Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sometimes It's Just Not Fair

Today's article about Wisconsin's national championship coaches includes heavyweight coach Bebe Bryans as the head coach of the national champion Wisconsin lightweights. Nothing against Coach Bryans, but as we all know, Mary Shofner coached that crew to the championship. It would have been interesting to know if Bryans could even name the eight Wisco rowers. In fairness to the coach, however, Shofner is no longer at Wisconsin and I'm sure she would've had Coach Shofner represent the lights if she were still at the school. In fact, Coach Bryans has pointed to the lightweights as examples of the excellence for which her heavyweight teams strive. Nonetheless, it is a bit galling to see a heavyweight coach represent a championship lightweight crew when heavyweight coaches' support for lightweights is so questionable.

Bryans (who does note Mary Shofner's departure) points out that the squad lost six seniors last year.

[Update: See comments for an excellent point I forgot to make.]

More Racing This Weekend

The Head of the Oklahoma Centennial Regatta is running a light four event and Creighton, Oklahoma City University, and Tulsa are all entered. These schools also have eights entered so there could be some undesignated light eights racing as well. As we know, Tulsa is developing a lightweight program so it's great to see them with competition. Creighton and OCU frequently race lightweights so perhaps a competitive lightweight community will begin forming in the mid-south. This regatta is growing and is beginning to make a name for itself in the rowing community. With an unusual format of head racing combined with 500 meter sprints, plus night racing, it should be a lot of fun to race. It's great to see rowing building where it hasn't been before (and holding lightweight races!).

The Textile River Regatta is also running a light four event with Brandeis, UMass, and two MIT boats entered (along with a CRI boat). There is also a light eight event but it looks like all the entries are juniors so, with MIT attending, it's likely that there is at least one light eight in an open event.

There is also a light four event at the Tail of the Fox, with Lawrence, Marquette, and Northern Michigan entered (along with a club crew).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Head of the Potomac

The Head of the Potomac is coming up this Saturday and it looks like both Georgetown and Princeton will be in action.

I'm really guessing about Georgetown because they have two eights and three fours entered, all as simply "Georgetown." Given that this is a home race for the Hoyas I would assume that the lightweights will be there, probably with at least an eight and a four. Princeton, meanwhile, has two eights entered as "Princeton Women's Lightweight Crew," so the lights are definitely there. Often these early regattas are raced by even boats but since Princeton has one boat in the Open event and one in the Club event it's unlikely they are even. With only two Georgetown boats in the Open race, they are probably one heavy and one light eight, so it looks like Georgetown isn't racing even boats either. Granted, coaches are just beginning to sort out their crews, but no one wants to get blown out. This means we should have a fun early season match-up between the two schools.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Lay of the Lightweight Land

I often get emails from readers who are wondering just which schools row lightweight and how serious they are. This is always a difficult question to answer because the landscape shifts constantly. Nonetheless, there are some categories of programs and some schools in those categories that can serve as examples. I thought it might be useful to briefly lay out how I see these lightweight categories so that you can add your comments and we can see if we have a common view.

I see four types of programs:

1) Dedicated Programs
Schools with these programs have coaches and equipment dedicated to lightweights and recruit lightweight rowers. They race lightweight schedules when possible and the coaches actively support the growth of lightweight rowing. The rowers rarely, if ever, move between the lightweight and heavyweight squads. The lightweight squads are separate from the heavyweights and the coaches are considered varsity head coaches. Examples of dedicated programs are Wisconsin, Georgetown, Radcliffe, Princeton, MIT, and Stanford.

2) Focus Programs
Lightweights train separately and have their own coach, but rowers move back and forth between the lightweight and heavyweight squads. Sometimes rowers are recruited specifically as lightweights. The lightweight squad is considered an extension of the heavyweight squad and the coaches are considered assistant coaches. Examples of focus programs are UCF, Bucknell, and URI (at least last season).

3) Competitive Clubs
These programs are not varsity sports but are very competitive student run clubs. Usually the heavyweight women at these schools are varsity and the club is mostly, if not completely, lightweights. Examples of competitive clubs are Ohio State and California.

4) Boats of Opportunity
Boats of opportunity are not programs, but boats that are formed when a mostly heavyweight program finds that it happens to have some lightweight rowers who can form a reasonably competitive lightweight boat. These boats can come from almost any school except the large DI heavyweight programs which would almost never recruit a lightweight or find a lightweight walk-on who would be competitive in the program. Even when these schools do find themselves with a lightweight, there would never be enough for a boat.

I think any lightweight boat you would find in a four or eight race would fall into one of these categories. As you would expect, these are also generally ordered by speed, with dedicated programs the fastest and boats of opportunity the slowest (there are exceptions every year, but they tend to prove the rule).

Comments? Have I missed some obvious examples? Where do Dayton and Lehigh fall?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Another Reason to be Glad You're a Lightweight

Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City will publish a study in the November issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease which suggests that cutting calories may halt or even reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer's.

Say, maybe that's why there's not a lightweight event at NCAAs - the heavyweights forgot!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Rowing Gymnasts

While looking through some of last season's race pictures, I was reminded of one of the key signs that a boat isn't going as fast as it could - the rowing gymnast. The rowing gymnast contorts her body each stroke as if she's begging for the intervention of an exorcist. Gymnasts and "the face" usually go hand-in-hand. The face is seen when a rower grits her teeth, sticks out her tongue, or otherwise grimaces mightily, all of which is frequently accompanied by a tossing of the head usually seen on rodeo bulls.

Nine times out of ten these rowers are in the boat because they have the best erg score on the team. A score so good that a coach thinks she has to put up with that flailing body to get the power inside of it. The power has to outweigh the lack of technique, right? Not necessarily. There are plenty of examples every year where the biggest erg is not in the V8. Just as there are plenty of examples where lightweight boats beat heavyweight boats with bigger ergs. You never know until you seat race. The disruption to a crew caused by a flailing body can be serious and can easily outweigh a ten second faster erg score. On top of that, the rower is wasting energy. Every unnecessary movement wastes energy that could be better used on the oar. The same thing with faces. Even a silly face on a steady head wastes energy. It may feel better to think that your gritting teeth show the world just how hard you're pulling, but it just shows the world you could be pulling harder. As a lightweight, every loss in efficiency is big.

The goal in rowing is to have everyone rowing the proper technique exactly the same way at exactly the same time. A mediocre boat rowing together will beat a good boat rowing separately. Look at winning boats and then look at the rest. You'll see where the rowing gymnasts are.

Friday, September 22, 2006


We're one month from the Head of the Charles. So far only Wisconsin has raced so every crew is an unknown. It's the perfect time to vote on who the HOCR women's lightweight eight collegiate winner will be! All of the collegiate entries are listed in the poll to the right (URI seems to have dropped out) so use your best judgment, vote, and let's see how prescient FITD readers are.

F&M Going Varsity

Franklin & Marshall, which entered a lightweight women's four in the Knecht Cup as recently as 2004, will go varsity in the spring of 2007. The Football Theorem suggests that going varsity shouldn't mean an end for F&M lightweights. They raced lightweight boats of opportunity at various times during their 22 year history as a club sport and I expect they will continue to do so. Interestingly, the men have been "elevated to club/varsity status, meaning that it will also have access to a full time coach and the use of the equipment." I'm not sure how that is different from the women, but it may be a way to give the men some benefit from the women's varsity status without having to count them as varsity for Title IX purposes.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Coaches' Thoughts on Lightweight Rowing (final)

The final set of questions deals with the depth of women's lightweight rowing and its future:

4) Observers frequently decry the limited depth of women’s lightweight rowing. In fact, in the last ten years, four different schools have won the men’s heavyweight championship, five different schools have won the women’s heavyweight championship, and four different schools have won the lightweight women’s national championship. While I wouldn’t claim parity in lightweight rowing just yet, there are more schools coming on the scene with varsity or dedicated programs – Georgetown and Stanford of course, and now UCF and URI among others. As a final catch-all question, where do you see lightweight women’s rowing going in the future and how can more schools be encouraged to start dedicated programs?

This last set of questions allowed the coaches to make a variety of points, and they did just that. The tone was generally quite optimistic. Let me try to group the responses around common themes.

One theme was the idea that the overall growth in rowing will result in growth in lightweight women's rowing. At the same time, the growth dampening effect of the NCAA championship format was noted. As long as the 2V counts toward the team championship, heavyweight coaches will always feel as if they are hurting themselves by allowing good lightweights to row on a lightweight squad. This thinking leads one to look to schools with little chance of competing at NCAAs for growth in lightweight rowing.

Another theme was the idea that as more programs successfully race lightweights, and show that at well run programs weight problems are a figment of someone's imagination, the sport will grow. Parents and administrators will stop believing the apocalyptic stories of anorexic rowers and start encouraging their lightweight daughters and athletes to row lightweight.

One coach took the depth criticism head on by comparing the number of girls who play soccer to the number of heavyweight men who row, and using that to illustrate the relative lack of depth in all of rowing. While quick to say that this doesn't invalidate the sport, and acknowledging that it still takes incredible talent and dedication to be a rowing champion, this coach goes on to say that the very top of every category is not particularly deep. In one of the more telling comments to these questions, this coach notes that 10 or 15 years ago lightweight men's rowing was not very deep yet it had been around for 70 years or so. Women's lightweight rowing is growing at a faster rate and with time and support should soon be just as exciting as the light men.

A very interesting response came from a coach who said that lightweight women's rowing needs a hero, someone like Mia Hamm or Tiger Woods. (At Eastern Sprints I had a conversation with a coach who ran a summer developmental lightweight program who said the same thing.) This coach noted that recent female sports heros such as Mia Hamm and Michelle Wie have been "the youngest to ever..." Recently China's Fan Xuefei became the youngest world champion ever, racing in the lightweight quad. Will she inspire more lightweights? The coach doesn't know, but still makes a great point. The problem is that in a society that loves heros and celebrities, rowing is the ultimate team sport. Maybe lightweight rowing can trump the other categories by being the first to create a hero.

I should note that one coach mentioned the hard work done by Cecile Tucker of Radcliffe who heads the CRCA lightweight committee.

Overall, it's great to see optimism from these coaches. Even better, is to realize these are the coaches who will support this sport as it grows. The coaches who are collecting data to dispel the health concerns, coaches who are working to integrate lightweights into more regattas, and coaches who are developing lightweight heros. Given the track record of the mainstream sports and rowing media, it's clear that lightweight heros or celebrities (I'm thinking of crews as much as individuals) won't come out of traditional channels. The sport itself will have to take responsibility for its own publicity. There's no shame in tooting your own horn and lightweights shouldn't shy away from doing that. There are plenty of great stories to tell, if only we could get them out (recall how Rowing News almost totally ignored the category in its 2006 season preview).

Most distressing once again is the way heavyweight programs and the NCAA cast a shadow over lightweight rowing. One of, if not the, biggest challenge in lightweight rowing is how to turn heavyweight coaches and the NCAA from opponents into supporters. Even just removing them as obstacles would be progress. The size of heavyweight rowing versus lightweight rowing allows the heavyweight coaches to simply ignore lightweights while claiming they support the category. As one coach pointed out, these coaches and the NCAA need to open their eyes and look at Radcliffe, Harvard, Princeton men and women, Yale men, and Wisconsin women to see examples of programs that do both well. In fact, it could be argued that these programs are the cream of the crop and they all have one thing in common - lightweight AND heavyweight programs.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Coaches' Thoughts on Lightweight Rowing (cont.)

The third set of questions dealt with team trophy points calculations:

3) Women’s lightweights are usually, if not always, ignored in regatta team trophy points calculations. While I don’t really understand the desirability of the team win vs. the V8 win, I seem to be in the minority. Changing this seems to be the quickest way to grow lightweight rowing. Can this be changed?

This was a pretty simple question and it resulted in some pretty different answers. One coach said that all the regattas raced by that team include lightweights in the points calculations (looking at the regattas, I don't think that's quite correct). A few coaches sang the praises of the A-10 championship which does include lightweights in the calculation. The A-10 also received some kudos for including sculling events and the pair. A few coaches felt that heavyweight coaches will always be an obstacle to the inclusion of lightweight events in the team trophy because there are simply a lot more heavyweight programs without lightweights than with. One coach echoed my email exchange with the CRCA president, Andy Teitelbaum, and noted heavyweight coaches' general opposition to lightweight rowing out of fear that it will rob their programs of good 2V (an NCAA championship event) and 3V athletes. This coach noted that heavyweight men's coaches have been using this same excuse for years. The coach goes on to say that this argument can be invalidated by looking at the women in the boathouses of Radcliffe, Wisconsin, and Princeton, and the men at Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

Although not my intention with this question, the responses revealed the dirty little secret of women's rowing - heavyweight coaches oppose the growth of lightweight rowing. This attitude was also revealed in my email exchange with the CRCA's president. They don't oppose it for health reasons, but for a fear of losing resources (rowers, equipment, and funding). While I certainly understand a heavyweight coach pulling a lightweight rower into the heavyweight 1V, I find it unconscionable that a coach would deny an athlete the opportunity to race as a lightweight 1V, and possibly win a national championship, because he wants a faster heavyweight 2V. This, however, is where the NCAA championship format has helped drive us. If heavyweight coaches were to read this there would no doubt be some huffing and puffing about how they don't really oppose lightweights and actually would like to see the category grow. Really? Prove it - add lightweights to the team trophy calculation at Eastern Sprints.

At Georgetown, Success Breeds...

a novice lightweight coach! Sarah Trowbridge is joining the Hoyas as the novice lightweight coach. It sounds like Coach Trowbridge had an excellent career at the University of Michigan and is currently training with Potomac Boat Club with a goal of making the national team. If you remember the Football Theorem (average size of female rowers is proportional to prominence of football team), you'll understand why the new coach may have a bit of an adjustment. No doubt the deal was sealed when Trowbridge's alma mater trounced Notre Dame in football last weekend.

Seriously though, this hiring shows that Georgetown is very serious about women's lightweight rowing. A novice coach will mean more novices which will mean more varsity rowers, which will mean even faster boats. Quite honestly, a few years ago I thought that Georgetown could decide to drop lightweights any given season. That time is now long past. Not only are the Hoyas here to stay, but they're not going to rest on last season's laurels. This year, they're looking for gold.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Coaches' Thoughts on Lightweight Rowing (cont.)

The second set of questions I asked dealt with weight concerns:

2) There seems to be some hysteria about women participating in any sport with weight limits. Will this ever be overcome and do you think it accounts for lightweight women's status as rowing’s red headed stepchildren? How will the USRowing Medical Commission on Lightweights affect collegiate lightweight rowing? Why is there no women’s lightweight coach on the commission? Why is the NCAA involved?

All of the coaches recognized that there is a general concern about "weight restricted" sports, particularly among women. While recognizing the danger of uninformed weight loss, the coaches also evinced their belief that intelligent weight management poses no danger to an athlete. Most also expressed the need to educate concerned officials and administrators on how weight is managed at top programs.

Particularly distressing was the fact that no coach seemed to be at all informed about the USRowing Medical Commission on Lightweights. One speculated that NCAA involvement might mean the NCAA is considering bringing lightweights into the fold.

The coaches used these questions to discuss some other aspects of the weight issue. One noted her surprise that few coaches seem to have competed as lightweight women. She felt that the experience would provide a unique perspective to understanding and managing weight control. One coach speculated that there may have been a drop-off in lightweights rowing (men and women) as a result of the growing stature of the US population over the last fifty years. This coach went on to say that more lightweights rowing should translate into more opportunities for lightweights to row.

The most interesting answer came from the coach of a dedicated lightweight crew who noted that the program, in conjunction with the school medical staff, is collecting data that will demonstrate the safety of lightweight rowing. This coach believes that the program's lightweight rowers are measurably more healthy than the student population at large and hopes to collect the data to prove it. The coach believes that hard data will create irrefutable evidence to use against critics of the sport.

A few points on these answers. Without specifically agreeing that there is some hysteria about lightweight rowing, the coaches did see weight restriction as ammunition for critics of the sport. One coach did say that my characterization of women's lightweight rowers as "rowing's red-headed step children" was a bit harsh. I was particularly disappointed to learn that no coaches were involved in, or even knew about, the USRowing Medical Commission on Lightweights. How can there be such a body without the involvement of lightweight coaches? I applaud the efforts of the coach who discussed his program's efforts to collect health data. I agree that this is exactly what needs to be done to show how healthy lightweights are, both in body and mind.

As I mentioned in my last post, I think the weight issue is a red herring. Unlike other sports in which low weight is seen as a benefit (running, gymnastics, etc.), rowers have every incentive to be as close to their weight limit as possible while not risking going over. This simple fact makes a huge difference. There is never any pressure to drop below 130 pounds (minus a small cushion) and even coxswains are limited in how much weight they can lose. It's hypocritical for the NCAA or college administrators to be concerned about anorexia in weight restricted sports and not concern themselves with obesity in other women's sports. Obesity is more prevalent in society today and weight gain is encouraged, or at least tolerated, in many women's NCAA sports, including heavyweight rowing. I hope that at least one coach will soon have the data to show how healthy current lightweight rowers are and I would love to see data comparing the health and general fitness of former lightweight rowers to other former female athletes.

More to come.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Coaches' Thoughts on Lightweight Rowing

A few months ago I sent four sets of questions to the coaches of crews competing in the IRA Regatta. I hoped to use these questions as a way to get a feel for how the coaches, the drivers of the category, think about the sport. To avoid receiving "public relations" type of responses, I promised anonymity to those willing to share their thoughts. Just under half responded.

The first set of questions I asked dealt with the NCAA:

1) Do you think an NCAA championship has been good for women’s heavyweight rowing? Do you think the lightweight eight will ever become an event at the NCAA national championship regatta or will there ever be a lightweight NCAA championship? If there were either, would it be good for lightweight rowing? What would a men’s heavyweight NCAA national championship mean to women’s lightweight rowing?

Every respondant believes that the NCAA championship has been good for women's heavyweight rowing. The coaches pointed out the growth of heavyweights both in participants as well as funding. About half, however, also noted that while the benefits for heavies is a net postitive, that isn't necessarily so for the rest of rowing, with those programs without an NCAA championship becoming somewhat marginalized in the eyes of athletic directors. One coach pointed to the recent termination of the Rutgers mens' crew as an example.

The coaches were far more pessimistic on the possibility of a women's lightweight NCAA championship. Reasons ranged from inertia (the heavies have settled into a format and it would be difficult to change that format) to NCAA discomfort with weight requirements for women. Most thought that such a championship would be good for lightweights, although one coach thought that for now women's lightweights are best "kept out of the NCAA and in the hands of a small few who know what it is like to coach lightweight women."

The most interesting answers in this set of questions were those dealing with a men's heavyweight NCAA championship. The responses ranged from "wouldn't harm," to "marginalize...further," to "we would make it work," to "could help get LW women into the NCAA." With the exception of one coach, the responses all suggested that the coaches recognized a danger to lightweight women in a heavyweight men's NCAA championship as the responses tended to center around a belief that lightweight coaches wouldn't let the category die. One coach thought it unlikely that men's rowing would be brought into the NCAA.

My summary of responses to this first set of questions is that the coaches feel that the NCAA championship has been good for women's heavyweights, but a mixed bag for the rest of rowing; a NCAA championship for women's lightweights would be good for the category but is unlikely to happen; the effect on lightweight women of a NCAA championship for heavy men is probably negative, but wouldn't mean the end of the sport. This generally tracks with my own thoughts on the subject, although I was disheartened to learn that the coaches also thought it unlikely that lightweights would have a NCAA championship, and I think a heavy men's championship would be very, very bad for lightweights. The coaches responded to my question asking if they thought there would be a lightweight championship, not if they are working for one. Perhaps although they think it unlikely, they are still working to bring lightweights into the NCAA championship system. As much as I criticize the NCAA, once the devil was let into the dance, I'm coming to believe you have to dance with him. I also tend to believe the coach who said the NCAA has a problem with women and weight restricted sports. As I've said before I think this is a red herring, but another set of questions deals with weight issues, so more on that later.

One thing I noticed was that coaches who coach both heavyweights and lightweights were much more sanguine about the prospects for lightweight rowing.

In the coming days I'll post the rest of the responses.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Wisconsin Enjoys River Challenge

Enjoy is a funny word to use for a head race, but I'm pretty sure it's appropriate for this race. Wisconsin faced no lightweight rivals and, other than the Wisconsin heavyweights, faced only heavyweight club programs. The lightweights finished fourth (behind three Wisco heavy boats) and tenth in the fours and fourth (behind two Wisco heavies and a Purdue heavy boat) and fifth in the eights. No pressure, no hype - a nice way to open the season.

Lehigh didn't race in Milwaukee and has revised their schedule since my last post. Looks like they'll get in six races this fall, including all of the Philadelphia regattas. Next week for Lehigh is a race against Delaware, which will probably only boat heavyweight crews.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

New UCF Coach

A reader previously commented that UCF hired Andy Derrick as the new lightweight coach. After a bit of snooping I located a bio, but I wasn't positive it was the same person, mainly because I thought he'd be in the Air Force right now. Now, a reader (the same one?) has confirmed this as Coach Derrick's bio from his days at Washington. [Update: See the UCF announcement here.] I must say, given how dorky most of us rowers look, he did a great job of looking like one of Ty Willingham's linebackers (maybe because he played football in high school?). He won at least three medals at IRAs, including a gold as a freshman, and won the Ladies Challenge Plate at Henley. Clearly he knows what it takes to go fast. Corrie McGrath had coached the lightweights so I wonder if she's left UCF or if Coach Derrick is an additional coach. Either way, UCF is maintaining an emphasis on lightweight rowing. As I've said before, I think this program can serve as a model for other schools that want to develop lightweights. UCF has shown that with some focus, talent, and hard work, you can find yourself in the upper echelon of lightweight rowing. For many schools, the toughest thing to find of the three is focus.

Early Start for Wisconsin

I've often talked about Wisconsin's weather-forced late start in the spring, but I haven't noted that they get an early start in the fall. Well, they're off! This weekend Wisconsin races at the Milwaukee River Challenge. It's an odd race - two 2.2 mile pieces ten minutes apart - but most importantly, it's a race. Most crews aren't racing until October, and then usually get in about three races. If you count Class Day, Wisconsin races five times in the fall. The queen of fall racing, though, is fellow Milwaukee River Challenge competitor, Lehigh. Lehigh races nine times in the fall! I don't know if the lightweights race every time, but the opportunity is there.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

HOCR Weight Limit

I was surprised to notice that the weight limit for lightweight fours and eights at the HOCR is listed as: "Women: rowers’ weights average not over 130 lbs., none over 138 lbs." One hundred thirty eight pounds! That's quite a bit above the sprint season average of 130. Just as an example, if you have four rowers at 125 (not uncommon), you can have three at 138 and one at just under 130. That's really quite a different boat than one you'll see in the spring. Some of the crews racing here may never appear as a lightweight boat during the sprint season for just that reason. I suspect, however, that most of the serious lightweight programs will ask their rowers to be at 130. Rowing at 138 doesn't give you much of a feel for how you can row in the spring.

Head of the Charles - Fours

The lightweight four at this year's HOCR has 15 entries with 6 US colleges and another 3 Canadian college crews. Georgia State, Pacific Lutheran, Princeton, Pitt, Cal and Tulsa will race, with only Cal and Princeton returning from last year. Competing club crews are Argonaut, Bubbly Creek Rowing Foundation, Minnesota Boat Club, NYAC, Quinte, and Undine. Argonaut and Quinte are Canadian, Bubbly Creek seems to be mostly Northwestern Alumni, and Minnesota, NYAC, and Undine are traditionally quite strong in this event. The Canadian college crews are Brock University Rowing Club, Univ. of British Columbia, and Univ. of Victoria.

The top four crews from last year return - U. Vic, Undine, Brock, and Minnesota, in that order. Princeton was the top US college crew, followed by Cal and CMU. Villanova, NC State, Radcliffe, Fairfield, and MIT also raced last year. I'm surprised that Radcliffe and MIT have decided to forgo this year's race since they have the home field advantage. Last year U. Vic and Undine pretty much hammered the field, with second place Undine finishing 39 seconds ahead of third place Brock. As the first US collegiate crew, Princeton showed the speed that would carry them to the top in the spring season.

Pitt comes to Boston to see if they can keep some momentum from a good 2006 sprint season. They were a bit inconsistent but still had a season worth building upon. Pacific Lutheran is a name we didn't see last year but which raced lightweights in both 2005 and 2004. Georgia State raced a four last spring, although infrequently. A HOCR appearance will give them a feel for where they stand among some of the better crews in the country. It's good to see Tulsa with an entry, as they are beginning to develop a full lightweight program. HOCR is a great place to start the build.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Head of the Charles Draw

The Head of the Charles draw is out for the light eight and light four. Last year there were 14 entries in the eight, 6 of whom were US collegiate crews (plus U. of British Columbia). This year 16 eights are entered including 9 US college crews. The 6 crews from last year are entered again (Wisconsin, Princeton, Radcliffe, Georgetown, URI, and MIT) plus Holy Cross, Marist, and Cal. Other entrants are Atlanta Rowing Club, which often puts out a boat largely made up of Georgia Tech alums, Havergal College which looks to be a youth eight, Quinte Rowing Club from Canada, and Rudergesellshaft Munchen 1972. I don't know much about the last two. Also entered is Picnic Point Rowing Club a pleasantly named club comprised primarily of Wisconsin alumni. Given that heritage it should have the potential to surprise. The final two entrants are last year's first and second place finishers - London Training Center and Riverside Boat Club. Both crews will contain women training for their respective national teams.

It's good to see both URI and Cal in this field. URI's presence suggests that the new staff will continue building the lightweight program, which started to receive some attention last year. [Update: URI is no longer listed.] Cal makes the trip east after missing 2005's race (in the eight, they did race the four). Although they did race last spring, Cal seemed to be missing in action, perhaps because they raced in few lightweight events and those they did race were really only against Stanford. Speaking of Stanford, the Cardinal skips another year. Stanford raced in 2003 and 2004, but missed last year. I guess it's a pretty long trip from California. Marist's entry may mean that they'll have an eight to race in the spring, something they do fairly frequently. Holy Cross made some half-hearted attempts at boating a light eight last year, but an entry here may mean that they finally feel like they've the personnel to make a run.

Interestingly enough, since 1998, only last year did the HOCR collegiate winner (Wisconsin) ultimately become the national champion the following spring. Perhaps the squirreliest year was 2001 when Wisconsin, Radcliffe, and MIT all beat eventual champ Princeton. Despite that record, it would be really nice to have a Charles gold medal.

Next, the fours.

Monday, September 11, 2006

New Coaches at URI

URIURI lightweight coach Tina Paniel has left the school to coach a high school program in Seattle. In their first season as a permanent part of the program, the URI lightweights turned in a respectable performance, beating all non-IRA crews they faced during the season, as well as a pre-IRA MIT crew. At IRAs URI was ninth, beating Lehigh, Ohio State, and Stanford in the petite final.

Last October I noted that head coach Julia Chilicki-Beasley pointed to Paniel's appointment as a sign that the lightweight program has become a permanent fixture. I should note that Chilicki-Beasley has also left URI, replaced by Shelagh Donohoe. Donohoe is an Olympic medalist and former coach at BU and Northeastern. Assistant coach Jessica Lizzi also coached at BU and Northeastern and assistant Bridgid Myers coached at Northeastern. There are lightweight events on the 2006-07 schedule so hopefully URI's lightweights continue to be a "permanent fixture," coached by either Lizzi or Myers. Myers rowed heavyweight at Wisconsin so she knows how a good lightweight crew operates.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New Lightweight Coach at UCF

A reader posted a comment saying that UCF has just hired a new lightweight coach, Andy Derrick. I'll post more when the announcement comes out (i.e. when I know I'm thinking of the right person).

Fun With Numbers

The posting about got me thinking about... erg scores. I started to wonder about lightweight erg scores vs. heavyweight scores. I wrote about this once before in a post about the Dad Vail regatta, but I thought I'd briefly revisit it.

A look at the world record for heavy and light men and women, as well as the record for both in the 19 to 29 age group, shows that lightweights are roughly 7.5% slower than heavies. The 19 to 29 age group is pretty wide and includes much more than just college rowers, but it will have to do for now. A look at water world record times, however, tells a bit of a different story.

The LM2x and the LW2x are 1.9% and 2.8% slower respectively than the heavy 2x. The LW4x, however, is 5.1% slower than the heavy 4x while the LM4x is only 2.1% slower than the heavy 4x. I would guess that the difference in the light women's times is because of the emphasis placed on the 2x since it is an Olympic boat. Of course, the LM4x is not an Olympic boat either, but the light men have been around longer than the women and we would expect them to be generally closer to their heavy counterparts. It's really pretty amazing that the light women are almost up to the light men's standard in the 2x in such a short time. It shows what emphasis and focus can do.

One other interesting statistic is the median of 2006 CRASH-B scores. The median score of LM is 5.5% slower than the heavies, while the median score of LW is only 3% slower than the heavies. Both lightweight fields contained 121 rowers, while there were 99 more heavy women (333) than men (Title IX effect?). It's silly to read too much into this, but it suggests that the light women's field was higher quality than the light men. By the way, because we've been talking about weight limits lately, I should note that the CRASH-Bs apply their own weight limit - 135 pounds for women.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Shofner at Stanford

A reader left a comment saying that Mary Shofner is now an assistant at Stanford under new head coach Yasmin Farooq. Farooq coxed at Wisconsin as an undergraduate and certainly would have followed the Badger lightweights' progress over the past three years. [Update: Mary Shofner is listed as the women's coach for Stanford recruits.]

Winning the Ones That Matter

Matthew Pinsent had an article in The Times last week in which he talked about the Searle Brothers. According to Pinsent, the Searles "used to race for a full season, which entailed half a dozen regattas each summer in the build-up to the World Championships or, once every four years, the Olympic Games, and yet their sum total of medals and victories from these build-up races is outnumbered by their world and Olympic medals almost two to one." They won when it mattered.

We all want to win every race we enter, but not all races are created equal. Early season races are less important than late season, and as prestigious as it would be to win the Head of the Charles, I'd rather win IRAs. The Searle Brothers understood that and, more recently, so have the notoriously slow starting Wisconsin Badgers. In fact, a quick look at recent history shows that rarely has the eventual national champion been a dominant force throughout the season.

There's been a pretty strong correlation between Sprints winners and IRA winners as in the nine years since 1998 the Sprints champion has won IRAs six times. If we go earlier in the season to the Knecht Cup, however, the relationship isn't as strong. The fast IRA boats have been racing at Knecht since 2001 so if we look at the six years since 2001, the Knecht champion has won IRAs only twice. In those six years only one crew (Princeton) has won all three regattas. In fact, only that one crew has won both Knecht and Sprints. In it's three national championship seasons, Wisconsin has been third at Knecht twice, and second once. Knecht seems to be a particularly bad predictor of the eventual national champion.