Thursday, June 29, 2006

Summer Rowing

Now that the summer is here, it begs the question of what are college lightweights doing? Cross training, rowing, or nothing? No doubt we'll see some college lightweights racing at summer regattas, including nationals and Canadian Henley. Rowers with international aspirations will view the summer as an important part of their rowing career because it is a chance to test themselves against intermediate and senior lightweights who also have the same aspirations. Of course, it's also the time to learn (or continue to learn) sculling because the only international lightweight events for women are sculling events.

Thinking about national team lightweights raises another question - how many national team lightweights were lightweight rowers in college? While I don't know for sure, it seems to me that most weren't, or at least didn't compete as lightweights. For all of the worry at the collegiate level about lightweights and weight issues, at the international level extreme weight loss is almost encouraged. USRowing allows lightweights to weigh 140 pounds for the April erg test, 15 pounds over the international weight limit. Why are these large weight fluctuations allowed and what good does it do anybody to test at 140 pounds?

I also wonder if lightweight collegiate coaches encourage national team aspirations, or at least make known the opportunities, as much as heavyweight coaches. There is, however, at least one collegiate lightweight on the national squad. Hannah Moore lists her most memorable sporting achievement as "winning the varsity lightweight eight title for Villanova at the IRA Championships." Remember that? It was 1998. Villanova now rows lightweight boats of opportunity and hasn't been heard from since.

Friday, June 23, 2006

IRA Dam Opening: The Final Word

As I reported earlier, the Camden County Parks Director informed me that the Cooper River Parkway Dam was, in fact, open during the afternoon of June 3rd - the most important afternoon in college rowing. During the championship races that afternoon, including the women's lightweight eight, the dam opening created seriously unfair conditions for lane 1 and most likely lane 2 as well. Since lanes one and two were given to those qualifiers with the fastest times, the championship finals were seriously flawed. I gave this information to the ECAC which, to its credit, conducted its own investigation. The ECAC has determined that THE COOPER RIVER DAM WAS OPEN that afternoon.

It is difficult to imagine a more serious error in rowing than racing when there are drastically different conditions for different lanes. This was made all the worse by the fact that the affected races determined the national championship for the men's heavy eight, the men's light eight, and the women's light eight.

This is no small matter. While no one can say what the outcome would have been of fair races, we do know that fabulous crews had their hopes dashed against the shoals of miscommunication. While pride and lasting memories hung in the balance, so too did alumni donations and coaches' jobs. Wouldn't it have been great to see Princeton v Cal from lanes 5 and 6? What would a resurgent Princeton women's light eight have done from lane 5? What would a highly touted Navy men's light eight have done from lane 6? What's done is done, but it was done unfairly and it should not be allowed to happen again.

Gothard Lane, Director of Championships for the ECAC, did the research for the regatta committee. Gothard explained to me that "Without notifying us, the dam was opened on Saturday. From what we understand, the water got so high that they had no choice but to open the dam. If they had not released the water when they did then some of the local neighborhoods might have experienced some flooding later on that day during high tide." It seems then, that this was a tragic case of miscommunication. It's more difficult to understand, however, how spectators and coaches alike knew of the dam opening but the regatta committee did not. As Gothard goes on to say, "If we had been notified by the dam operator, then we could have gathered the coaches together to decide about what to do with regard to the schedule." If I were a coach, I would want to know what the regatta committee's plan is to ensure that this does not happen again. I would expect a letter acknowledging the problem and the plan.

Here is a short chronology of how this all came to light:

- As the women's light eight grand final is crossing the line on June 3rd, spectators mention to Fight in the Dog that the dam has been opened

- FITD analyzes race results after the rumored dam opening and finds obvious abnormalities

- row2k publishes a post-race report stating that the dam was closed all afternoon and was incapable of being opened because of the force of the current

- FITD reads the row2k report but decides that the facts still suggest a serious problem and publishes a post-race report noting the rumored dam opening and its affect on the races

- After taking some criticism from readers for publishing the rumored opening, FITD decides to research the issue and is told by the Camden County Parks Director that the dam was open from 1pm until 3:30pm.

- FITD informs the ECAC of the dam opening; the ECAC launches its own investigation

- The ECAC confirms that the dam was open during the IRA championship races

Sometimes, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

[Update: The most recent issue of Rowing News repeats the false story about the dam not being opened and unable to be opened for the championship races. No doubt the truth came out after they went to press. It's particularly unfortunate that they led the IRA article with the false story. The article also says that the Cornell light men were in lane one while they were actually in lane two and Navy (sixth place) was in lane one.]

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Wanted: Opposing Views

Over the past year, I’ve written frequently about the NCAA and somewhat less frequently about the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association. My last post on the CRCA was a tongue-in-cheek criticism of the organization for excluding lightweight coaches from the voting for Coach of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year. A reader took me to task for this post saying “the baseless claims about the CRCA, NCAA, and any woman who rows and isn't under 130 lbs are getting to be a little too much.” Of course, I would argue with the term “baseless” and I really don’t think I knock heavyweights very much at all (except for my refusal to use the weenie term “openweight”). I would imagine, however, that because I am the only one posting here, reading what I think of the NCAA and the CRCA can get pretty tiresome. So, in the interest of community, dialog, etc., etc., I’d like to post an opposing view (or views). If you think the NCAA, with its current involvement, has been good for the sport of rowing in general, and more specifically has been good for women’s lightweight rowing, tell me why. If you think the CRCA has supported and advocated for women’s lightweight rowing, let me know how.

Before anyone writes to me, however, take a look at what I’ve written about the NCAA. You can start with an email interview I conducted with a NCAA representative here, and my comments here. Read some thoughts on a women's lightweight championship here, and here is a coach who confirms the NCAA's worry about the "eating disorder" canard among lightweights. (Honestly, I think the NCAA is hostile to lightweights.) Finally, most of what I've written about the NCAA has been related to the Pac 10 proposal for a men's heavyweight NCAA championship. Frankly, if all categories of rowing, or no categories of rowing, had NCAA championships, I’d worry a lot less about the NCAA. As long as certain categories do and certain categories don’t, I’ll hammer them every opportunity I get.

I’ve written less about the CRCA so let me just say that I consider the CRCA to simply be an NCAA advisory body with little interest in, or concern with, women’s lightweight rowing. Yes, there is a lightweight committee which I suspect does some good work, but I don’t consider the existence of that committee dependent on the CRCA. It seems to me that the work done by the committee is a result of the interest and dedication of the members of that committee, and is done in the face of total indifference from the rest of the CRCA. I can’t recall ever seeing a lightweight issue addressed in CRCA board minutes. My questions for the CRCA would be (maybe I’ll ask them one of these days): Do you advocate the growth of women’s lightweight rowing? What are you doing to support that position? Do you advocate a NCAA championship for lightweight women? What are you doing to support that position?

Let me know your thoughts because, I am coachable.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?

I was feeling bad after being taken to task by a few readers for writing so much about the lane problems at the IRA final (I should have written it in a separate post) and I decided it would only be fair to see if I could get more information.

After some online research I determined that the dam in question was the Cooper River Parkway Dam at Kaighn Avenue. I then made a few phone calls and sent a few emails before I determined that Camden County Parks controls the dam. Finally, I sent an email to Caren Fishman, the Director of Parks for Camden County and asked for the Cooper River Parkway Dam opening times for June 2nd and June 3rd. This morning I received the following response:

6/2/06 12:45 - 2:45 p.m. dam opened
6/3/06 1:00 - 3:30 p.m. dam opened

The June 2nd opening coincides with the halt in racing on that day - the last race ran at 12:36 and the next race ran at 3:15 - so it provides confidence that this is the correct dam.

If you recall, the row2k June 3rd post-race report said
the water folks did not open the dam during racing - in fact, they were not able to, as there was too much water for them to be able to do so, so they had to let water spill over the top of the dam naturally.

We have a serious discrepancy. The dam was open during the final races of the day Saturday. I'm not sure who "the water folks" are, but they didn't seem to know when the dam was open and when it was closed.

There was a 2 hour dam opening Friday, racing was halted, and when it resumed the lane seedings were switched. Saturday there was a 2.5 hour dam opening, racing continued during the opening and lane seedings were not switched. A mistake was made on one of these days and judging by the Saturday results, it was that day. The current effect first showed up on Saturday in the men's heavyweight V8 final, which was raced at about 2:15 (it was delayed). Races just prior to that, ending at 1:45, did not show the effect. The river current had to go from near zero to fast enough to affect racing and, although I don't know how long that would take, 45 minutes seems within reason.

So here we are. The rumors seem to be true and it looks like we had a serious problem with the fairness of the National Championship races. This is not a function of rowing being an outdoor sport. This condition was controlled for on Friday and it should have been controlled for on Saturday. Competing championship regattas (e.g. ECAC) have been organized as a result of perceived unfair conditions such as this. Serious questions need to be asked of the IRA Regatta committee. We are now left to wonder how much of a disadvantage lane one, and probably lane two, had in the men's heavy V8 grand, the women's light V8 petite and grand, and the men's light V8 petite and grand.

The worst part of all of this? It gives the Pac 10 ammunition on their quest for a men's heavyweight NCAA championship.

[Update: The ECAC is checking into this; see comments.]

Saturday, June 10, 2006

IRA Race Video

The IRA race video is up over at Good video and for those of you who tend toward the excessive, you can click through it frame by frame.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Wisconsin Under Shofner

Just as you know an artist by her work, so you know a coach by her crews. Over the past three years, her entire tenure at Wisconsin, Mary Shofner’s crews have been champions. During a period when women’s lightweights have been getting faster and more numerous, the Badgers have been National Champions every year. More than simply fast, Shofner’s Wisconsin crews have been models of technique. They’ve been smooth, fluid, and long. In the 2005 IRA final, when Princeton was still making a race of it coming into the last 250, both crews went into their sprint. Within two strokes you saw that it was over; Wisconsin would win. The Badgers actually seemed to get longer as their rate came up. They were an image of swing. In my mind, that moment defined Wisconsin lightweight rowing. Most would point to the 2004 twelve second mauling of the IRA field instead, but that victory was so fantastic as to seem almost unrepeatable. It was ’05, when Wisco showed its typical poise and responded to pressure with, “Oh yeah? Watch this.”

As Mary Shofner leaves the University of Wisconsin, we should all be grateful for what she helped the Badgers bring to the sport. When she arrived, Wisconsin was a bridesmaid program that just couldn’t quite get its bowball over the line first. She leaves behind the foundation of a dynasty. Wisconsin’s rise has been one of the best stories in women’s lightweight rowing. The program has thrived at a Big Ten school, where heavyweights usually rule. It thrives at a school in “flyover country” and shows Eastern crews that women know how to row in the Midwest too. It became the premier program in a boathouse with a long and rich rowing tradition. It brought red and white checked tablecloths to IRA tents and cowbells to the shores of the Cooper River (ok, so not everything is good). It brought competition and respect to lightweight rowing and throngs of new fans to the sport - no one travels as well as Wisconsin. Perhaps the most fitting tribute to Coach Shofner’s crews came from a Princeton rower I overhead at IRAs this year. Responding to the chest beating the men were doing about East Coast vs. West Coast crews, this rower said, “The thing about Wisconsin is, they don’t run around crowing about being from the Midwest, they just go out and get the job done. The men could learn something from that.” We all could learn something from that.

I don’t know where Coach Shofner will coach next, but where ever it is I wish her success.

They'll Never Get an NCAA Championship That Way

This story about the Harvard - Yale race on saturday mentions that the men's heavyweight V8 coxswain "dropped nearly 30 pounds in one month last fall to return to race shape." Yikes! And some people worry about lightweights.

Lightweight Scholarships

There's been a bit of a debate on these pages over whether any schools offer scholarship money for lightweights, in particular Wisconsin. At one point, I mentioned that they did and was corrected by a reader who said Wisconsin did at one time but no longer does. This story about a lightweight high school rower says she's going to Wisconsin next year on a "a partial crew scholarship." I'm not sure that's probative of anything though, because I frequently hear of girls going to Ivy League schools on "rowing scholarships."

CRCA Regional Coaches of the Year

I'm a little late on this, but back on May 23rd the CRCA announced its Regional Coaches of the Year. My initial thought, of course, was that Jim O'Conner, the Georgetown lightweight varsity coach would be a great choice although he'd have to duke it out with Mary Shofner, of course. Unfortunately the ballots were due May 17th, prior to the Hoya's 3rd place finish at Sprints, and way before their 2nd place finish at IRAs. Oh well... But then, I took a look at the ballot. Low and behold, neither O'Conner nor Shofner were even eligible! Perhaps the CRCA doesn't accept lightweight coaches as members (the riff raff, you know), except that there is a lightweight committee. (Wonder why there's a lightweight committee and not a heavyweight committee? Those heavyweight coaches should complain.) Perhaps he was eligible as an assistant (those lightweight coaches aren't really head coaches now, are they?). Well, I don't know about that, but I do know he didn't win. It may be that O'Conner just isn't a member of the CRCA. Can't imagine why a lightweight coach wouldn't want to join an organization that "exists to unify collegiate women’s rowing coaches, to act as a collective voice, and to inform collegiate women’s rowing coaches on issues related to rowing." [Italics mine]

Oh my gosh, maybe it's all because - gulp - the CRCA doesn't care about lightweights!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Reader Confirms Coach Shofner's Departure

A reader has posted a comment (see comments below) saying that Mary Shofner has informed her rowers that she is leaving Wisconsin. No word yet on her plans.

Clear as Mud

The Wisconsin coaching position is now posted on their web site and the Working Title is "Varsity Women's Lightweight Coach" while the Official Title is "ASST COACH(N54LN)" A lot about this posting looks like an assistant's position (e.g. salary, although it does say minimum), but the principal duties section says, "This coach will be responsible for all aspects of coaching and developing an extremely competitive Division I Lightweight program, as well as contributing to the overall administration of the women's rowing program." It doesn't mention to whom the position reports. The head lightweight coach may be considered an assistant to the head Wisconsin women's coach. If Dusty Darley is leaving, I would think that this position would be listed as Novice Women's Lightweight Coach. Maybe a third coach? As I said, clear as mud.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Future of Fight in the Dog

When I first contemplated creating Fight in the Dog, I realized that the only way I could do it would be anonymously. I also realized that one or two members of the very small circle of people who would know of my authorship of the site would eventually find that knowledge an uncomfortable burden. That time has come. As a result, on July 9th, the one year anniversary of Fight in the Dog, I'll publish my last post. Over the remaining month I'll post on some of the issues I believe are important to women's lightweight rowing, why I believe this season has been a turning point for the sport, and finally, some personal impressions of some of the teams I feel I've gotten to know over this season.

FITD has taken more of my time than I ever thought it would, but I've enjoyed every second of it. Most of all, I've enjoyed your comments and emails (even the critical ones) and seeing how much passion you all have for your sport. I'd like to leave the door open just a crack, in case I find a solution for an untenable situation, but I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Coach Shofner Leaving Wisconsin?

A reader has posted a comment here saying that "There was an email sent to the CRCA list that the Wisco lightweight women's position is open. The full posting is expected later this week."

At this point I would consider this a rumor, although this seems to be a pretty good source. This could also be the assistant's position, although I'm sure the poster would've caught that. If anyone has any more information, let me know. I'll try to track it down myself as well.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


If lightweights were heavyweights, and prone to self-congratulatory awards, the crew of the year would likely be Georgetown. To some, a move from fourth to second doesn't seem like that big of a deal. We all know better. Most obviously, it's a move from no medal to a silver medal. Even bigger though, is the fact that Georgetown had become a reliable fourth. Plugging along never quite able to see the big three ahead of them and always worried about Stanford to the rear. No longer. Despite the fact that the light women were the most successful program at Georgetown, they never seemed to get the respect they deserved in their own boathouse. They can't be ignored any more, can they? With a silver medal around their necks and a coach of their own, they've shown what some focus can do.

Another crew that I think should be mentioned is MIT. Earlier in the year MIT lost to Dayton by 20 seconds and URI by 17, both of whom MIT beat in the petite final. With some injuries in the boat, MIT didn't enter an eight at Sprints, so it was something of an unknown coming into IRAs and it showed that it had clearly done some work over the last three weeks.

Cliffies and Princetonians no doubt lament the days when they could win five national championships in a row and then simply trade it off with the other. Those days are gone. This is a new, much more competitive world. Although the Wisconsin dynasty is threatening a similar reign, the deck below is getting shuffled. Wisco's three championships now, are more impressive than Radcliffe's and Princeton's runs in past years because of this new competitiveness. As more dedicated lightweight crews come into existence, the in-season racing gets tighter and more frequent creating momentum for even more programs to enter the fray. Although some would have us think otherwise, this season has once again shown that women's lightweight rowing is growing stronger every year. [See comments for a nice view of the regatta.]

As the inevitable criticisms begin to roll in of my last post, I need to address the lane kerfuffle one last time. I thought long and hard about mentioning it in my post because I knew I would open myself up to accusations of Princeton partisanship and an intent to belittle the achievements of the medalists. I had planned not to mention it, particularly when I saw the row2k report - until I looked at the results. Clearly, there was a problem. In no way does this mean that I think Princeton would have won or medaled in a different lane. I have no idea. The rest of the field may have gone even faster with a faster boat on their tail. There are no asterisks in rowing. There are, however, regatta committees who must make decisions at next year's regatta. At the risk of sounding like Stanford, if no one points out the obvious, they'll think they can continue to fool all of the people all of the time. This went beyond the women's event and into the heavyweight and lightweight men's as well, affecting Yale and Navy. I regret that a full explanation took up so much space, but if I was going to mention it I had to justify it. Remember, it could be you in lane one next time. There, I'm done with it. Shoot the messenger if you will. I've been waiting for it and I've put on my armor in anticipation. Read the comments for opposing views and be civil when you post. Passion is good!

By the way, I may mention it again. Next year. Someone has to stir the pot, right?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Wisconsin - Again!

The University of Wisconsin came out of the reps to win its third consecutive National Championship today. Facing the most talented field in the history of women's lightweight rowing, Wisconsin won the gold by 4 seconds over second place Georgetown and 8 seconds over third place Radcliffe. Princeton, UCF, and Bucknell rounded out the field.
IRA Final

Wisconsin had the race pretty well in hand after 500 meters, although it had to fend off Radcliffe most of the way until Georgetown began storming back on the field at the 1000 meter mark. Georgetown, who was rowing in fourth place for the first half of the race, seemed to catch a second wind at the halfway mark and rowed through both Princeton and Radcliffe to take the silver. Wisconsin looked cool and in control, rowing long in the wind, and powered their way down the course to start dynasty talk in Madison.
IRA Final

In the petite, MIT pulled out a win to signal that they're not content to rest on their history any longer. Dayton came in second, just ahead of URI. Lehigh, Ohio State, and Stanford rounded out the field.

A few years ago, observers would criticize this event as not competitive. Last year the spread between first and sixth was 35 seconds, and the spread between first and tenth was 58 seconds. Two years ago the same spreads were 37 and 64 seconds (1st and 12th). This year the spreads were 15 and 37 seconds. Two months ago, not many outside of the category would have thought that the women's lightweight eight final would be this competitive. Women's lightweight rowing has come into its own this year and I don't think it will ever look back.

A discussion of this race would be improper if it did not mention the elephant in the room - lane assignments. This was a major topic of discussion in the boatyard and among coaches (losing, that is). The first inkling of a problem came when the starting line announcer commented on a strong crosswind blowing from lane one to six. This means lane six is favored. The wind was the least of the problem, however. Yesterday afternoon, the river was drained resulting in a several hour delay. When racing resumed, lane assignments were reversed, with those crews earning a higher seed in earlier racing assigned lane six. This afternoon the river was rumored to have been drained again, beginning around 1pm or 1:30pm. When the river is drained, lane one has a decided disadvantage because it has to row against the heart of the current. This disadvantage eases up as you move to lane 6. This meant that those crews earning the best seed for the final, Princeton and Radcliffe, would be at the greatest disadvantage. The lanes were not switched today.

This kind of talk is heard at regattas all over the country, and is easily dismissed as sour grapes. On row2k Ed Hewitt said that the river was not drained and that the water naturally spilled over the top of the dam. While denying a heavy drainage current, this statement actually confirms the existence of a current. Watching the races that were run after 1:45 (giving the alleged drainage a bit of time to develop a current), there certainly appeared to be a problem with lane one. Despite the row2k report, I heard observers say they could see current in lane one, particularly near the start, and a rower or two who claim to have actually seen the gates open. Readers of FITD know I like to look at statistics, and this situation seems to lend itself to that kind of analysis.

I reviewed all the finals run today except those in which the lanes weren't set until after races today (unfortunately I didn't note those lane assignments) and one race with an incomplete result (MO4+ grand). Not all had six boats. In these races (25 in all) prior to the MV8 grand (at 2:15), the average finish of lane one was 2.4, while the average finish of lane six was 4.2. Further, 39% of the time lane one finished first, and 68% of the time lane one was in the top three. Lane one was last just once. In the four races for which I know the lane assignments after 1:45pm, lane one was last, last, fourth (Princeton), and last. Lane six was 4th, 4th, and 2nd (Georgetown).

Now let's look at specifics. In the men's heavy V8, Yale finished last from lane one. In its heat Yale finished second, 1 second behind Princeton, and won its semi, beating eventual winner Cal. Favorite Princeton rowed in lane two and lost to Cal in lane four. In the WLV8 petite, Stanford, who never had a time slower than any of the boats in the petite, finished last from lane one. In the MVL8 Navy was in lane one. Navy, seeded second going into the regatta, won its heat with a faster time than eventual winner Cornell. Navy finished last in the grand from lane one.

I find this to be pretty damning evidence. In our case, it turns out that the best thing that could have happened to Wisconsin was to go to the reps. The absolute worst thing that could have happened to Radcliffe and Princeton was to win the heats. I'm particularly sorry to see this happen to Princeton (lane one) because yesterday they were a crew risen from the dead, and there is no better story line in athletics than redemption. Radcliffe (lane two) was on course to row possibly its best race ever. I don't think the data suggest an advantage to the outside lanes, but it clearly shows a disadvantage to lane one. Even if true, Ed's report that the water was only spilling over the top of the dam is confirmation of a current and evidence that the lanes should have been switched. They switched lanes yesterday and they should have done so today. Without the switch the five most important races of the day were suspect. Quite honestly, I'm upset that any of us has to spend time talking about this. A few things seem to be obvious - there was a current (from the row2k report) which disadvantaged lane one, there was a cross wind (from the race announcer's report) which disadvantaged lane one, and the lanes should have been switched (from the regatta committee's actions on Friday). Who knows if it would have changed the outcome, but we wouldn't be here now talking about it.

So, that's the conspiracy theory, believe it if you will. Like all good conspiracy theories, the "authorities" deny it but the evidence "proves" it. Despite the lane problems, we all participate in an outdoor sport in which factors beyond our control come into play. We have to believe that for every day conditions go against us, there is a day when they are with us. As Darrell Royal once said, "Breaks balance out. The sun don't shine on the same ol'dog's rear end every day."

Congratulations to Wisconsin, they took the long road to the championship and did the Midwest proud. With all of the East Coast vs. West Coast talk it's great to see the Badgers stand up for the Heartland to remind everyone that people row there too. Six Wisco seniors now head off into the world with cheese hats and three National Championship gold medals. Georgetown finishes its best season ever and will never again be taken for granted. New coach Jim "Beastmaster" O'Conner must be doing something right. Despite seeing bronze once again, Radcliffe is clearly on the way back. With the number one ranking for most of the season the Black and White were the top program in the Weld boathouse and are challenging the men for top program at Harvard. Over this season I've called Princeton the Sybil crew and the light switch crew. Today I have a new name for them - the most courageous crew. They beat their heads against the wall several times this year and, like a knocked-down champion fighter, kept coming back for more, punishing their opponents all the while. After a few years of knocking on the door, UCF and Bucknell are now among the elite of lightweight women. They, along with the crews in the petite final, are part of a new vanguard in women's lightweight rowing making the category stronger than it's ever been and proving that history doesn't make the difference, athletes do.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Oh My!

The lightweight women at IRAs awoke early and were greeted by a steambath of a day. As it turned out, the temperature wasn't the only thing that was hot. After watching today's heats I'll go out on a limb (but not far) and say that when considering all six boats, tomorrow's grand final will be the most competitive in the history of women's lightweight national championships. In years past there has always been one or two boats in the grand simply because someone had to win the reps. That's not so this year - every boat in the final deserves to be there and can challenge for the gold.
IRA Heat 1

On paper, the first heat looked to be a laugher for Wisconsin - they had just beaten Princeton by 16 seconds at Sprints, and UCF had lost to Georgetown earlier in the season. Wisco's relaxed manner at the start suggested they had hopes of only racing for 1000 meters and cruising the rest of the way. Two thousand meters later the Badgers were left looking for the license plate number of the truck that just hit them. The number one seed was sent to the reps by Princeton, a four seed, and UCF, a five seed. UCF, after trailing Wisconsin the whole race, turned on the afterburners in the last 250 and pipped the Badgers by 5/100s of a second. It doesn't get any closer than that. (See picture)
IRA Heat 1 Finish

In the second heat, Radcliffe finished 3/10s of a second ahead of Bucknell, who finished about 4 seconds ahead of Georgetown, sending the third seeded Hoyas to the reps. The Radcliffe margin in this race is a bit deceiving, however, because the Black and White hit a log about 250 meters from the finish and swerved severely in their lane as a result. (See picture) At the time, they were a comfortable 3/4 of a length ahead of the Bisons. Give Radcliffe 2 seconds for the log mishap and we have two heats with the same winning times.
IRA Heat 2

Wisconsin and Georgetown both won their reps easily, crossing the line rowing somewhere between a 28 and a 30. We end up with a grand final as predicted, but with all crews but Radcliffe taking unexpected routes to get there. It's no fun to race in the reps, even if you win easily. As the reps approached and the Wisco rowers walked past the port-a-potty sentinels on the way to their trailer in a secluded section of the boatyard, there weren't many smiles. When racing was subsequently delayed for bad weather, and the races started around 6:45pm, relegation to the reps became even more onerous.

I hope you weren't surprised by UCF and Bucknell. As any long time reader of FITD knows, I've been on the UCF bandwagon for a long time. The thing is, you can read about them all you want, but when you actually see them fly down a racecourse, it's always a bit of a surprise. Same goes for Bucknell. We've seen them at Dad Vail and at Princeton, so it was clear they had some speed, but knowing it and seeing it are two different things.
IRA Heat 2

In the end, it may turn out that the reps were the best thing to happen to Wisconsin. They won't be caught napping tomorrow. Neither will Georgetown. UCF and Bucknell now have the confidence they need to win gold. Radcliffe may be the most dangerous boat because they did just what they were supposed to do. If Wisconsin stumbled Radcliffe was next in line and after today their position has only improved. And Princeton - well I warned you about poking wounded Tigers with sticks.

The rest of the field acquitted itself nicely today. I was a bit surprised at the speed shown by MIT, mostly because we haven't seen that boat race too much. Stanford, having a bit of a down year, rowed a nice rep. It was hard to get a feel for what URI, Dayton, Ohio State, and Lehigh can really do because as they saw their shot at the grand final slip away, it's not clear how much effort they put into racing for a lane.
IRA Heat 1

This was a great day for women's lightweight rowing. The top of the field is getting bigger and much more competitive. There is little question that this will be the best final we've ever seen for women's light eights. Taking a minute to think about today's races, I can only remember what Apollo Creed's trainer said to him in between rounds as he fought Rocky, "He doesn't know it's supposed to be a show! He thinks it's a damn fight!"

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I Wonder Why...

...if the CRCA "exists to unify collegiate women'’s rowing coaches, to act as a collective voice, and to inform collegiate women'’s rowing coaches on issues related to rowing," there are never any lightweights on its All-America teams? Aren't women's lightweights included in "collegiate women's rowing?" Maybe they've been meeting with Jordan Bice and have decided that lightweights just aren't good enough to be All-Americans. The CRCA has a lightweight committee, what does the committee think abut this? If the CRCA is a heavyweight women's rowing organization, that's fine, it should just stop patronizing lightweights by pretending it cares.

Dayton Too...

Dayton is also sending a new lineup to IRAs. Head Coach Mike Farrey said, "It is hard for us to get a realistic gage of where our speed is currently because this lineup has never rowed together in a regatta. However, with different lineups we finished in the finals of the Knecht Cup and won both the Atlantic 10 Championship and the Dad Vail."

Radcliffe - The Fine Tuning Continues

Radcliffe has switched around their lineup for IRAs. The latest press release has their captain, a starboard, in stroke. Looks like the boat is fully re-rigged to starboard stroke, rather than a bucket. They've also added another freshman into the lineup.

It Keeps Going...

There is an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about Stanford's claim of East Coast bias at IRAs. I think Stanford has some legitimate compliants, but wow, do they not understand how to go about getting them addressed! Part of this is a CYA exercise by the coach. He was the one who apparently went merrily through the season never bothering to check on an issue that was plain for the rest of the world to see - his freshman sophomore. It was his responsibility to make sure the rower was eligible and if not, that he had enough time to work a replacement into the lineup. If he truly thought there would be no problem, that's a serious error in judgment for a head coach to make.

The real problem here is that these claims of bias are the type of issues the NCAA loves to "solve." I think the "federal case" strategy has a good chance of succeeding if there is no public counter to these claims. Whether he understands it himself or not, Craig Amerkhanian is quickly making it his mission in life to destroy lightweight rowing.