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!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe instead of viewing the finals in such a pesimistic way, it would be best to go straight to the congratulating. All six crews train in adverse conditions, be it rivers or lakes, and while a current may have affected lanes 1 and 2, keep in mind that UCF who almost beat Princeton and edged out Wisco in the heat was sitting in Lane 4, far away from lanes 1 and 2 and ended up in the 5th place position. I think its also necessary to concentrate more on how well Georgetown placed, especially because they're sometimes swept aside under the traditional three that are Wisconsin, Radcliffe and Princeton. The results of the race are similar to sprints three weeks ago, just with Radcliffe and Georgetown being flipflopped in finishes. Thank you for noting though that rowing is an outdoor sport and not completely downplaying the results. Also thank you for doing such an intense job of analyzing the races this season though, because it has sparked more interest and chatter about lightweight rowing.