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]


BM said...

The women's lightweight racing was the best of the day (at least on Sunday. I was too busy staying warm on Saturday to watch the heats). One of my former coaches always told us to watch women's rowing for the techinical side; they're so much more fluid than men's crews on a whole. IRA's this year should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

any idea what type of rate the crews were at?

JW Burk said...

No, I wasn't able to get the rates although I did overhear a comment that the Wisco frosh were at around a 31 for the body.