Wednesday, April 12, 2006

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!


steve r. said...

Ah, I'm glad someone cares about what happened to Pitt. We all know about the conditions on Saturday, I believe they used a floating start. Pitt was over 20 feet out of their lane and pointed directly towards an island when the race began. They had previously attempted to align themsleves but the official swore them out thinking they were trying to pull ahead. Of course, this is all hearsay, I just know what I was told as they came off the water. It makes sense to me, though, heck, they were 5 seconds faster than Carnegie at Murphy. They were pretty upset, too.
And speaking of upset, I know this is a lightweight womens rowing blog, but I'm gonna vent a little too. How can they put both of Pitt's light mens 4's in the same HEAT? Does that sound crazy to anyone else?

Coach Jay said...

Apparantly one of my rowers has found your site as well. I'll leave his comments without correction.

Vails will be interesting.