Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Head of the Charles Preview - Eights

The 2006 Head of the Charles once again pits last season's top four crews against one another. As the defending HOCR collegiate champion and three-time national champion, Wisconsin enters the starting chute as the favorite. Although the Badgers (starting 3rd) lost several rowers to graduation, the power of that program to find winners among the cornstalks cannot be underestimated.

Four of the next five boats are Wisconsin's prime competition in the race. Princeton starts 4th, followed by Quinte Rowing Club, Radcliffe, Georgetown, and MIT. I don't know if Quinte is fast or slow this year (they were, of course, fifth last year), but they're in the middle of a battle royale.

Not many observers would give the number four crew, Princeton, a real shot at catching the number one crew, but the nine Tiger rowers aren't observers. Princeton performed impressively at the Head of the Potomac, but that was an early race with their primary competition, Georgetown, not yet settled into eights or a lineup.

Radcliffe, last season's number three crew, will follow Quinte but, perhaps more importantly for the Black and White, they'll be just ahead of Georgetown. Racing on home water, and with IRA revenge as a motive, Radcliffe will not want to see Georgetown make up any water, much less pass them. The Hoyas, meanwhile, see Radcliffe as the first obstacle on their way to a national title. Separated from Wisconsin and Princeton by Quinte, this battle within a battle should be one of the more exciting sub-plots in the race, and may very well provide the push for one of these crews to finish on top.

MIT, meanwhile, had an impressive end to last season, finishing 7th in the nation. Last year at the HOCR they were the last collegiate crew and would no doubt love to lose that distinction in 2006. The Georgetown coxswain would be making a mistake if she never turns around to check on the Engineers, because they just may be crawling up her stern.

Separated from MIT by the Atlanta Rowing Club, Marist, Holy Cross, and Cal come down the course next. None of these crews were in the race last year, and Marist and Holy Cross are occasional lightweight competitors. Cal didn't make much noise last season but a good performance in Boston will start this year with a bang. Marist and Holy Cross are relative unknowns but by the end of the day Sunday will have a pretty good idea of where they stand.

A bit off topic, but still of interest, is the lightweight single race. Claire Wallace, Wisconsin '06, starts 23rd, just ahead of Katie Sweet, Wisconsin '05. Wallace should have her work cut out for her as Sweet is coming off Worlds where she represented the United States in the lightweight quad. This one is for bragging rights in Bucky's Den.

Next we'll look at the fours. We may have some bulletin board material for this race (Was that really a U. Vic dad talking smack about Princeton last year?)!

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