Sunday, April 30, 2006

Harvard Crimson Article

I didn't see this article in the Harvard Crimson until after Saturday's race, so I'm a bit late with it. It's a good article on the Radcliffe program that describes a team on the rise. Oddly, it almost presages Saturday's result. The article also confirms that Radcliffe has been rowing a freshman in its V8, which had been rumored since the start of the season.

More Racing

Stanford raced a light eight against a Cal heavyweight boat on Saturday, losing by 17 seconds. We're not told what Cal boat was in the race.

The WIRA Championships were held Saturday with a light N4 and a light V4. Cal won both races, winning the N4 by 11 seconds over second place Sacramento State and the V4 by 2 seconds over second place Pacific Lutheran.

Demons Exorcised

When the Princeton crew arrived at their boathouse Saturday morning, they could not have been heartened by the sight of the Princeton holiday flag flapping in the stiff breeze, at times gusting straight out from the flagpole. This was Windermere weather. This was Georgetown weather without the rain. This was not Princeton weather, it was Radcliffe weather. If the eight heard any results at all from the men’s racing taking place before the lightweight’s, the mood could only have darkened. Boat after boat fell to Brown and the day began with a decidedly anti-Princeton cast. By the time the Radcliffe and Princeton lightweight freshmen lined up, however, the home crowd mood had brightened as the Princeton heavy men’s V8 had handled Brown.

The Princeton lightweight freshmen turned in their usual dominating performance, beating Radcliffe by open water. The row wasn’t always pretty, but it was fast, and that’s all that counts.

As the freshmen rowed back up the course and the varsity eights locked onto the stakeboats, the wind picked up, mocking the crews waiting to race, daring them to row fast and clean. Radcliffe had to have been confident, and they deserved to be, having beaten Princeton twice before, and seeing the Tigers stumble last week against Georgetown. Princeton, while perhaps not confident, was certainly determined.

At the start of the race, Princeton executed a fast, clean start and jumped out a seat or two on the Black and White. By the time both crews’ starting sequences were done, Princeton had four seats on Radcliffe. This margin held fairly steady as both boats moved into the second 500.

When you try to forecast a future event, the only thing you know is that it won’t work out the way you say it will. This race wasn’t about the third 500, it was about the second. With hindsight we know this, but at the time no one, including the two crews, knew it. In the second 500, Radcliffe took a move. That move bought them a seat or two. What it didn’t do, was buy them what they needed, which was four or five. It was enough to bring a sinking feeling to the stomachs of the Princeton partisans in the crowd, but not enough to pull them even. It would be Radcliffe’s high-water mark.

Princeton didn’t so much respond to Radcliffe’s push, as ignore it. They accepted the loss of two seats, gathered themselves, and then once more began the job of moving away. This wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick; they were, after all, racing Radcliffe. As the boats crossed the 1000 meter mark, Princeton was up by six seats. Radcliffe was as tenacious as you would expect the number one boat in the country to be, but the Tigers gradually pulled away. The head wind hit in the third 500, as it had so many times before, but now it was Princeton doing the mocking. They had learned to row into the wind. In the last quarter of the race both boats went into their sprints, with the exertion of rowing from behind making Radcliffe look perhaps slightly less clean. Nonetheless, the Black and White found a bit of speed there, picking up maybe a seat, but at the finish it was Princeton by a little less than a length. For possibly the first time this season, Princeton had rowed a complete race – a fast start, a strong body, and an effective sprint – and it brought them the number one ranking in the country. Princeton had been haunted all season long by demons in the form of wind and waves, and Saturday those demons were exorcised. The Class of 1999 Cup remains on the shores of Lake Carnegie.

Radcliffe, meanwhile, rowed a valiant race. They rowed a race that left nine Princeton women wishing they didn’t have to see the Black and White two more times this season. They rowed back up the course with the look of a home run hitter who just struck out in the second, but who saw every pitch the pitcher has to throw. “Now that I know what you have, I’ll be ready the next time.”

Princeton’s Rule of Four continued in the V4, as the Tigers won a four boat race, followed by Radcliffe, Princeton, Radcliffe. This race began with the Black and White jumping out to a lead and Princeton moving through them in the second 500. That lead held up and expanded as Princeton won by open water. The winning Princeton boat looked strong as they pushed away from Radcliffe with every stroke. Radcliffe and the second Princeton boat were in a tight finish as Princeton put on a charge at the end to draw within half a length.

The races today continue to write a compelling storyline for the championship season to come. Princeton seems to have discovered their true potential and Radcliffe, while beaten on Saturday, is hardly defeated. Wisconsin, with a big win over Georgetown, has shown that, once again, they are picking up a lot of speed as the season matures and Georgetown, while maybe a bit further behind Wisconsin than they would have liked, is still clearly a dangerous crew. Finishing 6 seconds behind Georgetown, Ohio State has shown more speed than I thought they had and will slip under no one’s radar at ECACs. UCF waits in the wings, having already shown some of their speed, Stanford has yet to visit the east, and somewhere in central Pennsylvania, Bucknell has a surprise waiting for everyone. And then there’s Dayton, URI, and Buffalo. So strap on your helmet and buckle your seatbelt because… huh…oh, yeah…your mom says don’t forget to study for finals.

Party on the Potomac

There was a party on the Potomac Saturday, but it was only fun if you like cheese. Wisconsin came to Georgetown to race Georgetown and Ohio State, sweeping all three races. The Wisco N8 won by 8 seconds over Georgetown, the V4 by 4 seconds over Georgetown, and the V8 by 11 seconds over Georgetown and 17 seconds over OSU. Although Wisconsin beat the Hoya eight by 13 seconds at Knecht, we know that Georgetown has gotten considerably faster since then, and an 11 second margin here suggests that Wisconsin is keeping pace. Finishing 6 seconds behind Georgetown gives OSU Dayton or Stanford type speed and I see that as cause to move them into the top ten, displacing Buffalo. With no upset in this race, its value for the rest of the world lies in what it shows us - Wisconsin is gaining speed as expected, Georgetown'’s Princeton race wasn'’t a fluke, and OSU is a top ten crew.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Race Day

Saturday is race day on the Potomac River in Georgetown and on Lake Carnegie in Princeton. Number 3 Wisconsin faces #4 Georgetown and Ohio State and #1 Radcliffe faces #2 Princeton. This is the time of year when coaches tell their crews that they are peaking for Sprints and IRAs and a dual race now is not that important. Sure, they want to have a good race and it would be nice to beat that other crew, but if we lose here it's not that big of a deal because we'll see them again. Then a new day dawns and the coach is back driving her rowers to think only of victory and all is right with the world again. These Saturday races are the last chance to create an impression before Sprints, and no one wants to waste it.

Wisconsin visits Georgetown at a bad time - for Wisconsin. The Hoyas have gained some confidence from their Princeton race and think that if they only had a stronger sprint they could have beaten the Tigers. They are out to prove they're no fluke, and what better way to do it than by beating Wisconsin. They did it two years ago so they know it can be done.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, has really only had one race of significance - the Knecht Cup - and they were third. The Badgers don't believe for a moment that they are the nation's third place boat and they aim to begin proving it now. They know they are notoriously slow starters and this year is no different. A resounding win over Georgetown tells the rest of the world that they're back and won't be denied.

For Wisco to win this race, they need to come out strong and never let Georgetown believe they have a chance. They need to open the gap with Georgetown with every stroke. Twenty strokes without moving is too much. They need to beat Georgetown mentally early and then watch them wallow in self pity for 1000 meters. Georgetown, on the other hand, needs to stay with Wisconsin early. If they're in contact at 1000 meters, the confidence will be there and they'll know they can win. Wisconsin will be begin to doubt themselves and realize that yes, the Hoyas did get a lot faster, and no, it might not be such a bad thing to just end the pain here, let them win, and get them again at Sprints. Georgetown is faster than they were at Knecht, and if they believe in themselves, they can win. Problem is, Wisconsin believes in themselves too.

Radcliffe and Princeton race for the Class of 1999 Cup, which currently resides at Princeton. Radcliffe won the Cup for the first time in 2004 (this is its 8th year) and plans to take it back to Cambridge on Saturday. It's not really that these two crews don't like each other, it's that they really like to beat each other. Princeton comes into the race as serious underdogs, particularly given their performance last week against Georgetown. No one knows if Princeton is slowing or if Georgetwon is getting faster, but the lightweight world is hoping for the former. This is the Tigers chance to prove otherwise. Radcliffe meanwhile, wants to head into Sprints having stamped their dominance on Princeton. They want to make it clear to the world that they are getting faster and anyone who plans to beat them has a long row to hoe.

This race is about the third 500. At Windermere Princeton led after 1000, only to lose it in the second 1k. Last weekend, Princeton opened a gap in the first 1000, only to see it close in the second. Knecht was a bit different, as I think Radcliffe opened gradually throughout the race, but it wasn't over by 1000 meters.

For Radcliffe to win this race, they want to have open water on Princeton at 1000 meters, and drop the hammer in the third 500. That will put it away. All the pressure is on Radcliffe, and they need to show they are dominant. They need to show they deserve to be number one. They need Wisconsin to see the race results and think there's no way they can ever catch Radcliffe. The way to do that is to open at the start and blow the race out in the third 500.

Princeton, on the other hand, must make the third 500 their own. The Tigers have shown they can have good speed in the first 1000 and last week they finally proved they have some speed in the last 500 - it's the third 500 that's suspect. If Princeton is in contact with Radcliffe at 1000, not to mention ahead, and can dominate the third 500, they can win. They simply cannot let Radcliffe get away early.

The way Princeton wins the third 500 is with technique. There are at least two times in each race when you think, "I can't finish this race." The first comes after the start, as your body tries to switch from anaerobic to aerobic. The second comes soon after the 1000 meter mark. You fight to push that doubt out of your mind but if a crew starts to move on you then, if you're not strong, the doubt takes over. It's at this point the Tigers have to think about staying long, quick catches, smooth slides, and legs like steel springs. Yeah, that's too many things to think about in the middle of a race, so I pick stay long and steel springs.

I talked about Wisconsin/Georgetown and didn't mention Ohio State. Realistically, I don't see OSU beating either of these crews, but I'm anxious to see what they can do. Coming to this race is great move by the Buckeyes. After skipping the Knecht Cup, they're trying to show that they're not afraid to play with the big girls and they're about to put their money where their mouth is. OSU, while I thought a bit suspect early in the year, is having a fine season and this race will give them a good idea of where they stand nationally. They might even pull a big upset - wouldn't that be great for lightweight rowing.


The WIRA Championships are this weekend in California and they're scheduled to have some good lightweight four races. Both novice and varsity fours are scheduled with some familiar names in each. The V4 race includes UC San Diego, University of San Diego, Cal, and Pacific Lutheran. I'm surprised Sacramento State isn't there (they do have a novice four entered) because they looked to have a fast boat earlier in the season. Maybe they're racing it as a heavyweight boat.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Races This Weekend

While the big races this weekend are #1 vs. #2 and #3 vs. #4, there are a few other races as well. Stanford is scheduled to race the Cal heavies. They raced the lights last week, and at Cal the lights (club) and heavies (varsity) definitely do not mix. Whichever boats Stanford is racing, they'll have their work cut out for them.

URI is scheduled to race Holy Cross. As far as I know Holy Cross hasn't raced a lightweight boat this year, but they do have a light eight entered at ECACs so URI may get a lightweight race in. This would be good for URI since that crew could be a Dad Vail threat and another race would only make them faster. Speaking of Dad Vail, URI isn't scheduled to race. I guess this is the old ECAC vs. Dad Vail thing. The larger lightweight race (at the moment) is ECAC Metro which is on May 6th, but some schools are racing at another ECAC which is May 13th, same as Dad Vail. I have to say, I have no idea what the difference is in these races or why a crew would do one and not the other, or both. Why this regatta continues the old rivalry with Dad Vail is beyond me. The ECAC should get over it and stop making the athletes pay. There must be something I don't understand here...

Bucknell heads to the Patriot League Championships where they will not race a light eight. Meanwhile Lehigh is looking for a light eight to race against in the Patriot Challenge. (I think it's the same regatta with the Challenge offering events that do not count toward the championship - someone correct me if I'm wrong here.) I'm always disappointed when Bucknell doesn't race as a light eight because racing lightweight boats in heavyweight events hides the true number of lightweights racing. In this case, however, I understand why Bucknell does it. If their lightweight boat has a chance to win the 2V race, which counts toward the championship, they race it as a 2V. Here it's the system that forces this behavior. I'd really like to see a Bucknell vs. Lehigh race, though. Bucknell would be heavily favored but we'd see a Lehigh eight, which gets votes in the coaches' poll, race for the first time.

Some Articles

This article in The Stanford Daily is notable, mainly for its reference to the Stanford lightweights as "the matchstick Card." No, sorry, I wouldn't want to be a matchstick. Does the author describe the heavyweights as the "bovine Card?" Jeez, they're soooo insensitive at Stanford. Next thing you know they'll be calling themselves the Indians again. Maybe they should stick to search engines.

Meanwhile, after always reading how losing all your races is still a "strong showing," the Spectrum at Buffalo published an article titled, "Crew makes unexpectedly poor showing." That's exactly what happened when they raced Bucknell and Colgate (who'll be surprised to find they are in the Ivy League) and the team knows it. To the coach's credit, he admits to some problems and discusses how he will correct them. No BS here. Kind of refreshing isn't it? By the way, we also find out that the Buffalo lightweight boat that got hammered by Bucknell caught several crabs. The coach mentions the coming "hell week." Yikes!


The latest polls are out and the Coaches' Poll and FITD's Best in Show now match up. And just as I was beginning to think I had Bucknell too low! Thankfully this isn't college football and everybody will have the chance to race each other by the end of the season so we'll soon know just who is faster than whom.

Meanwhile the latest cMax rankings are also out. That Cornell lightweight boat just keeps chugging along. What's up with that? I need to write the author when I get some time. Wisconsin is now ranked ahead of Princeton, probably on the basis of Princeton's race with Georgetown last week. Buffalo doesn't even appear.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Beating a Dead (For Now) Horse

I think I've already spent too much time on the Pac-10's defeated proposal to create a men's NCAA rowing championship, but last week the Harvard Crimson published an article on it that's worth reading. A Harvard heavyweight speculates that the proposal is all about the location of IRAs, and the scholarship limit is never mentioned. I have some sympathy for the West Coast crews that have to travel across the country every year, but it seems to me that creating a NCAA championship is a rather drastic solution. Just the opposite of the Pac-10 coaches who love to talk about the Ivies' alleged under the table athletic scholarships, the Harvard rowers see NCAA sanctioned scholarships at non-Ivy rowing schools as a threat, not as equality. The article also quotes a male lightweight as worrying about the loss of the ability to bet shirts. Hopefully that's taken a bit out of context since he had much bigger things to worry about.

One thing overlooked in a NCAA takeover, is what it does to the composition of crews. Heavyweight women have no incentive to develop a strong freshman boat. Sure, it can win Sprints, but there is no freshman race at NCAAs. Take what is probably the fastest heavyweight freshmen boat in the country this year - Princeton. What will they be doing on NCAA championship weekend? (Of course, the lightweight freshmen suffer the same fate at IRAs.) Although the big T9 schools still race novice boats, good incoming freshmen are immediately moved to the varsity. For heavyweight programs, only three boats matter - 1V8, 2V8, and V4 - and other boats are afterthoughts.

It's interesting that the article misses the 5 scholarship limit included in the proposal. As I've said before, that is a self imposed limit in the Pac-10 and coaches there saw this proposal as a way to limit their competition too. Here is an article on the USC web site discussing that limit. I have to admit that I don't understand why Stanford and Oregon State wanted it, although the USC coach seems to believe it's to make sure no one offers more scholarships than they.

Wisconsin's men's head coach Chris Clark also weighed in on the proposal at a recent press conference. Clark believed that if the proposal passed it would be "the greatest thing that could ever happen in the history of the sport." He then rambles on about a New York Times article on the NCAA tennis tournament and how rowing has the same sort of problems. (He never tells us what those problems are.) The problem is, tennis IS an NCAA sport, so that obviously didn't help. He also laments the fact that rowing is being "outsourced." This story hit the big time when Dowling beat Temple at Dad Vails several years ago with a boatload of Eastern Europeans. This definitely happens, but I hardly think that makes rowing lawless. He also says that unlike tennis, "you're not dealing with people who've won prize money just because that'’s few and far between in our sport, but it's very similar." Huh? What in rowing is similar to prize money? The only thing I can think of are scholarships, which the NCAA sanctions. Of course, he really laments the unlimited scholarships he imagines his competition offers. He doesn't mention the Ivies, but he doesn't have to. I wonder if he offered his sympathies to the club teams he beat up on at the Midwest Rowing Championships and earlier at the Head of the Iowa.

The real problem here is that Clark coaches at a school with a varsity lightweight women's crew program. One of the best in the country. What he calls "the greatest thing that could ever happen in the history of the sport," would be a giant step toward putting a Wisconsin crew, that is far more successful than his own crews, out of business. Another big supporter is Stanford. Don't these coaches care about their own programs? Maybe they should care about something in the sport other than themselves.

Anyway, you can read the rest yourself; I'm getting tired of it all. Unfortunately, we'll see this proposal on a regular basis and it will need to be beaten back on a regular basis.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Of Wind and Water - Georgetown vs. Princeton

They must be living right in Madison this year, because the weather was fine Saturday on Lake Wingra. Instead, the rowing gods took out their frustrations on the East Coast and nowhere did it have a greater impact than on Lake Carnegie in Princeton, NJ.

Georgetown visited Princeton for a dual race on a gray, blustery day that began with relatively smooth water despite the wind, but ended with more wind, rain, and a chop. The frosh eights began the day with a typically dominating performance from Princeton. Sometime, somewhere they'll probably be pressed, but it wasn't Saturday as they won their race by 20 seconds. In similar fashion the Princeton (Rule of) Four (trite, I know, but who can resist?) dominated their race finishing 5 seconds ahead of the Princeton B boat which was 11 seconds ahead of Georgetown.

The V8 race came last and began according to script. Princeton jumped out at the start and steadily took seats on the Hoyas, moving out to an open water lead in the second 500. Then a funny thing happened. Princeton stopped moving. Georgetown started moving. As the boats labored through the third 500, Georgetown began picking up seats. Steadily they moved back until they not only made contact with Princeton, but began adding to the overlap. Princeton had held off a Georgetown charge earlier in the race, but now seemed powerless to do so again. Every rower in the Georgetown boat, every teammate on the shore, every Mom and Dad who made the trip north, had to be wondering, "Is this the day? Is this the Race?"

Princeton had thoughts of their own, and they were different thoughts. "Not this day. Not this race." As the crews worked their way into the last 500 meters, Princeton went into its sprint. Georgetown matched, but the race was over. Princeton began to eat up the water it had so foolishly let Georgetown take back, and gradually opened the margin to the couple of seats open it enjoyed at 750 meters in. Princeton won this race by 5 seconds but if moral victories count for anything, it belonged to Georgetown.

What happened here? At Knecht Princeton beat Georgetown by 18 seconds. Where did those 13 seconds go? Much credit must go to Georgetown. They came prepared and ready to race. They weren't interested in past results or rankings or favorites and underdogs. They were interested in racing. They are faster than they were two weeks ago. They sent a message that the season isn't over and they have more speed to find. And they're finding it.

Princeton probably came into this race overconfident. At Knecht they didn't even see Georgetown because they were trying to catch Radcliffe and trying not to be caught by Wisconsin. They had to look at the results to see how far back the Hoyas were. They were also probably looking past Georgetown to Radcliffe this week. They know now that was a mistake.

There is still more to it, though. Some horses are mudders, and some aren't. The Tigers aren't. Not yet, anyway. This race was Windermere redux. Remember how Princeton was leading Radcliffe until the 1000 meter mark? And remember how Radcliffe rowed through them in the second half? Just like Windermere, the crews felt the full brunt of the wind (a quartering headwind in this case) at about 1000 meters and just like Windermere the Tigers had trouble handling it. There was good news for Princeton, though. On Saturday, they remembered how to sprint. Sprinting also shows that they didn't panic. Watching a boat march relentlessly back on you for the third 500 meters of a race can destroy lesser crews. Princeton didn't let that happen. They refocused and decided they would take control and for 500 meters they handled the wind.

Georgetown now enters Wisconsin Week with some serious momentum. They're racers and clearly they can race with the big girls. Remember how UCF was within a second of the Hoyas at Knecht? Georgetown just told the Golden Knights to think again. At Knecht, Wisconsin was... 5 seconds behind Princeton. I gurantee the Badgers won't take Georgetown lightly, because even before Saturday's race, they remembered what happened two years ago. Meanwhile, judging by Saturday's results, Princeton enters Radcliffe Week as a serious underdog with little chance of a victory. Do you believe that? Neither do I. The alarm clock is ringing and the Tigers won't hit snooze. If you're a wind machine manufacturer, I have a tip for you: Place a call to the Princeton boathouse.

A10 and Other Races

The A10 Championships were Saturday with only Dayton and URI competing in the lightweight eight race. Dayton stayed on track for a defense of its Dad Vail championship by beating URI by 4 seconds. The margin was a little larger than I thought it would be, but still close enough for URI to remain a serious threat to Dayton later in the season. UMass won the light four handily over Dayton and St. Joe's. Judging by the times, the wind must have had a tremendous impact on the course, so it seems unlikely that any crew was at its best.

The Bucknell lights went up against the Buffalo lights on Saturday, with a result that is hard to believe. Bucknell beat Buffalo by a minute and 10 seconds. If this was a straight up race, Bucknell must be awfully fast. Dayton was only 26 seconds ahead of Buffalo at Knecht, so Bucknell would have to enter Dad Vail as an overwhelming favorite.

Stanford and Cal raced each other along with some Santa Clara and St. Mary's heavyweight boats. There was no lightweight V8 showdown as Cal apparently didn't have one to race, so Stanford raced the SC and St. Mary's heavy V8s, finishing about 30 seconds back. Stanford did win the light four and lightweight frosh eight events over Cal.

In Washington State, Willamette beat Pacific Lutheran in a race of light fours at the NCRC Championships while in Oswego, NY the Susqehanna light four defeated the Binghamton light four.

In Wisconsin the Wisco lightweights beat up on some xV Wisco heavies in the Wisconsin Intramurals, er, the Midwest Rowing Championships. I already did my Ode to the Midwest Sprints so all of you Badgers know that I'm not making fun of this race, I'm lamenting its demise.

Friday, April 21, 2006

cMax Rankings

The first set of cMax rankings are out and this year they include lightweights. I like these rankings because if nothing else they bring some methodological rigor to the process and avoid emotion, something none of us humans can do. Of course, that is exactly why some people don't like them. You can read the full explanation for yourself, but these rankings use actual results to predict how any given boat will do against another. Only boats that have raced at least twice against other teams that have raced at least twice are included. Bucknell, for example, is not ranked because they haven't raced two boats in the rankings.

Now that I've sung its praises, this ranking lists as its top boat... Cornell. Huh? Cornell doesn't race lightweight women. There's obviously a problem which casts doubt on the rest of the ranking, but let me assume that Cornell is just a misplaced boat and that the rest of the rankings are correct.

The ranking shows Princeton only 0.9 seconds behind Radcliffe and Wisconsin only 0.6 seconds behind Princeton. Wow, that's a lot closer than they actually were when they raced. Nonetheless, this ranking tries to predict the average time difference and recognizes that any single race will be off the average. What it's really saying is that right now the top boat is just barely Radcliffe and second is too close to call. The biggest surprise is that Ohio State is 6th, ahead of UCF, Dayton, and Stanford. I'm not sure how that works since both OSU and UCF raced Marist, with UCF beating them by a lot more than OSU. (In fairness though, OSU is only 0.3 seconds ahead of UCF, so it's a virtual tie.) This all looks a little wacky to me and it's not helped by the presence of Cornell. One thing is for sure though, these rankings get better the more boats race.

The lightweights also get ranked in among the heavies, with Radcliffe at 50 overall (out of 175 total). I'm not sure how this works either since not that many lightweight boats race heavies, at least not that you can identify from the results. By comparison, the top men's light eight, Dartmouth, is ranked 9. This is consistent with the fact that compared to light men, light women have farther to go to catch up to their heavyweight counterparts. A look at world records shows this to be so. Using quads as proxies for eights (no light eights at Worlds), we find that light men are 2.1% behind the heavy men while light women are 5.1% behind the heavy women. I know these records are set at different times on different courses, but to set a world record the boats will have met up with generally the same conditions. On the erg, both men and women are about 7.5% behind the heavies, which suggests that when they both get on the water, lightweights do, in fact, row better than heavyweights. Light men, though, have been able to close the gap farther than light women.

Finally, take note of this article in the Daily Princetonian discussing the races tomorrow. In a complete reversal of the (Heavyweight) Rowing News model, the article begins with, and devotes the most space to, the lightweight women. Next come the light men followed by the heavy women. Meanwhile, with just one sentence at the end of the article are the heavy men, who just beat Harvard last week.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Races This Weekend

The Atlantic 10 Championship will be held on Saturday. Likely lightweight schools will be Dayton, URI, UMass, and probably Duquesne. St. Joe's will probably race a four as may Temple. The Dayton/URI matchup in the light eight should be a good one, as Dayton was 6th in the grand final at Knecht and URI won the petite. Because of how the heats worked out, Dayton and URI never actually went head-to-head and I think the margin of victory in this race will be a boat length or less. Dayton is the defending champion for both the eight and the four.

Elsewhere among the top ten, Radcliffe is off while Princeton hosts Georgetown. Wisconsin races at the Midwest Rowing Championships. UCF is also off. Stanford races Cal, St, Mary's, and Santa Clara. Stanford has come across Cal before and beaten them, but in a rivalry race all bets are off. Bucknell hosts Cincinnati, West Virginia, Buffalo, and Colgate. Of those crews only Buffalo has a light eight, although Bucknell's light eight will probably race in some of the heavy races. Bucknell's race against Buffalo should be a good race to give us an idea of Bucknell's speed. Lehigh has a rivalry race against Lafayette, in which a light four may see some heavyweight action.

Latest Coaches' Poll

The latest USRowing coaches' poll is out and we match exactly except for Bucknell. I have them at 9 while the coaches have them at 6. I have to say that I'm beginning to doubt my own ranking, but the only "ordering" race they've done is Princeton and since it wasn't a victory I'm reluctant to move them as a result. Moving them now would be wimpy so I'll just stick with it until proven otherwise. Unfortunately they race Buffalo this weekend and are favored so a win there doesn't help.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Midwest Rowing Championship

This weekend the Wisconsin lightweights will race in the Midwest Rowing Championships. They'll race a light four against themselves and Northern Michigan and they'll race a light eight against the Rochester Rowing Club. They'll also race some heavyweight events against, well, mostly their own heavies. The MRC is often criticized as a Wisconsin inter-squad regatta and even Wisco seems to recognize that's what it is. Juniors even make up a large portion of the entries.

It wasn't always that way, however. Years ago, when it was known as the Midwest Sprints, it was the premier championship regatta for all of the midwest rowing schools. Wisconsin still usually won every event they entered, but there was always someone there to throw a scare into them, if not outright win a race. A silver medal at the Midwest Sprints was meaningful. Almost every program other than Wisconsin was club, so the racing among those crews was intense and resulted in some major bragging rights. It was a typical midwestern regatta - cold, rainy, windy weather with few spectators other than teammates. The Wisconsin crews were never actually sighted where the mere mortals launched; they simply appeared at the starting line having boated out from some unknown Elysian fields.

Now that Title IX and the NCAA have exerted their influence, the regatta has changed. Wisconsin is nobly trying to hold on to it, but it seems unlikely it can survive much longer. The women's club teams of the past - Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, K State, KU - are now varsity programs offering scholarships and engaging in the T9 scavenger hunt every year. They race where the NCAA tells them they can qualify for their championship and the athletic conferences now hold their own regattas. The festival that was the Midwest Sprints is gone. No more do men and women travel together to Lake Wingra in car pools, hoping to stay close to Wisco and knock off their midwest rivals. Now everyone goes their separate ways. If you're a T9 woman the only way you know men row at your school is because you see them at the boathouse.

Do the rowers at today's MRC know the difference between betting shirts winner-take-all and round robin? Do the coxswains see the shirt betting negotiations with other teams as an integral part of their job? Not anymore, the NCAA doesn't allow shirt betting, a time honored rowing tradition.

Times change, but not all change is progress. It shouldn't be men's rowing events and women's rowing events, heavyweight rowing events and lightweight rowing events. It should just be rowing. Are there any other sports in which women once competed as equals with men to the same extent? Same regattas, same equipment, same course, even, on occasion, mixed boats in the same races. No longer. The NCAA has instituted its separate but equal doctrine and does not allow men and women to compete for championships together. Unless, thankfully, you are a lightweight woman at IRAs!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Boat of Choice?

This story about Radcliffe's Knecht Cup win notes that it was the V8's first race in a new lightweight women's hull from Resolute. This story about MIT's races last weekend notes the dedication of a new "size-appropriate boat for MIT lightweight women's crew." This boat, referred to as a "first-of-its-kind," also comes from Resolute. It looks like this boat is getting some traction among lightweight programs (BTW, I have no particular interest, financial or otherwise, in Resolute).

Although rumored to also be racing a Resolute, this picture of Wisconsin from Knecht shows them to be rowing a Pocock. This picture of Princeton from Knecht shows them to be in a Vespoli. Georgetown also appears to be in a Vespoli (not unexpected since Mike Vespoli is from Georgetown). Out West, Stanford is also in a Vespoli. I couldn't tell what UCF was in at Knecht.

Vespoli has a large US market share but with Resolute producing a new lightweight women's eight, it will be interesting to see who switches. I'm not sure what Radcliffe was rowing earlier this spring, but at the HOTC they raced a Vespoli, and when the fastest boat makes a switch, other crews usually pay attention.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Clarification on MIT, URI, and Radcliffe

I've been informed that the Radcliffe novice eight that raced MIT and URI last weekend was a boat of only novices, with no recruits. The Radcliffe V8 had some injuries (not the novices) which undoubtedly slowed them down in their race with the heavyweights.

I think the most interesting point here is that Radcliffe has maintained at least one full boat of true novices through the winter and into the spring season. This is no small feat given the intensity at which a crew like Radcliffe trains. I would think that typically they start off in the fall with quite a few walk-ons, but would normally be lucky to keep 3 to 5 by the spring. This is another sign of Radcliffe's growing depth.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

NCAA Championships for Men - Dead?!

A look at the Pac-10 proposal to create NCAA rowing championships for heavyweight men shows that its status is "Defeated - Final." My understanding is that this proposal is now dead unless it is reintroduced (not sure what that takes). It looks like lightweight rowing dodged a bullet. My feelings on this proposal are well known to readers of FITD so I'll let a (hopefully) dead dog lie.

More on MIT, URI, and Radcliffe

Radcliffe vs. URI, MITTurns out that MIT and Radcliffe both had some injuries, and the boats racing in the Lightweight V8 race were a bit of a mixed bag, combining varsity and novice rowers. This makes more sense in light of the results. Here is a great picture of the finish of that race showing just how close it actually was (Thanks to Aaron Benson).

Georgetown and Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Assoc. Championship

SIRAs were held this weekend with an eight boat field in the light four event. Nova Southeastern took the grand final 6 seconds ahead of Virginia Tech, which was followed 17 seconds later by Georgia. Georgia State, Alabama, and Georgia Tech rounded out the final.

Georgetown lightweights also raced this weekend facing their own heavies as well as the GW heavies. The lightweights were 10 seconds off of GW's time in the V8 and 7 seconds from the Georgetown heavies. In the V4 the lights were 10 seconds behind their own heavies and 5 seconds ahead of the GW heavies.

April 15 Races

Radcliffe continues to show their strength as the lightweight V8 raced against two heavyweight V8s from BC and URI. Radcliffe was 10 seconds back from the winner, BC, and 5 seconds behind URI. Radcliffe's frosh raced against the Lightweight V8s from URI and MIT, finishing ahead of URI by 3 seconds and ahead of MIT by 4 seconds. The Radcliffe win here overshadowed what was a barnburner of a race between URI and MIT, as MIT considerably closed the gap with URI, from 17 seconds at Knecht to 1 second yesterday. The Knecht conditions were so odd that results were a bit goofy and in the absence of similar conditions may not be entirely reliable. These results also make me wonder if the Radcliffe frosh boat was the same as the one at Knecht, where they were 12 seconds behind Princeton. Either it's a different boat (or a different row) or Princeton's frosh are fast as the wind. MIT's 2V finished ahead of the UMass 1V, while Radcliffe won the fours race over MIT.

Wisconsin also did the heavyweight thing, finishing 7 seconds behind Michigan's 2V and 17 seconds ahead of Iowa's 2V. Later, the lights finished 16 and 15 seconds back from the Wisco and Michigan heavy 2Vs. In the 2F heavy race Wisconsin's 1F lightweights finished 3 seconds behind Iowa but 10 seconds ahead of Michigan. The varsity and Frosh also put in creditable performances against the heavies in fours.

Buffalo raced a lightweight four against their own heavies and Eastern Michigan, finishing 3 seconds behind the Buffalo heavies and 23 seconds ahead of EMU. A Buffalo novice light four also raced, finishing behind the Buffalo and EMU heavies.

Northwestern beat a Michigan State light four by 22 seconds. I assume this is a Michigan State club team since the MSU varsity operates under the Football Theorem.

Bucknell was in action against Temple, Delaware, and George Mason and although the results don't specify if Bucknell's light eight raced or not, I would imagine it did, probably in the heavyweight 2V. In that race Bucknell beat Delaware by 2 seconds and Temple by 16.

Final SIRA results are yet to come.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Rowing News Refuses to Publish Critical Letter

I opened up my latest copy of Rowing News the other day and guess what – no letter from JW Burk! That letter was written, of course, in response to the magazine’s two sentence snub of lightweight women in its collegiate preview article. I was ticked off about the snub at the time, and many of you were too, so I wrote a letter to the editor. The managing editor responded to me asking for my city and I replied that I write this blog anonymously but wondered if there was some other way to satisfy his request. He said he would just put "USA" and left it at that. Now I’m told that they “made a last minute switch as we didn't feel comfortable printing a letter from someone who wouldn't disclose their location.” In other words, if I had just responded to the original email with “Dubuque,” my letter would be in. For all the concern about anonymity, I was too honest! Even worse was the fact that I offered to work to satisfy them in another way, but I never received a second chance to get the letter in, they just didn’t print it.

[Update: Read the comments for another view on this.]

There were only three letters in this issue, leaving a lot of white space on the page, so there was plenty of room. There was only one letter critical of the preview article and that was as much about DII rowing as it was about lightweights. With no real criticism of the article it perpetuates the perception that no one cares about women’s lightweights. It was also disappointing to see that no one else wrote in either (or did RN just not publish them?). If anonymity was a problem, they could’ve told me. I’m certain I could have had someone else send in the letter with their city listed. This isn’t life or death here, but the whole point of FITD is to spread the word about lightweight rowing, not to simply talk amongst ourselves. This was a great opportunity to do that. Heck, I basically wrote an article for them – facts and figures about numbers of crews as well as the storyline for this season. RN’s two sentences, by the way, didn’t even mention the current number one boat in the country, Radcliffe. I’d ask a FITD reader to copy and paste the letter and send it in, but it’s unlikely it would get published this long after the offending issue. (If you want to contact RN, however, you can reach the editor at

So what is behind this? Not anonymity, because they never asked me to address that issue, they simply used it as an excuse. Why is Rowing News lightweight phobic? I truly don’t know. No one is asking for a lightweight article every week, but when you split the sport into its constituent parts, how do you justify leaving one of those parts out? We’re looking for SOME coverage, not more coverage. They would probably say there’s no demand, but I disproved that with the numbers I cited in my letter, not to mention with the readership of FITD. Do they not want to publish criticism? I doubt that’s the case because that would create a serious integrity problem for the publication. I like Rowing News and read every issue, but this phobia is inexplicable. Maybe it’s simply that no one there understands what’s happening in this corner of the rowing world.

On a similar note, you’ve never seen FITD mentioned on row2k either. Ed Hewitt has a no blog and no anonymity policy. Looking at the purpose of FITD again - to spread the word - it’s tough to accomplish when you can’t get in the two major rowing publications in the US. Be that as it may, I’ll remain anonymous - that’s just the way it is. I’ve got almost ten months of posts here so everyone pretty much knows the kind of things I’ll say and cover and I’m a lot easier to contact than a typical letter writer in Rowing News. I’m no expert and I don’t claim to be, I just pay attention. We all owe row2k a debt of gratitude because it’s a fantastic site. Most of what we read about rowing comes from it, not to mention all race results. I contribute money to it. I just wish, though, that Ed would read FITD and then decide if it’s not worth the same link notice that the Little Sisters of the Poor High School Crew's web site gets. Let’s base these decisions on what you have to say, not who you are.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Top Ten Races This Weekend

Coming off the most recent reaffirmation of their superiority, Radcliffe stays at home to race URI, MIT,and UMass. Radcliffe's V8 shouldn't have much trouble here, but the racing should be hot among the other three. There should also be good racing in the 4s and the frosh 8s. MIT's frosh had equipment trouble at Knecht, so their speed is unknown and this will give them a chance to work out some frustrations from last weekend.

Princeton is off while Wisconsin stays home to race heavyweights Michigan and Michigan State (Football Theorem). I had some tongue in cheek fun with Princeton when their 2V raced heavyweights at Windermere (Charge of the Light Brigade and all that), but as Princeton showed, good lightweights can be competitive with heavyweights. It's tough to beat football school T9 boats, but Wisco will have some fun in these nothing to lose races. A schedule is out, but it's not clear which Wisco lightweight boat is racing in each of the listed races.

Georgetown is off as is UCF. UCF is off now until PCRCs in mid May. How do you stay sharp for that long without a race? The UCF lights are in the odd position of being too successful. As I've mentioned, three of their lightweight rowers are rowing in the heavyweight boat. The lightweight crew is apparently so developed that three members made the heavy boat. They've been successful without them but if they come back, I think UCF will be seriously contending for medals at IRAs.

Stanford and Dayton are both off and, as mentioned above, URI heads to Boston. Bucknell races Delaware, George Mason, and Temple at home. Doesn't look like there will be any lightweight only racing there, but the light eight will no doubt be in action against the heavies. Buffalo is racing Eastern Michigan at home and lightweights are scheduled to compete.

As an aside, OSU just announced that they will join the Georgetown/Wisconsin race in Washington D.C. on April 29th. Now this is going to where the action is and should be a great opportunity for OSU.

More Racing This Weekend

SIRAs are this weekend and will have both a novice and varsity lightweight four event. There is a good field signed up for the V4 including Alabama, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Nova Southeastern, SCAD, Sewanee, UGA, and Virginia Tech. This regatta will put these fours through a good sort and let everyone know where they stand as they begin thinking about Dad Vails.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Slowly But Surely

The coaches are coming around to FITD's Best in Show. The latest coaches poll is out and the rankings are beginning to look more like mine. Granted, as the season progresses, we should both converge to almost the same ranking, but I think when we look back, Best in Show will be closer. Normally I wouldn't be so brazen about this, but since the coaches started out by voting for some crews that didn't exist (e.g. UCSB), I feel pretty good about it.

Our top five is now the same, but our biggest disagreement comes at 6. The coaches have Bucknell there while I have Bucknell at 9. I would guess that the coaches have them at 6 on the strength of their 9 second loss to Princeton. This was a great result for Bucknell, but I think the important point is that they lost by a fair amount, not that it was 9 seconds instead of 20. This was a dual race and Princeton wasn't pushed by another crew. I'm not sure the Bisons should be as low as 9th, but I have a bias against crews that fail to go toward the sound of gunfire (which in this case is the Knecht Cup).

I then have Buffalo at 10 instead of OSU, as the coaches do. Both Buffalo and OSU beat Marist, so 10 is probably a toss up, but there's that sound of gunfire thing again. Most peculiar though, is the fact that the coaches have Marist ahead of Buffalo when Buffalo just beat Marist in New Jersey. Villanova is at 15 and they didn't even race a lightweight eight in their own Knecht Cup regatta. I think that means they're not racing an eight. St. Joe's also received some votes, but I'm pretty sure they're only racing a light four now, not an eight.

Knecht Cup – Upon Further Reflection…

In American rowing, the eights will always take precedence – they are big, fast, and glamorous, all things American. The eights at Knecht brought us some surprises and made for a fun race both to anticipate and to watch. The most interesting race last weekend, however, may have been the V4. The first reason this is so is because of its possible bearing on the eights. Princeton’s “Rule of Four” four’s decisive win in this race is proof that they are as deep as they’ve been saying. Depth is one thing, fast depth is another and Princeton seems to have both. This tells me one of two things – one is that the Tigers may be able to make (or plausibly threaten) some lineup changes which, when coupled with some hard work, could bring them more speed, or secondly, that the Tigers are in a better position to handle the injury or sickness that will inevitably occur over the course of the rest of the season.

The real story among the fours, though, is MIT. MIT was second, and has some open water to make up if they want to catch Princeton, but they beat some really good crews. Maybe most important to the Engineers (do they need a better nickname – Fightin’ Engineers?) is that they were able to beat hometown rival Radcliffe. MIT had a bit of trouble elsewhere with the V8 getting knocked out of the top ten and the frosh suffering equipment breakage, but the four shone. I wonder if MIT focused on that boat or on the eight? Or both? It’s easy to believe that any four rowers from a good eight will automatically make a good four, but that’s not always the case. As boats get smaller, technique, boat feel, and chemistry become more important. Those four rowers yanked out of the eight will beat a lot of fours, but at the top levels, where crews have been racing together for a while, it’s less likely. Make no mistake, the lightweight racing at Knecht was the best racing in the country last weekend. While the rest of the regatta played their reindeer games on the Cooper, the 2006 national champion, whoever that may be, was racing in the lightweight event. There were a couple of crews missing – Stanford, Cal, Bucknell, OSU – but this was the best the country has to offer in lightweight women’s rowing. I wonder if the regatta organizers understand that?

Another four that impressed was Carnegie Mellon, finishing 5th. They only lost to MIT and the perennial powers and beat all the Dad Vail crews entered. Losing to Pitt at the Murphy Cup appears to have lit a fire under their seats and they should be a force in Philadelphia. Speaking of Pitt, what happened there? They beat Lehigh and Villanova by 23 seconds at Murphy, but lost to both in their heat at Knecht. That’s more than a bad day so I think there’s more to the story. [Update: See comments for more on Pitt.]

One last thing; one FITD reader (who also has his own blog, First Light) noted that the women’s lightweight racing was the best of the day, saying his former coach always said women row better technically. I think this is true of lightweight rowing in general. No lightweight crew will win simply by having more meat in the boat. Because all rowers are the same size, technical ability becomes more important than ever. (This also means that lightweight coaches should be some of the best coaches around.) This is simply more evidence to suggest that when you have an assemblage of crews like that at the Knecht Cup, you’ll see the best rowing the country has to offer. And to think that Sprints, Dad Vails, and IRAs are still to come!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Other Races Last Weekend

Hard to believe but there were lightweight races other than at the Knecht Cup last weekend. In California Stanford and Cal raced several heavyweights as well as occasionally each other. In head to head races Stanford won the V4 while Cal won the novice 4. In an article discussing these races in the Stanford Daily, much is made of the return to the V8 of a junior rower. While it's unclear that this rower has that much effect on the eight, the point is that Stanford may still have a few tricks up its sleeve. And it will need them to get back in the hunt.

At FIRAs Nova beat Tampa by 36 seconds, while in Oklahoma, Oklahoma City raced a light four against a passel of heavyweights. SCAD raced a light four against the College of Charleston heavyweights, only losing by 15 seconds. Ithaca was also listed as racing light fours against heavies from Rochester and St. Lawrence.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Knecht Cup Photos

Knecht Georgetown V8More Knecht photos are now online. One thing is obvious - it's hard to get good pictures from the shore.

Knecht Radcliffe V8Make sure you look at this picture of Radcliffe rowing to the starting line. Check out the criss-cross grip they're using - is that the secret?

You'll find the petitesKnecht V8 Petites as well as the grand finalsKnecht V8 Grand - Wisco and UCF, and even some freshmen.Knecht Lightweight Frosh - Georgetown and Radcliffe

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Radcliffe Rules!

Knecht Cup Sunday dawned clear and cold with a morning wind that wreaked havoc with starting line officials trying to get novice eights locked in at the start. There were some massive delays early on which resulted in the regatta running a couple of hours behind schedule almost from the start. The weather improved as the day went on, leaving the varsity eights and freshmen eights with decent water.

The petite final went off first, with URI winning it by 3 seconds over Radcliffe B who were followed 10 seconds later by Buffalo. Marist, MIT, and UMass rounded out the field. This result knocks MIT out of the top ten and brings a new face. Given the result of their four, MIT may be focused there rather than the eight.

Anticipation was high for the grand final. Teammates, parents, and rowing fans, those people attracted to all V8 grand finals, began to fill in the grandstands area as the start time drew near. The race started without an announcer, the two lightweight finals (men's and women's) being the only two V8 finals without commentary, so no real placing was discernible until the 1000 meter mark. As the boats came through the 1000, Radcliffe seemed pretty clearly to be up by perhaps open water over Princeton, and Wisconsin was a length or so back from the Tigers. I wasn't alone in my surprise at this situation as the conversation at the finish turned to Wisco's ability to catch Radcliffe. By the 750 mark it was obvious that this wasn't going to happen, and we realized that the blood feud was back. This race would be Radcliffe vs. Princeton to the wire. We'd seen this show before but would the outcome be the same?

Radcliffe, who had open water on the field at the halfway point, was overstroking Princeton at least for the last 1000 meters. The Tigers were the first to begin moving into their sprint with about 500 to go, a move that got Princeton a couple of seats. When Radcliffe started their sprint about 10 strokes later Princeton stopped moving and by 250 left Radcliffe wouldn't be denied. The Black and White beat Princeton by less than 4 seconds, with Wisconsin another 5 seconds back. Georgetown at fourth was 13 seconds off of Wisco, followed by UCF and Dayton.

This was a great Knecht Cup for these crews. It answered some questions but raised many others, and only whetted our appetites for what is yet to come. First question answered - Yes, Radcliffe is for real. Princeton's Windermere race wasn't exactly a fluke, but the Tigers did gain almost four seconds on Radcliffe over the course of two weeks. Well, guess what happens again in another three weeks - yup, Radcliffe vs. Princeton on Lake Carnegie. Whew, don't miss that one. What about Wisconsin? The Badgers often get off to a slow start because of those nasty winters they have in Madison, but that slow start doesn't usually include a third place finish at Knecht or a 9 second loss. For now anyway, there's definitely a new sheriff in town.

Georgetown assumed their customary position in fourth, but now UCF is snorting down their neck. I've said since the start of the year that UCF is coming on strong, and here they are. Meanwhile, Dayton makes it into the grand final, but at 20 seconds behind UCF is darn glad they won't be at Vails. A new face for this year, Buffalo, comes out of nowhere to beat Marist, MIT, and UMass.

By not racing today, Bucknell becomes a bit of a mystery. If the Bisons are really 7 seconds behind Princeton, that would put them in fourth place in the grand final. That's not the way the sport works, of course, so it's not clear where they fit. Now, as we head back to duals, and work toward sprints, more questions have been raised. Will Princeton further close the gap with Radcliffe? Will Wisconsin pick up speed rapidly as the weather warms and they get better water time? Will UCF catch Georgetown? Now the rankings get scrambled and the seasons moves on, with more drama than we bargained for just a month ago.

The freshmen also raced at Knecht, most meeting for the first time this season. Both Princeton and Wisconsin raced in the heavyweight freshmen event as well as the lightweight event, in the same heat no less. Princeton won the heat and moved on to the final, but neither crew was racing to its potential yet. In the frosh light eight race, Wisco moved out into the early lead with a strong start, and was about half a length up on Princeton at 500 meters. That was the last they'd see of the Tigers' backs, though, as Princeton moved through Wisco and never looked back as they hammered to a 9 second victory. Wisconsin was followed by Radcliffe and Georgetown, with MIT trailing the field badly after experiencing equipment breakage early in the race. Fifty minutes later Princeton was back on the course racing in the heavyweight final, in which they finished 4th in a field of 29. A three race day for the Tiger frosh.

[More photos to come]

Knecht Cup - Rule of Four(s)

Princeton won the lightweight fours at the Knecht Cup with an 8 second victory over MIT, who was followed 3 seconds later by Radcliffe. Princeton appeared to be in control of this race at least from the 1000 meter mark, which is the first point spectators can really make out what's happening. The heat times showed MIT to be 30 seconds faster than the other two heat winners, a result that looked quite suspicious. [Update: See comment for an explanation.] That split proved false, but MIT didn't, turning in a fine second place result. Carnegie Mellon also turned in a good result, placing 5th in the grand final, just behind Wisconsin's A boat. Villanova in 6th, closed the gap to 7 seconds from 18 on CMU. This was a strong win for Princeton and shows the depth of the team. It also suggests that no seat is safe in the V8 since there are obviously some strong rowers in the four.

Princeton's B boat won the petites, followed by Georgetown and St. Joseph's. St. Joe's, by the way, appears to be racing a light four the rest of the season, not a light eight.

[A few more photos to come.]

Saturday, April 08, 2006

UCF Boatings at Knecht

I thought UCF might bring all available lightweights into competition for the light eight for Knecht, but apparently they haven't. The three lightweights who have been racing heavyweight this season are listed as competing at the Florida Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship this weekend. This means that the Knecht UCF boat may not be its top light eight. Even if the current eight women are the fastest light eight, they'll gain more speed with the other rowers competing for seats. By IRAs I'm pretty sure UCF will have its fastest boat on the water. (I wonder if the heavyweight rowing lightweights have been keeping up their weigh-in paperz?)

Knecht Cup - Saturday

Did Noah's Ark use oars? It's never shown with oars or sails, and Noah seems like the kind of guy who would jump in and say, "The Lord is my helmsman, he'll take us where we need to go." It seemed like eights might have been better used as arks today in Camden as racing was halted for most of the afternoon as officials determined the best course of action. While there was constant rain and the wind was gusty, conditions didn't seem quite bad enough to require a racing delay. At the starting line, however, the wind was constant and coming at an angle that made lining up even varsity boats on the stakeboats impossible. For a time officials attempted floating starts with bows pointed into the wind (i.e. not straight down the course), but as boats turned back into their lanes with varying quickness, dangerous conditions prevailed and racing was stopped. Some races were canceled, V8s raced later in the day, and freshmen 8s will race in the morning. No sense getting into it too much since many of you who read this are there right now. This picture captures the spirit of the day - wet, windy, and muddy.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Bucknell to Princeton - We're Walking on You

A Bucknell rower's journal revels in life as the underdog while highlighting a closing speed gap between the Bisons and Princeton. It looks like Bucknell gained a lot of confidence from their race against Princeton last weekend, which pointed out a shrinking gap between the top three crews and the rest of the top ten. Bucknell will not be racing at the Knecht Cup so they won't know if they can shrink that gap further this weekend.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Knecht Cup - Eights

There are 13 light eights entered at the Knecht Cup, including two from Radcliffe. The top ten except Stanford and Bucknell are entered, plus Marist, St. Joseph's, UMass, and Buffalo. Stanford had been scheduled to attend, so their absence is a disappointment, although an understandable one. They just raced Wisconsin, Radcliffe, and Princeton and are unlikely to make a big dent in those splits by Knecht, so it makes some sense to save the trip and spend the time training. On the other hand, it would be nice for the rest of the field to gauge how fast the Cardinal really is this year. For seeding, the current FITD ranking would do well, although I think it will be upset by the time the weekend is over. Of the remaining four, I would guess that Marist or St. Joe's will be fastest. It's also disappointing to see Ohio State miss this race. They are an unknown right now, although when we see how Marist does we'll have a better idea of their speed. As I mentioned before, it's also disappointing not to see Penn State or Lehigh. Since they both are entering fours, I would suspect that they don't have light eights. On the other hand, they may put eights together for Dad Vail when the competition is less intense.

Some key questions to be answered:
- Is Wisconsin still fastest?
- Is Radcliffe for real (or was Princeton's Windermere row a fluke)?
- Is UCF for real?
- Can Dayton sustain last year's momentum?

The freshmen race at Knecht as well, with a five boat final including Radcliffe, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Princeton, and MIT. This should be an excellent race, with the boats coming in to it relatively unknown and untested.

Knecht Cup - Fours

The Knecht Cup has a healthy group of 17 light fours entered, including three from Princeton and two each from Wisconsin and Radcliffe. Three fours from Princeton suggests that they either have a really deep team or are doubling up varsity eight rowers. Some others also entering fours are Georgetown, MIT, CMU, and Pitt, winners at Murphy Cup. Regatta host Villanova, which has raced a light eight this year, is only racing a four, as is Lehigh, which was ranked number ten on the coaches lightweight eight poll. If they don't race an eight here, either they don't have an eight or they shouldn't be number ten. NC State is racing and they had some success in the four in the Fall. Penn State brings a four but no eight, which is disappointing because they had some success in the Fall with a light eight. UMass and Susqehanna round out the field.

This will be a rematch for all of the Murphy Cup competitors, which gives CMU, which lost to Pitt by 5 seconds at Murphy, another shot to close the gap. It doesn't quite look like the lanes are seeded because I think it unlikely that Wisco A would be seeded below UMass and NC State. On the other hand, host Villanova is in lane two, which suggests a seeding while at the same time giving them a favored lane should the wind kick up.

Knecht Cup Schedule

The Knecht Cup schedule is out. You should note that the lane assignments for the light eight are placeholders only - the event will be seeded. Other lane assignments are tentative.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

NCAA Championships For Men (Still) Must Die

This is the month that the NCAA will close out comments on the Pac-10's proposal to make men's heavyweight rowing an NCAA sport and hold a vote. This, then, could be the month that ends IRAs and a lightweight national championship. A reader, Emily (the long suffering coach's wife), said in a comment that "Rowing as a whole seems not to fit into the rules of NCAA very well." I agree with this statement. When I asked Tina Krah of the NCAA what the NCAA's sponsorship of women's heavyweight rowing has done for that category, she said that it's given them a chance to win an NCAA championship (circular argument) and has aided in continuing to grow the sport at all levels (absolutely true, but for women's heavyweights ONLY; in fact it may be helping to shrink it at other levels). She then says, "The fact we have a championship in all three divisions shows there has been growth in the sport." Well, we always had championships at different levels - Dad Vail, ECAC, IRA - so that seems to be no change to me. There was nothing in this answer that would suggest NCAA sponsorship is good for rowing except growth, but given that it's come at the expense of the other segments, I would say that growth has been bad for rowing. In fact, it cheapened women's heavyweight rowing as evidenced by how it's been the butt of jokes made by student newspaper editorial writers about how easy rowing scholarships are to come by.

The Pac-10 previously voted to limit men's heavyweight scholarships to 5, and the NCAA proposal seemed to be somehow tied to that, since the proposal calls for only 5 scholarships as an NCAA sport (heavy women have 20). This article from USC discusses the proposal. Of course, I'm only interested in this proposal because it's a potential IRA killer and therefore a women's lightweight championship killer. It seems to be a big to-do because a few Pac-10 coaches are angry that their conference limited their scholarships. Because of that limit, all Pac-10 coaches support the proposal, even though not all supported the Pac-10 scholarship limits. There is a lot of whinging about the Ivies hiding scholarships as grants-in-aid. Well, that's overblown, and because of the academic requirements the Ivy recruiting pool is much smaller than everyone else's. The only way I can explain this proposal is that the Pac-10 wants everyone else to follow their self-imposed scholarship limit. That's a poor reason.

Whatever the heavyweight motivations, this is bad, bad, bad, for lightweights. When things like this happen and exclude a segment of the sport (in this case men's and women's lightweights) it splits the sport apart. The NCAA doesn't understand the sport, doesn't understand how it operates, doesn't understand that it's a strength sport, doesn't understand it's traditions, and certainly doesn't understand lightweights. Either everyone goes NCAA or no one should go NCAA. The Pac-10 worries that the ECAC won't want to relinquish control of rowing. I say please, ECAC, don't relinquish control. The ECAC seems to be no particular friend of lightweights, but at least rowers are in control.

Petition against this proposal, vote against this proposal. This proposal will give the NCAA more power and a greater opportunity to marginalize lightweight rowing. The vote will soon be held and, as this article implies, the NCAA seems to be in favor of it. I know there are many coaches opposed, and there are many who haven't decided to do anything about it yet. Well, now is the time.

Monday, April 03, 2006

More April 1-2 Results

Ohio State, Marist, and Ithaca raced lightweight eights on Saturday with OSU finishing first, seven seconds ahead of Marist, who were 14 seconds ahead of Ithaca. Meanwhile in Bloomington, the Dayton lightweight eight raced the Eastern Michigan, Cincinnati, and Dayton heavyweight 2Vs. The lights were third, 12 seconds behind Eastern Michigan and 8 seconds behind Cincinnati.

The Wisconsin lightweights finished their weekend at the Crew Classic placing second in the petites of the Cal Cup. It looks like Wisconsin rowed some pretty strong races against the heavyweights (and, of course, the Stanford lightweights) and were just edged out of the grand final in their heat, and may have made it if they were in another heat. They continue to look fast.

Looks like no one rose up to challenge Alabama at the John Hunter Regatta. There must be some light eights in the South? No results are in yet for the Red Hawk Sprints, the Occoquan Sprints, or the URAs.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

April 1st Top Ten Results

URI hosted the Yankee Cup and raced UMass, winning by 26 seconds. UNH did not enter a light eight in this race, although they have raced one previously. This is the first we've really seen of URI, and they look to be fast. In the light four UConn beat UMass by 24 seconds.

We did get results for the UCF v MIT race in Florida. UCF beat MIT by 23 seconds in eights and by 20 seconds in fours. MIT kept pressure on UCF for the first 1000, but UCF pulled away in the second. A bit of that margin is no doubt the result of a disparity in water time and 2006 racing experience between UCF and MIT, but UCF continues to show that it is very fast this year. [Update: Race reports tell me that both the UCF and the MIT varsity eights contained novice rowers. UCF's eight raced at about a 33 while MIT rowed at around a 31, no doubt highlighting some of the water time difference. This sounds like a bit of a pick-up race that turned out very well. It brought together two top ten lightweight boats, let FIT heavies in to play too, and was well run and generously hosted by UCF. This is what rowing's all about, isn't it?]

On Lake Carnegie Princeton and Bucknell raced, with Princeton coming out on top by 9 seconds. Princeton also won the fours race by 4 seconds. Princeton's freshman boat raced in the varsity race finishing 8 seconds behind Bucknell. I found this result to be a bit of a surprise because I expected Bucknell to be a bit further back. Conditions were poor again so this race may be further evidence of Princeton's difficulty with rough water. Bucknell's result here suggests they should probably move up in the rankings, but with Knecht Cup right around the corner, I'll wait to make any moves until after that regatta.

Radcliffe faced Georgetown in the most anticipated race between top ten crews this weekend. Radcliffe beat Georgetown by 11 seconds in eights, but Georgetown reversed that result in fours, beating Radcliffe by 10 seconds. The Radcliffe freshmen beat the Georgetown frosh by 23 seconds. This result confirms the rankings but, although 11 seconds is a healthy margin, it's not enough to write the Hoyas out of possibly contending for a medal at year end.

Wisconsin did double duty at the Crew Classic, racing in the heavyweight Cal Cup early in the morning, followed by a later race against the Stanford lights. The Badgers beat Stanford by 21 seconds, similar to Radcliffe's and Princeton's margin over Stanford last weekend. In a close race, Wisco was third in it's Cal Cup heat, only 3 seconds off of the winner.

April 1st Results

In Michigan the Grand Valley State and Northwestern light fours raced, with Grand Valley coming out on top by 3 seconds. Northwestern also raced a second four, suggesting they could put together a light eight.

Penn State put out a varsity light eight and novice light eight to race Bucknell heavyweight boats. Both lost to Bucknell, although the novice boat beat the Penn State heavy eight.

Launch Exhaust

A reader of FITD, (who also left a couple of comments) is one of three people who write on Launch Exhaust a blog mostly about coaching rowing and, in the case of this reader, being married to a coach. I think Launch Exhaust merits a mention here for a couple of reasons. First, the blogging coach is the coach of the Pitt lightweight four that just won that event at the Murphy Cup. There were good crews in that race and this was a nice win for Pitt. Second, while not all of the posts are specifically about rowing, those that are give some insight into a coach's thought process. It's easy to believe that a coach makes decisions with the certainty of a computer program and the emotion of a stormtrooper, but catch the right posts on this blog and you'll see that's not true. Who knows, you might even get some inside scoop on an upcoming opponent (probably not after this post, though)!