a four (coming from the eight). The URI release lists the light eight and goes on to describe it as "another strong lightweight 8, similar to the boat that won Atlantic 10's and ECAC's two years ago." Of course, no one describes their boats as slow, but this statement shows that URI recognizes and values the success they had a few years ago and has some focus on lightweights. I was previously uncertain if there would be lightweight races at the Yankee Cup.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Coaches' Lightweight Poll

The USRowing Collegiate Poll was released the other day and the women's lightweight eight rankings were included. Last year the lightweights were not ranked until April 27th. Probably the first thing to notice (but not a surprise) is that this is the first time in a long time that Princeton received no votes for number one. The next thing to look at in this poll, of course, is how it compares to FITD's ranking. I'll start by allowing that the coaches should know more about, and therefore be better at, this than me.

The first four spots are the same as mine (using my in-season ranking which is when the coaches ranked), but the coaches have Stanford at 5 and UCF at 6 while I have those two reversed. I think the coaches are professing the conventional wisdom here, but I disagree with that wisdom. Bigger differences come after that as the coaches have Ohio State at seven and I don't have them in my top ten. Again, conventional wisdom suggests they should be up there because they had a fast boat last year and haven't really been tested yet this spring. I dropped them down based largely on their miserable showing against Dayton in the fall, but that was a long time ago now and who knows what boat they put together for that race? I have Dayton at seven (12th from the coaches), since they are the defending Dad Vail champs and in their one fall race seemed to have some speed. I then have URI at eight which the coaches have at 12th (tied with Dayton). For URI to even reach eighth would be a bolt from the blue since they didn't race last year, but I think they can do it. We both then have MIT and Bucknell, although the coaches have Lehigh at ten, which didn't make my list. Overall four boats are in the same position, four are one spot different, and 2 boats each are only found on one top ten list.

There are two curious vote recipients on the coaches' poll - UCSB and SDSU. UCSB's coach told me that they are not racing a lightweight boat this year and SDSU hasn't raced one yet and isn't racing one in the Crew Classic. I think both of those schools received votes but will not be racing lightweights.

Polls are mostly for fun and it all gets worked out on the water (in most cases), but it might be worthwhile going back and reviewing the early polls at the end of the season. Maybe one of you engineers has a formula for calculating accuracy, something like take the standard deviation of the absolute values of the differences in rank from the first to the last poll, etc.

Crew Classic

The biggest race of the weekend turns out to also be a dual race, taking place under the guise of the San Diego Crew Classic. Only Wisconsin and Stanford are entered in the lightweight eight event creating a match race in San Diego. This regatta has certainly taken a dive this year as there were 9 entries in the event in 2005. What happened? There's been talk about unfair conditions at Mission Bay for quite a while, but I can't imagine that's the real reason 7 schools declined to return this year. What happened to Cal and Loyola, just to name two?

The Wisconsin lightweights also have an entry in the Women's Varsity Cal Cup. Since the light eight race is at 10:40 am on Saturday and the Cal Cup is at 11:00am, it can't be the same boat. Which one is the A boat?

The Crew Classic turnout is extremely disappointing this year and hopefully is not representative of the state of West Coast lightweight women's rowing. I don't believe it is, but it's not encouraging. It may be, however, a reaction to something about the regatta, rather than a decline in lightweights. Wisconsin should win the lightweight event and, depending on which boat enters the Cal Cup, should make the final and perhaps even medal.

I think Wisconsin alternates between the Crew Classic and Windermere each year. A turnout like this year's Crew Classic may make them drop it all together, further eroding the viability of a women's lightweight event in San Diego.

Dual Races This Week

Coming off their victorious weekend at Windermere, Radcliffe has a full weekend of racing ahead. They start with a race against Georgetown (listed by Georgetown but not by Radcliffe) on Saturday followed by URI on Sunday. Radcliffe will be Georgetown's first real test of the season so their new coach will get a first hand look at one of the best crews in the country. This will be a great measuring stick for Georgetown and at the end of the day we'll have a better idea of the Hoya's speed as well as that of St. Joe's, who raced Georgetown earlier. Sunday's URI race will give us an idea if URI is really making progress this year or if they have another year or so to wait. Radcliffe should win both of these races.

Princeton faces Bucknell this weekend on Lake Carnegie. This race could be a lot closer than the Tigers would like if they have another Windermere type of row, but I don't expect that to happen. Meanwhile, Bucknell gets to learn just where they stand compared to not only Princeton but also Stanford and Loyola, both of whom they're liable to meet later in the season.

MIT is on its Spring Break trip to Florida and will scrimmage UCF this weekend. This is a good race for both schools and I wish we'd see the results. Since it's a scrimmage, though, I don't expect to see any.

Wingnuts and Washers

The University at Buffalo student paper published a nice story that was linked on row2k about a coxswain/bowman sister team in the Buffalo lightweight eight.

In a pre Crew Classic press release from SDSU, the Aztecs' third place finish in last year's lightweight eight event is noted. This year, unfortunately, SDSU is not entering a lightweight eight. They may not have enough lightweight rowers or, more likely, they've decided they want to put everyone in heavyweight races. Interestingly enough, SDSU received votes in the latest coaches' lightweight eight poll (more on that in a bit). I would say that a San Diego program that's not racing a lightweight boat in the Crew Classic is not racing a lightweight boat, period.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Loyola Marymount put out a release on their Races at Windermere that adds some perspective to their performance and their program. The article says that the LMU lightweight program is in its second year and the squad is comprised of sophomores and freshmen. It was impressive to see them within 12 seconds of Stanford. Even better news is the fact that the school is planning to build its lightweight program. The first step in any plan is a lightweight coach, and LMU's novice coach is also the lightweight coach. Given a good opening performance last weekend, if LMU sticks to the plan, they could quickly become the West Coast version of UCF or URI - schools making a conscious effort to build their lightweight programs and seeing quick rewards.

Speaking of Loyola, Loyola College in Maryland has a press release out about their light four's Murphy Cup performance. They were third (of six), but it turns out that they were in a dogfight for second with CMU until an oarlock popped open 200 meters from the finish. Can't you just hear their coach when they got back to the dock, "How many times have I told you...?" Anyway, sounds like they can develop some more speed in the four.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Regattas This Weekend

As I mentioned before, on Saturday the Yankee Cup will be contested among URI, UMass, UNH, and UConn. Of those, URI, UMass, and UNH have already raced lightweight eights this year so if they all boat light crews here we should have a pretty good race. URI should take it but UMass and UNH are unknown quantities at this point.

The John Hunter Regatta will take place this weekend in Oak Ridge and a light eight is scheduled. At the moment , though, there is only one entry - the University of Alabama. That one entry sure looks lonely and makes one wonder if there's no one in the South to challenge the Crimson Tide?

The Red Hawk Sprints hosted by Miami University will be run on Saturday. Last year there were light eights entered as well as light fours with Ohio university winning the fours. So far this year only Miami has entered a light eight and there are no light fours. Where are Ohio and Wittenberg this year?

The Occoquan Sprints take place on Sunday with a light four event. So far N.C. State and the University of Maryland are entered. N.C. State had a decent fall and Maryland is a new name to lightweight racing so this is an interesting matchup. I'm not sure, but I think this might be the first year for this regatta.

The University Rowing Association championships will be run on Sunday in Butler, PA. This race has one of those events that drives me crazy - lightweight and JV 4+. Entered are Brandeis University (2 boats), University of Rochester, Carnegie-Mellon University, and Case Western Reserve University. I suppose we'll never know which of those boats (if any) are lightweights, although I suspect at least the CMU boat is. If anyone knows, please let me know.

More to come on this weekend's races.

More Results

The University at Buffalo reported on results of races that apparently took place a week or two ago while the team was on spring break. A UB lightweight eight raced the UB novice heavyweights and a UNH heavyweight 3V, finishing ahead of UNH but behind the UB novices. The lightweights later raced West Virginia but it's not clear if the WVU boat was light or heavy or who won. This article is interesting for the fact that the pictures shown are all of coxswains. It never hurts to suck up to your coxswain, does it?

Last Saturday Ithaca raced a lightweight eight against Colgate's heavyweight 3V and Ithaca's own heavy 3V, finishing 2nd after Colgate and before the Ithaca heavy 3V. Next week Ithaca races Marist, William Smith, and Ohio State. Ohio State's presence at this regatta means it's possible we'll see an OSU v Ithaca lightweight eight race.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Windermere Classic - Day Two

As expected, Radcliffe leaves Windermere undefeated and as the top lightweight boat competing. On Saturday afternoon Radcliffe defeated Loyola by 29 seconds and on Sunday defeated Stanford by 21 seconds. These were relatively easy wins for Radcliffe and proved that their speed against Princeton was no fluke. Below is Radcliffe over Stanford.

Princeton, meanwhile, also went on to win their next two races, by 30 seconds over Stanford and by 31 over Loyola. Loyola, by the way, while coming to Windermere and getting knocked around a bit, put in a credible performance. Although they lost to Stanford by 12 seconds, they were just about as close to Radcliffe and Princeton as Stanford was. This is a crew willing to take its licks early in the season to create what will undoubtedly be a faster boat later. They have the potential to gain on Stanford as the season goes on. Below is Princeton over Loyola.

If you paid attention to the times I listed above, you'll notice a curious thing - Princeton beat both Stanford and Loyola by more than Radcliffe did. On Sunday, when the weather was much nicer, Princeton's time was 6 seconds faster than Radcliffe's. Even in Saturday's second race, Princeton was less than a second off of Radcliffe's (it's bad to compare times in different races, but there were stakeboats here and relatively steady conditions so...). Also on Sunday, Princeton was 11 seconds faster than it's own 2V, which was faster than the 1V on Saturday. Of course, all that and $2.50 will get you a cup of coffee. The only time it really mattered, Radcliffe was 6 seconds better than Princeton. I point it out because Princeton is now a crew bent on revenge at the Knecht Cup. Radcliffe can't sit still (they wouldn't anyway) and beat Princeton by a boat length again. (Of course, a new kid comes to play at Knecht.)

The showdown between the Princeton 2V and the Cal heavyweight 3V never happened and Princeton raced Sonoma State's heavyweight eight, winning by 24 seconds. Below is Princeton 2V over Sonoma State.

More Weekend Results

In the Waterfield Cup in Virginia, Virginia Tech raced a lightweight four in the heavyweight four race, finishing third behind William and Mary and the VT heavy four, but ahead of Virginia Commonwealth's four.

The club teams from Ohio State and Purdue raced Sunday, with the OSU lightweights winning the 2V heavyweight race. It's disappointing to see a Purdue squad boat two varsity boats and two novice boats, but unable to put out a lightweight boat.

You can read releases on UCF's weekend here and Dayton's weekend here.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Windermere Classic - Day One

Already the rankings shuffle.

Saturday dawned cold and blustery at Redwood Shores, California - not a particularly good day to be a lightweight. There was a headwind at times blowing, at other times screaming, down the course, and spectators were bundled against the cold (cold for California, at least). Stanford and Loyola pulled into the stake boats for the first lightweight race of the day. Loyola put a bit of a scare into Stanford, leading by about half a length at the halfway point, but Stanford came on in the second 1000 to win by 12 seconds.

Next up was the Radcliffe/Princeton duel, a race both crews had to have been looking at since the Fall season ended. The crews were even off the start and through the first 500. By the halfway point Princeton held a half boat length lead. As the crews came through the bridge at 900 meters to go, they were battered by the headwind. Radcliffe clearly handled the conditions better as they pulled even with Princeton by 500 to go, and then hammered the point home over the last 500, winning by six seconds. As they neared the finish line Radcliffe was overstroking Princeton by what seemed like at least two beats per second. Princeton clearly seemed to be affected by the weather, but it was no different for Radcliffe who did what they needed to do and really started their season in fine fashion. Both crews raced again later in the day (Princeton v Stanford and Radcliffe v Loyola) but the results haven't been posted. Judging by times from the earlier races, Princeton and Radcliffe should both be winners.

So Princeton falls a notch in the rankings. As a I said before, these are early season rankings so you can't read too much into them, but six seconds is a lot. I'm sure Princeton is shaking their heads at the bad race they rowed, and are awfully happy they'll met Radcliffe four more times before the season ends. Princeton lost this race in the final 500 meters so the crew knows what it has to do before the Knecht Cup - and it'll be painful. No doubt adding to that pain will be some serious seat racing. If Princeton can't bring the rate up, and bring it up effectively, they're toast. Surely conditions played a part, and I doubt Princeton will lose to Radcliffe by six seconds again. Sometimes having a protected lake to practice on isn't a good thing.

Radcliffe now moves up to number two. They rowed a strong, no fear race, didn't get rattled when trailing, battled through the conditions, and won an impressive victory. There's more racing yet to come, but Radcliffe should leave Windermere as the winning lightweight eight. The Black and White figured something out over the winter, or maybe they're just more of a sprint crew than a head race crew, but they made up a good piece of ground on Princeton. Their sprint looked good, but they probably don't want to start every race down by 3 seconds at the halfway point, so they'll do some work on the second 500. Radcliffe has some young rowers in the boat (I wonder how young?) and they list 20 freshmen on their roster. With that many freshmen they can't help but put out a good freshmen eight. Given some pretty good results for Princeton's frosh this weekend, that event at Sprints could be a barnburner.

You may be wondering about the Princeton 2V? They raced the Stanford 3V, losing by 24 seconds (I think that's right, the Jamco times don't have the correct crews listed), and the Stanford novice scratched, giving them a row over in the afternoon. In the first race they just beat the 1V's time. That's either a sign of Princeton's depth or a sign that the 1V had a bad race. Quite honestly, with the headwind today, the 2V never really had a chance against heavies.

Also Racing Light Eights....

in a scrimmage at UMass, were UMass, University of New Hampshire, and Coast Guard. Other than UMass, those are new names to light eights. UMass and UNH race the Yankee Cup next weekend against URI and UConn, so there should be a three boat lightweight eight race.

Some Saturday Results

Dayton raced its lightweight eight in a dual match against Duquesne, winning the 2V race over its own heavy 2V and the Duquesne 2V. Dayton's time was also faster than the Duquesne 1V by 26 seconds. Time comparisons don't really work especially because this was probably a floating start, but 26 seconds means the lights were faster.

UCF raced Nova Southeastern and Rollins in what was a matchup of the UCF lights against heavyweight boats. UCF finished second, five seconds off of the Nova Southeastern heavies and way ahead of Rollins and the Nova Southeastern B boat.

In Philadelphia, the Murphy Cup held a six boat lightweight varsity four final, with Pittsburgh winning over Carnegie Mellon by 5 seconds and Loyola by 14. Villanova, Lehigh, and Susqehanna also raced. In the varsity eight final St. Joe's hammered Miami of Ohio by over a minute. St. Joe's should feel good with a big win like that after a tough race against Georgetown last week. Princeton's lightweight frosh won the heavyweight freshmen eight event by 10 seconds over 14 other boats. Navy and Lehigh were second and third.

Wing Nuts and Washers

URI put out a presser on the start to its Spring season and listed the Knecht Cup. Looks like there should be quite a good field for Knecht.

A UCF release notes that they'll be racing Nova Southeastern and Rollins this weekend.

Radcliffe joins the party with their own announcement about Windermere.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Princeton Presser

I'm a bit late on this, but Princeton put out their own release on the upcoming season a few days ago. The "strong underclassmen" theme continues as Coach Rassam notes that four sophomores are in the running for the V8. The last couple of freshman classes have won Sprints so there's no doubt that Princeton has some good sophomores and juniors, but a lot of water has to pass under the riggers before a champion freshman eight becomes a champion varsity eight.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Windermere Classic

The big race of the weekend, of course, is the Windermere Classic in California. Stanford, Radcliffe, LMU, and Princeton will all be competing at Windermere (Sonoma State will race a masters boat). LMU is usually a bit beneath the other three crews so I expect they will find the going tough. For Stanford, Radcliffe, and Princeton this is a major race, although it’s early enough that there is still time to recover from a blown row. The crews will be working on race plans here and learning where their weaknesses lie. Despite all that, the point of a race is to win, so no one will leave her A game at home. Because these races are run Henley style, there will be no distractions as Radcliffe and Princeton duke it out for first Ivy blood. Stanford gets to see if this really is a down year or if it can continue its progress up the lightweight ranks. With a race this early we don’t know if we learn a lot or we learn a little. The crews, however, always learn a lot. If they get hammered, they know they have a lot of work to do. If they are the hammer, they can feel good for a day and then wake up to the fact that they just created an opponent bent on revenge.

They get right to it on Saturday as Stanford races Loyola and Radcliffe races Princeton in the morning, while Stanford races Princeton and Radcliffe races Loyola in the afternoon (I’d say the Tigers have the worst of that schedule). On Sunday morning Princeton and Loyola go at it as do Stanford and Radcliffe. There are live race results so if you’re not there in person, you can still sit back and enjoy this one.

Before we leave Windermere, I need to say a word about the Princeton LW2V which is also racing there. Actually, a few words. If you’ll grant me poetic license, I’d like to say (mostly) Lord Tennyson’s words:

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Ro[wed] the [eight kindred.]
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Ro[wed] the [eight kindred].

The Princeton LW2V may not be facing the “jaws of Death” or the “mouth of Hell,” but they are facing a barrelful of T9s. On Saturday they race the Stanford (ranked 15th) heavyweight 3V, followed 3 hours and twenty minutes later by a date with the Stanford novice heavyweights. The kicker comes on Sunday when they face the Cal heavyweight 3V. That’s the Cal that won NCAAs last year and is ranked 2nd this year. Of course, Princeton has everything to gain and nothing to lose. No one will expect them to win, but these races can be close (uh, or blowouts). If you’re the Princeton 2V, what could be more motivating than looking across the lane to see a bunch of sneering, slobbering heavyweights planning to have their way with you? A win is a possibility here, but it will take the right mindset and, most of all, no fear! No matter what happens, let’s remember how Tennyson’s poem ends:

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble [eight kindred].

Racing is Starting in Earnest

The races are coming fast and furious now and, as usual, it's hard to tell which have lightweight events. Several will probably have light four or eight events, and UCF will be racing (again) in Florida. Ohio State is scheduled to race Purdue and it would be nice to see a lightweight eight race there. I don't know if one is scheduled but those two teams have put out some good light eights in recent years so it would be great to see them both carry on. OSU will have a boat if Purdue does. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the Princeton lightweight frosh are scheduled to race in the heavyweight freshmen eight race at the Murphy Cup.

Did OSU Lights Race Franklin Pierce?

Franklin Pierce has a story about their race against the Ohio State club team in NC, but doesn't say if the OSU boats were lightweight or heavyweight. There were two OSU boats, both of which beat Franklin Pierce, so I'm guessing that at least one was light. [Update: One of the OSU eights was a lightweight boat.]

LMU Raced at the WCC Challenge

LMU raced a lightweight eight at the WCC Challenge, losing to Long Beach State's heavies. The lightweight four also raced finishing second behind the LMU heavy four and beating some local club teams. If LMU is racing a light eight now they should have an entry at the Pacific Coast Championships and maybe at the Crew Classic (only Stanford and Wisconsin are entered at the moment).

Best in Show - 2006 LWV8 Spring Preseason Ranking

Fight in the Dog’s
Best in Show
2006 LWV8 Spring Preseason Ranking

1) Wisconsin
2) Princeton
3) Radcliffe
4) Georgetown
5) UCF
6) Stanford
7) Dayton
8) URI
9) MIT
10) Bucknell

At first glance, this ranking, which is heavily based on Fall results, looks pretty boring. The top four have been the top four for the last two years and that’s also pretty much the way the Fall season shook out. Despite the fact that it’s hard to find an objective reason to change that order, I would be surprised to see the year end exactly like that. Somewhere in there somebody shifts, I’m just not sure who it is. Wisconsin, with five rowers returning from last year’s national championship boat, was the top collegiate lightweight 8 in Boston, beating Princeton by 14 seconds. That was their only real appearance of the Fall and it was enough – the Badgers are fast. As the reigning national champions and the fastest boat in the Fall, they have to begin the season at Number 1.

Princeton, second in Boston, has only four rowers returning from last year’s silver medal boat. Despite that they still generated enough speed to beat Radcliffe, Georgetown, URI, and MIT in Boston and Radcliffe and Georgetown again at the Princeton Chase. To maintain their number 2 ranking, Princeton’s captain’s claim that the squad is as deep as it’s ever been needs to be true. If it is, though, they just may have the speed to catch Wisconsin.

Radcliffe had a bumpy Fall season, finishing third in Boston and then falling a miserable 52 seconds off the pace at the Princeton Chase to finish behind both Princeton and Georgetown. Boston is their hometown race, though, so I have to believe that the best boat raced there. I wish I knew what happened in Princeton. Radcliffe seems to be coming back strong (if you consider third in the nation weak) with a bigger squad this year than in past years. They’ll definitely challenge for the national title, I’m just not sure if it will be this year.

Georgetown has been working hard to break out of the fourth position and with a new coach brought in specifically for lightweights, it’s bound to happen. Like Radcliffe, it’s all a matter of how long it takes to step up the speed. The Hoyas knocked around St. Joe’s last week so at worst they are still in the top ranks of lightweights. As the season progresses they’ll get faster, but so will the competition. Although the next group of boats will be breathing down their neck, they won’t get caught from behind and should at least put a scare into some of those boats ahead.

The first change comes at 5, because I believe UCF will overtake Stanford. UCF has looked quite fast so far this Spring, although they didn’t really race in the Fall. Stanford, meanwhile, did not show a lot in the Fall as they skipped the Charles and raced T9s on the West coast. In addition, a couple of their better rowers are studying abroad this year. This also means that UCF is the first Dad Vail school in the ranking and so should be the favorite to win that regatta. Too bad they aren’t going. They should, however, be favored to win the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships (can an East Coast team win that title?). UCF, by the way, has all eight rowers coming back from last year, two of whom have been rowing in the heavyweight eight. [Update: Three are in the heavy eight.]

Places seven through ten are more of a crapshoot because only URI and MIT have raced each other recently. URI finished ahead of MIT in Boston (barely), so they rank ahead. But Dayton slips in ahead of URI on the strength of six returning rowers from a Dad Vail championship crew and a strong outing against Ohio State in the Fall. After MIT comes Bucknell, although with some hesitancy. I haven’t even heard of them race a lightweight boat this year! I may have them here more as a result of a strong lightweight recruiting class, rather than a strong group of upper classmen. Ohio State or Cal may deserve this spot more, but Bucknell has produced very fast lightweight eights in the past, they’re racing a schedule which suggests they think they have some speed (e.g. racing Princeton), and they’ve stated their intention to build the lightweight program.

Notable exceptions to this list are Ohio State, Cal, and Lehigh. We’ve seen OSU in one race this year (meaning school year) and they got knocked around by Dayton – that hurt. They do have five rowers back though, so they should improve. I’ve seen nothing of Lehigh and Cal seems to have a better four than eight this Spring as the four did well in Boston while the eight didn’t fare too well in some West Coast Fall regattas.

As the season goes on I’ll update this ranking, which I’ll place in the right hand sidebar. That serves two purposes – most importantly it doesn’t leave my inevitably erroneous judgment on display and secondly it allows us to always have a look at who stands where. As races occur that impact the standings, I’ll change them, sometimes based on hard results, sometimes based on judgment. Should I miss one, feel free to call it to my attention. Now, off we go to Windermere, after which these rankings may already be obsolete!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Augusta Invitational Results

I underestimated the Tampa light four as they knocked off Alabama and Georgia State at the Augusta Invitational. Tampa won by just under 3 seconds over Alabama and over 30 seconds over GA State.

More Badgers and Longhorns

In the final day of racing at the Longhorn Invitational Wisconsin's 2V lightweights raced Texas's 3V heavies, beating them by 4 seconds. The 1V raced Texas's top novice boat, losing by 8 seconds. This result seems a bit out of whack to me, but you just can't tell much from these races.

[Update: A reader writes to say that Wisco won an earlier Texas novice vs light 8 race by over 8 seconds.]

New Names for This Year

Marist raced a lightweight eight at Clemson last weekend, finishing behind the 2Vs of Clemson and Penn, but beating their own 2V as well as that of Purdue. Marist has raced lightweight before and their assistant coach is listed as the lightweight coach so apparently they intend to take things a bit more seriously.

Pacific Lutheran also raced a lightweight eight this past weekend in Washington, finishing third behind the Lewis and Clark JV and their own JV. PLU is another school we've seen race lightweight in the past.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Of Jesuits and Longhorns

In the Jesuit Invitational yesterday, Georgetown faced St. Joseph's in a race in which Georgetown hoped to dominate and St. Joe's hoped to surprise. There were no surprises as the Hoyas hammered St. Joe's by 24 seconds. This is a good start for Georgetown as any win by 24 seconds shows a fast boat. St. Joe's can take heart however, since Ohio State, last year's Dad Vail silver medal winner, lost to Georgetown by over 25 seconds in the IRA final. St. Joe's could be on track to a Dad Vail medal.

At the Longhorn Invitational Wisconsin's varsity raced against itself and the novices raced a few heavyweight novice boats. The varsity also raced the Texas novice eight (apparently they needed something to do), beating them by 8 seconds. The Wisco novices lost but it's too early in the season, especially for Wisconsin, to read anything into that. All in all not a particularly informative regatta for those of us trying to get an early read in Wisconsin's speed.

The Rollins Tri-Meet, however, did provide some information, and it wasn't good for UCF's upcoming opponents. UCF's lights beat both the Jacksonville and Georgia heavyweight eights. UCF is probably ready to go earlier in the season than most schools because they get so much water time living in the warm weather but JU and UGA aren't exactly in Minnesota. This looks like a fast boat this year, too bad they won't be at Dad Vail.

Virginia Tech and NC State's varsity fours also went at it yesterday, with Virginia Tech coming out on top by 23 seconds. NC State had a decent fall season, but it looks like they have some work to do to be ready for the spring.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Is Princeton Loaded?

In an article in The Daily Princetonian, Princeton's captain said the Tigers have the "deepest, most talented team in school history." We all exaggerate, but as a senior I'll assume she knows what she's talking about when comparing this year to the previous three years. One of those years was a national championship year. This statement makes me think that there is a lot of competition for seats in the V8, which usually makes for a fast boat. We'll find out in about a week.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Jesuit Invitational Regatta

The big race of the weekend will be the Jesuit Invitational, where Georgetown should meet St. Joe's. (Wouldn't it be nice if a schedule was actually published in advance?) As I mentioned earlier, it's possible that other crews will enter the light 8, but this will be the race. Both crews will come out screaming - Georgetown looking to impress their new coach as well as the rest of the lightweight world, and St. Joe's looking for some lightweight respect. Only St. Joe's has raced previously, defeating Delaware last weekend. This is the best race so far this season, although it will be eclipsed next weekend. Georgetown is favored, but St. Joe's can surprise.

Rollins Tri-Meet

UCF continues its rapid start to the season, racing in the Rollins Tri-Meet. Last year UCF raced Villanova at this regatta but since they've already raced this year, I would guess there will be another opponent in store. UCF races once more before the Knecht Cup in April, giving them a total of four races before Knecht. That's more than most, if not all, of their opponents in New Jersey, giving them the race experience advantage. It's not like the other crews are novices who've never raced before, but racing gives a crew an opportunity to shake out its race plan and learn where it may have weaknesses. UCF should have learned about, and corrected, any obvious problems by April 8th.

[Update: UCF is racing heavyweight boats from UGA, Stetson, Washington College, and Jacksonville.]

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Longhorn Invitational

Wisconsin is the first of the Big Three to open its season when it races this weekend at the Longhorn Invitational in Texas. Last year the Badgers raced Tulsa in this season tune-up. The only way Wisconsin loses here is if they race a football school boatload of T9s or stump the boat and sink it on the way to the finish line.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Little Off Topic...

Today is Pi Day (3/14, get it?). What does that have to do with lightweight rowing? Well MIT, those raucous purveyors of merriment, and home to a pretty good lightweight crew, often sends out its acceptance letters for delivery on this date. Just think, today one of your future foes (or teammates) may receive the happiest news of her life. Don't believe the raucous part? Check out their launching cheer. (Does Jerry Mathers play the part of Beaver?)

FITD in the Wall Street Journal Online!

Well, it’s not quite as glamorous as it sounds because FITD was in a column of reader responses, but nonetheless…. Jason Fry writes the Real Time column for the Journal, which is “A weekly column examining the fast-moving issues and people behind the week's technology headlines.” Obviously, that means FITD! Seriously, though, Jason wrote a column about the alleged death of blogs and asked readers to write with their blog experiences. Never one to miss an opportunity to spread the word, I wrote, and Jason published my letter (the longest one published) along with a very flattering comment. You’ll need a subscription to read the column, but the point here isn’t the content of my letter (that’s about blogging, not lightweight rowing), it’s the fact that for a moment, however brief, people who didn’t even know lightweight women’s rowing existed, thought about the sport. A lot of them even clicked through to the site and maybe discovered that there is still purity in college athletics. As the Title IX girls (T9s) clip-clop through the boathouse, and the heavyweight guys leer at you as you shove off, you’ll know that on Monday, at least, many more people thought about lightweights than heavyweights.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Augusta Invitational

The Augusta Invitational will be raced on Saturday and it looks to have a decent light four lineup. Alabama (2 boats), Georgia State, Hamilton, and Tampa (2) will be joined by the Atlanta Juniors in the race. The only crew I know that’s raced so far is Tampa, which earlier beat Stetson. Nonetheless, I expect this year to look much like last year with Alabama winning, followed by Tampa, Georgia State, and Hamilton. The heavyweight V8 event also contains two Alabama boats and it looks like one of those eights is lightweight, the combination of the two light fours. In its last season as a club sport, I’m happy to see any Alabama lightweight boat. Their coach has told me that he hopes to continue racing lights as a varsity program, so the lightweight racing they do this year can only help the lightweights next year.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

NCAA Championships for Men Must Die!

While poking around the NCAA web site the other day (I need a life!), I came across the proposal sponsored by the PAC-10 to make men's rowing an NCAA sport with an NCAA championship. I've posted about this before, once here and once here. My first post was in September so I've been ringing the alarm bell about this one for quite a while. Just to remind you, the problem with this proposal is that it would most likely end the IRA regatta and with it, the lightweight women's and men's national championship races. Lightweights would be pushed to the fringe and the NCAA's separate but equal doctrine would continue to take hold of rowing. Think about it yourself, but I have a hard time coming up with one reason why this would be a good thing.

If you look at the proposal, you can see its history. The Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet recommended defeat, but the Championships/Competition Cabinet and the Management Council's 1st Review recommended approval. It looks to me like it's closer to approval than defeat. We are currently in the Comment Period and I suggest you ask your coaches about this. Now is the time for them to let the NCAA know where they stand. First ask your own coach if she or he has registered her opposition with the NCAA, then ask your men's lightweight coach if he's registered his opposition. You also want to know where your heavyweight coaches stand on the matter, since opposition from a men's heavyweight coach ought to carry some special weight. How about it Stanford lightweights, it was your conference that brought the proposal, ask your coaches to explain their position to you. Now is the time to act. You don't want to find yourself standing on the deserted banks of the Cooper River in June 2007 asking yourself why you didn't do more today.

UCF Continues Its Strong Start

UCF easily handled Villanova yesterday at the Rollins Invitational, beating the Wildcats by 32 seconds. After UCF lost a varsity 4 race to Villanova last weekend, there was a possibility that this race might be close. [Update: Scratch that possibility. A reader comments that this was Villanova's heavy 4+.]

St. Joseph's and Lehigh tangled yesterday as well, with St. Joe's coming out on top by about 3 seconds. Lehigh ended up in the top ten last year so this shows me that St. Joe's will make some noise this year. Lehigh was close enough to make a late season race between these two interesting. Meanwhile, as two Philadelphia schools, hopefully St. Joe's and Villanova will meet up so we can get a read on the speed of St. Joe's versus UCF.

At the Sacramento State Invitational Stanford's lights went up against the heavyweight 2Vs of Sacramento State, St. Mary's, and Humboldt State, finishing second, 13 seconds behind Sacramento State. Cal's lightweights (varsity?) raced in a 5 boat heavyweight novice eight race finishing 5th, 30 seconds behind the winner, Sacramento State. I don't know how good the heavyweight boats in these races are so it's hard to judge what it means for the lightweights. It's good to race, though, and nice to beat heavies, even 2Vs.

The Southeastern Regional Collegiate Sprints also took place yesterday but the results aren't posted yet. There may have been some lightweight racing there, but we'll have to wait and see.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Stanford Lights in the Stanford Daily

The Stanford Daily published a preview of the Stanford lightweights, focusing on their upcoming Sacramento State Invitational. The most interesting information to come out of this article is the fact that Coach Acosta said "three of our top eight athletes studied abroad this year." That could be tough to make up.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Weigh-In Update

I received clarification on the question I had below as to whether you must race lightweight if possible to get your weigh-in certifications. The answer is that a weigh-in before a lightweight race is preferred, but if a rower is racing heavyweight or not enough races are available then a weigh-in certified by school staff will suffice. So, if the UCF rowers I mentioned below race as heavies all season, they can still race as lightweights at IRAs as long as they follow the 3 weigh-ins, after April 1st, one week apart, protocol.

2006 IRA Weigh-In Procedures Announced

The weigh-in procedures for the 2006 IRA Women's Lightweight National Championship have been announced. There are two primary changes from past years:

- Weigh-ins will be held the day before the first day of racing

- Each rower will need documentation of three prior weigh-ins from spring races.

Another key part of the procedure continuing from previous years is that a rower weighing over 132 pounds at the first weigh-in may not race, and a rower over 130 but under 132 may make two more attempts to make weight within one hour.

So, as some of you have wondered, you will hear "Paperz pleez," at IRAs. (Actually, the documentation of your weigh-ins will be sent along with the entry.) What you won't hear, at least not yet, is, "Fill ze bottle, pleez." There will be no hydration test.

To provide a little bit more detail, let me quote from the weigh-in principles:

To participate in the IRA National Championship, each MEMBER of a lightweight women's crew entry will be required to submit documentation of weigh-in on at least three different race dates between April 1 and the IRA entry due date, in that given year.

Weigh-in records, presented as documentation for the IRA entry, must be spaced at least 1-week apart; where there is a scheduling hardship (lack of enough April race-dates), a weigh-in record alone for a crew or athlete, will suffice.

That last statement leaves a question or two in my mind. A few posts ago I noted that the UCF heavyweight boat that raced Michigan contained at least two rowers listed as lightweights on the school's roster. If these women race all season as heavyweights, can they be weighed-in three times by the school medical staff during the season, complete the necessary documentation, and race for UCF as lightweights come IRAs? I'm not sure if the purpose of the rule is to ensure that real lightweights are racing or that real lightweights who raced as lightweights whenever possible are racing. I've asked for clarification on this so if I get it I'll post it. [Update: See post above.]

I think this three weigh-in rule is a good rule. Lightweight rowing is for lightweights and is not for midweights or heavyweights who are able to suck down to 130 for a national championship race. It certainly changes things, however, if the requirement is that you have to race lightweight, not just be lightweight, during the season. I can think of pros and cons to a rule like that, but I'll hold off thinking more about it until I hear more. I make fun of the documentation aspect of the new rule because documentation means bureaucracy and bureaucracy exists to be mocked. Nonetheless, I do think this is a good thing.

Maybe the best aspect of these new rules is that the lightweight coaches took the time to consider and develop them. It shows organization. I don't mean that lightweight coaches haven't done much for the sport in the past, but I've always thought they should be more organized and more vocal. It looks like the organization part is coming, and I hope they're working on the vocal part. Heck, maybe someday Rowing News will even discover that more than two schools race lightweight!

Wisconsin Does Their Own Season Preview

Obviously waiting to see what appeared on FITD, Wisconsin released the lightweight women's season preview. Best Mary Shofner quote:"It is about staying humble and having the guts to keep doing what it takes to do it."

The thing about Wisconsin is that over the last couple of years (maybe always?) they've been a bit uneven early. They almost have to be given the winters they have. I'm not sure if the Wisconsin winter has been mild this year, but if so perhaps they'll start a little faster. We'll see about that at Windermere.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

2006 Season Not Previewed

Now that I’ve finished my season previews, a reader or two have dropped me a note expressing disappointment that their school was not covered. I have two points about my selection of schools, one of which is an explanation, the other of which is a mea culpa. First, the schools I covered were those ranking in the top ten of my final 2005 spring rankings. Some judgment was required to do that ranking, but I feel pretty confident about how that turned out. There are other schools that may have deserved coverage, but I needed to limit it so I stuck with the top ten. Now comes the mea culpa. If you looked at the top ten, you’ll notice that Bucknell was not among them. UCSB was ranked but their coach told me that they won’t be racing lightweights this year so I dropped them, replacing them with Bucknell. I chose Bucknell for more or less arbitrary reasons, and therein lies the problem.

One of the benefits of actually having readers, is that they immediately call you out if you make a mistake or show questionable judgment. An MIT rower wrote wondering why the Engineers weren’t covered. If it weren’t for that pesky UCSB-Bucknell switch, I’d have the answer in the top ten. There were at least three other programs deserving of coverage by virtue of their longevity, performance, and consistency with lightweights – MIT, URI, and Cal. There are other programs, such as LMU, that take lightweights pretty seriously, but which aren’t as consistent. So the question is, “Why did I choose Bucknell?” I’m not sure I can answer that, other than to compare it to a new, small, tech stock receiving press while larger, more consistent performers receive very little. The value stocks just keep chugging along providing returns to their shareholders while the little guys bounce around sometimes turning into value stocks, other times flaming out. This is particularly true of “value stock” MIT and only a little less true of “value stock” Cal (a club program). Both of these programs consistently row lightweights (they are, in fact, lightweight programs) and do well. URI is newer to the game, but a serious contender, and actually fits the Bucknell “high-tech stock” mold. I really should have done the previews on my pre-season top ten, but I started them to fill the dead of winter and I just couldn’t do the top ten in time. So, my apologies to those schools, I certainly consider them to be top lightweight programs and expect that at least one of them will make it into my pre-season top ten.

On another subject, I hope to have information on this year's IRA weigh-in procedures posted later tonight.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

2006 Season Preview - University of Wisconsin

Two national championships in a row do not make a dynasty. Three in a row might. Wisconsin enters the 2006 season looking for its third straight national championship and from the results of the head season, must be considered the favorite. By beating Princeton, Radcliffe, Georgetown, URI, and MIT in Boston, the Badgers proved that they are still the crew to beat come June. Including the coxswain, the Wisconsin boat at Boston held five seniors, four of whom are two-time national champions, one junior, and three sophomores. The boat was stroked by a sophomore transfer from Georgetown. Taken together, this is a lot of bad news for the rest of lightweight rowing.

Wisconsin begins its title defense in mid-March in Texas with the Texas Invitational. I assume this is on the tail end of a spring training trip and I have no idea who will race in it, but it will simply be a tune-up. Life gets serious for the Badgers when they travel to San Diego to race in the Crew Classic where, among others, they’ll meet up with Stanford. After the Crew Classic the Badgers stay on the road and head to New Jersey for the Knecht Cup. After Knecht the schedule lists a home race against Michigan State and Michigan. Both of those crews serve as evidence of the truth of the Football Theorem, so they won’t have lightweights racing that day. Looks to me like Wisconsin feels they need to look to heavyweights for some Midwest competition.

On April 22nd Wisconsin will race at home in the Midwest Sprints where they’ll have the opportunity to slap around some more heavies. A week later it’s back to the East Coast to race Georgetown, followed by Sprints in May and IRAs in June. As a lightweight power in the Midwest, there isn’t a lot of competition nearby and, while there are more interesting schedules around, Wisconsin does its very best to test its lightweights prior to Sprints and IRAs. No question about it, they’ll be ready.

A strong Wisconsin program is great for lightweight rowing. As an exception to the Football Theorem, the Badgers’ program provides hope that one day the theorem will no longer hold. They show other heavyweight-only programs that it is possible to play the Title IX game and still have a successful lightweight crew. But beyond all of that they add a real spark to lightweight rowing. After the 2004 IRA, a coach told me he knew Wisconsin would win the final by the way they put their boat in the water. That boat, by the way, was named “Decerto” (look it up). I remember walking around the school tents at that regatta and being amazed at the Wisconsin spread. First of all, there was a tent specifically for the lightweights with their name across the top. Inside that tent were red and white checked tablecloths, boom boxes playing “On Wisconsin,” and, this is the best, Barbie dolls dressed as Wisconsin cheerleaders! I mean come on, who wouldn’t want to be part of that? This was more like a Wisconsin-Minnesota football game than the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race. I’m all for tradition, but these fans knew how to party. And they didn’t mind cheering a little either. I don’t know about this year, but in the past, when the lightweights raced in the Crew Classic, a band contingent traveled with them and waded into the water to play “On Wisconsin” as the crew neared the finish. This is great stuff! Everyone wants to beat Wisconsin right now, and sooner or later someone reading this will. When that happens, look over at the Badger boat, congratulate them on a hard fought battle, and remember all that they’ve brought to this party. But this year, they’ve got bulls eyes on their backs – it’s time to go Badger hunting!

Rollins Invitational

A reader wrote to say that the "UCF Lights and Villanova Lights are going head-to-head next weekend at Rollins." This should be a good race. Good in the sense that both crews will learn something - Villanova will learn if it has a chance to be competitive this year and UCF will learn if it has a chance to be as good as many suspect.

Thanks for the tip, and please continue to write if you have good information that I've missed or don't know about.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Slap in the Face, Courtesy of Rowing News

The latest issue of Rowing News contained its annual collegiate preview, in which lightweight women were given exactly two sentences, in a sidebar. Two sentences! [Update: The two sentences are below.] Heavyweight men, lightweight men, and heavyweight women were all given a page or more. This is inexcusable and, quite honestly, a mystery to me. Lightweight women are one of the four primary categories in rowing and in some boathouses the most successful programs on the water. Write to Rowing News and express your displeasure. You can write to Of course, I did write and my letter is below:

Dear Editor,

I was extremely disappointed that you were unable to provide adequate coverage of the women’s lightweight season in your 2006 collegiate preview. The two sentences you did write provided more of a slap in the face than a commentary. Your decision to treat one of the four primary categories in rowing as an afterthought is inexplicable.

If you want drama, it doesn’t get more dramatic than watching Wisconsin try to continue fighting off the Eastern powerhouses to create a dynasty. What about Princeton’s and Radcliffe’s determination to return to glory? Have you watched Stanford and Georgetown making the off-season moves they hope will propel them into the Big Three? Meanwhile, we wonder if Dayton (where did they come from?) can sustain their Dad Vail championship season of last year. We get to see if UCF, URI, and Bucknell will be successful as they build their lightweight programs, and we watch to see if Ohio State can stay in the top ten with a club program. This is where rowing is growing and this is where the most interesting stories of the next several years will be found.

A recent analysis on Fight in the Dog (, a blog dedicated to women’s lightweight rowing, found that last year over 70 different schools raced lightweight women’s eights or fours, resulting in over 300 race entries. Over the past two years over 90 different schools raced lightweight boats. Does that kind of participation sound like it’s worth only two sentences to you? More programs are seriously racing lightweight women every season. While Title IX fueled demand for heavyweight women athletes far outstrips supply, lightweights are a picture of women’s rowing as it once was – women with guts and heart racing for the glory of their school and their sport, not scholarships and Adidas warm-up suits.

To ignore lightweight women is to ignore the future of the sport in the US as well as internationally. While some critics trot out old canards long since shown to be false, lightweights just keep growing stronger and rowing faster. We usually read about the “main stream media’s” failures covering politics, not sports. Now we see it in rowing. As Rowing News sees fit to cover a whole category of rowing in two sentences, it falls to blogs such as Fight in the Dog to cover what you will not. Your omission was inexcusable and I hope for more professional coverage of rowing in the future.


JW Burk
Fight in the Dog

Remember, write to the editor so he knows lightweights do exist, do race, and do read Rowing News. Write to

[Update: The two sentences in the Rowing News article:
"Look for a bunch of strong sophomores to add to the existing speed of the Wisconsin lightweight women. The two-time defending national champions finished first among collegiate lightweights at the Head of the Charles and remain the crew to beat this spring, but look for Princeton to eat into last year's three-second margin for a tight IRA final."]

Sunday, March 05, 2006

2006 Season Preview - Princeton University

As Coach Paul Rassam begins his second year at the helm of the Princeton lightweights, he continues the Tigers' quest to regain the national championship. Princeton has won 5 of the last seven national championships, but the two years they lost were 2004 and 2005. Princeton is out to stop the uprising.

Princeton's season begins in late March as the varsity heads out to California for the Windermere Cup and the freshmen travel to Philadelphia for the Murphy Cup. At Windermere the Tigers will meet Stanford and Radcliffe, among others. Always a good early season regatta that establishes a pecking order for the next couple of races.

After Windermere Bucknell visits Lake Carnegie as the Bison begin working to bring their program into the Big Leagues. Should be a tune-up for Princeton, but watch out if they take Bucknell lightly. After Bucknell is the Knecht Cup, the first of the three lightweight "death matches."

Two weeks after Knecht the Tigers race Georgetown at home, followed the next week by Radcliffe at home. Georgetown will always be dangerous (they beat Wisconsin in a dual race last year) and Radcliffe is the rivalry. I think Radcliffe wants to beat Princeton so badly they can taste it. This rivalry is what rivalries should be - all encompassing. The (wimpy) editors at US News and World Report have had Princeton and Harvard tied for the number one school in the nation for the last few years, and I'm pretty sure both schools have had enough of that. If this race ends in a tie, the only thing we'll hear at the finish line will be two coxswains saying, "Ports to row, starboards to back. We're gonna do this again." After Radcliffe at the end of April comes Sprints in May and IRAs in June. Although Radcliffe is Princeton's natural rival, a few years of defeat at Wisconsin's hands has made any matchup between these two crews a blood feud. The Badgers know Princeton wants a piece of their hide and Wisconsin revels in defeating an Ivy League East Coast crew.

This is a year for Princeton's juniors to make an impact and for the sophomores to push for seats. Depending on what those two classes do, this could be a rebuilding year or it could be a return to dominance. Both the juniors and the sophomores won Sprints as freshmen, so the potential is there. Princeton, as a program, expects excellence and will accept nothing less. Although perhaps the most successful program in the Princeton boathouse over the last several years, recently the lightweights have fallen just short of that expectation, and no more motivation is needed. In a few short weeks we'll begin to see if a return to glory is just around the corner.

Metro Cup

As expected, the UCF lightweights won the Metro Cup V8 in convincing fashion - 55 seconds. Perhaps more interesting, though, was the fact that the UCF heavies, who were only 2 seconds off of Michigan in their race the same day, raced with two lightweights and one rower listed as Light/Heavy in the boat. This suggests to me that for a big race UCF has some more guns to bring to the battle.

In the V4 Villanova beat UCF (with four rowers frrom the V8) and Rollins. Looks like Villanova plans to race lightweights this year. They didn't have a V8 here, but maybe it's just too early in the season to get one together for a race.

Friday, March 03, 2006

2006 Spring Preview - Radcliffe

With Radcliffe, we enter the land of the Big Three. Everyone wants to break the stranglehold Radcliffe, Princeton, and Wisconsin have on lightweight rowing, and someday soon someone will. At the moment, however, breaking into this group will prove daunting.

While Radcliffe's inability to field an eight at the 2004 HOCR gave its rivals some hope for last spring, the Black and White came roaring back to occupy a familiar position by the end of the season. Unfortunately, that position, third, is not what Radcliffe had in mind. This year Radcliffe seems stronger and deeper throughout the program, but we'll need the season to see if that translates into a faster varsity eight.

The revelation begins at the end of March at the Windemere Cup. Radcliffe will meet Stanford and Princeton, among others. Following Windemere URI comes to town. (Actually, the day before URI, I think Radcliffe races Georgetown, although it's not on their schedule. I don't know why this isn't listed, but it will be a tough race for Radcliffe, as Georgetown continues its climb into the very top ranks of lightweight rowing.) This is like the Michigan - Notre Dame football games of the '90s' (1890's) in which Notre Dame was thrilled to play Michigan because they were learning how to play football. Radcliffe better hope their ending isn't the same, as the student surpassed the master. In fact, URI will be close to Radcliffe here, but I don't think they'll pull off the upset.

The week after URI is the Knecht Cup, one of the highlights of the lightweight season at which the Big Three will bash heads and hope that no one else sneaks into the top ranks. A few weeks after Knecht comes the annual dual with Princeton. Until Wisconsin muscled its way into the party, Radcliffe - Princeton was as good as it got in lightweight rowing. For the rest of rowing that thrill has mostly shifted to Princeton - Wisconsin now, but I can assure you that the loser of this race is a boatload of unhappy puppies. (If you're looking for a first-born, this is the place to be.) After Princeton comes MIT, in a URI kind of race, followed by Sprints and then IRAs in June.

Radcliffe was the pioneer in women's lightweight rowing and dominated the sport for years. For many years the varsity's only real competition was the 2V. They supported the sport and urged other schools to start programs and unfortunately the sign of their success is that they haven't won the national championship in years. They've been close, beating Princeton in dual races in some years that the Tigers went on to win IRAs, but they just haven't won the big one recently. Radcliffe, though, is getting faster. But so is Georgetown, Stanford, URI, UCF, Dayton, Ohio State, and Bucknell. Wisconsin and Princeton aren't standing still either. Radcliffe has earned its place in the top echelon of lightweight rowing both on and off the water, and its return to the top is not far off.

Not So Fast on Alabama

Alabama's new varsity coach, Larry Davis, tells me that he plans to continue racing lightweights, subject to Athletic Department approval. That's a big qualifier, but one over which he has little control. Nonetheless, it would be a great thing to see a large state school like Alabama join Wisconsin as sponsors of lightweight crew. This would catch the attention of the larger rowing community as well as the NCAA.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wisconsin Coach Talks Lightweight Rowing - Circa 2002

I recently came across a news conference transcript from 2002 in which former Wisconsin coach Maren LaLiberty discusses lightweight rowing at Wisconsin. I link to it now because it gives a little bit of insight into how a great program operates, while at the same time showing how far lightweight rowing has come. If you think women's lightweight rowing is going nowhere, take a look at this.

LaLiberty names her three main rivals - Princeton, Radcliffe, and Villanova. Villanova? Villanova is a classic example of a good lightweight program that decided to concentrate on heavyweights and became a mediocre heavyweight program. You would think schools would learn from this sort of thing, but they never do. LaLiberty then says that the only other programs in the country with separate lightweight programs are Princeton, Stanford (just went varsity at that point), and Radcliffe (the pioneer), and there are about 30 to 40 other colleges that compete in lightweight events. I'm not sure how many schools have separate lightweight programs now, but I consider a program with a separate lightweight coach a separate program. By that measure there are more schools joining this group all the time. Georgetown, URI, and UCF are three that come to mind. Also, as my analysis of colleges rowing lightweight shows, we now have about 70 schools racing lightweight boats every year. That's a big change in three years.

The best part of this interview is her discussion of weight. What LaLiberty describes here is how all good programs operate. As she says, it's a "weight-based sport... not a weight-loss-based sport." My favorite point is her assertion that the Wisconsin lightweights worry about how big their food budget has grown to be.

LaLiberty discusses a national championship by saying the obvious, that the NCAA is worried about weight issues with lightweight rowing. Isn't it funny that in my communication with the NCAA the issue of weight was never mentioned? LaLiberty's position on an NCAA championship mirrors the one I've stated on this blog - that a championship isn't the goal, participation is. She predicts a NCAA lightweight championship within ten years (2012). She also says that the coaches have been pushing for a four at IRAs. Boy, that's gone nowhere. The IRAs have men's intermediate midweight fours for rowers with red hair named Jason, but they don't have a Women's lightweight four.

Reading this interview can give you a pretty good feeling. Even though LaLiberty is gone, you have to believe that Mary Shofner, Paul Rassam, Cecile Tucker, Al Acosta, and Jim O'Conner are working behind the scenes for the same things. Personally, I wish they'd be a bit more militant about it. Really, I think the problem is that they all figure they'll be heavyweight coaches some day so if they push too hard for lightweights now they'll look like hypocrites then. That's not true and I hope I'm wrong about that, but I don't know...

Metro Cup Regatta

UCF and Rollins are scheduled to race at the Metro Cup Regatta in Florida, but the schedule lists no lightweight events. I would think that UCF will race their lightweight boats in the heavyweight events, but we'll probably not know that from the results. If they do, look out Rollins. Heck, look out UCF heavies.

So it begins...

Wow, the season snuck up on me. The Stetson Sprints were raced last weekend with, as far as I know, the first race of the season. The University of Tampa (two boats) and Stetson raced lightweight fours. The finish was Tampa, Stetson, Tampa, with the winning Tampa boat listed as novice. The 2006 season is underway! Many of you have a few more erg pieces left, but pretty soon it will be all water time. It's time for the real season where no one cares what your erg score is and the only thing that counts is where your bow ball is after 2,000 meters.

URI at C.R.A.S.H.-B.s

Four URI lightweights competed at C.R.A.S.H.-B.s. Check out their times.