Thursday, November 30, 2006

Is There a List?

A recent article in the Louisville Cardinal features Louisville rower Beth Daunhauer. It's a typical profile and Daunhauer comes off as a smart, talented rower. What's interesting, however, is this sentence in the article's first paragraph:

[S]he is ranked in the top three in the U.S. for lightweight college rowers and she is the number one under 23 rower in the country.

Someone is keeping a list of top US collegiate lightweight rowers? And a list of top U23 rowers? This is some interesting news! I wonder how we can get a look at that list? I suspect, of course, that this is just an example of another student newspaper writer who doesn't quite understand the sport, unknowingly twisting something they were told in the course of researching their story. Nonetheless, it does make you wonder just a little bit if there really is a list out there...

This paragraph unknowingly provides another commentary on our sport. As best I can tell, the "number three ranking" may have come about because Daunhauer finished third among college lightweights at last year's CRASH-Bs (although second was a Canadian). Later that year, in the summer, Daunhauer went to USRowing Nationals and finished second in the intermediate lightweight 2x and second in the elite lightweight 4x. Here is the interesting point - if I'm correct, this paragraph highlights Daunhauer's erg finish and never mentions her nationals rowing finish. Isn't her sport rowing? Granted she also ergs, but that is simply a means to an end, the end being rowing fast. Americans have a very difficult time with true team sports. We can't handle the lack of individual statistics so we grasp for anything available. Other than the single, though, this is a team sport and phrases such as "Sally led the boat to victory" are usually completely out of place.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

CRCA - I've Been Remiss!

Somehow I missed taking a look at the 8/28/06 CRCA Board of Directors conference call minutes. Now that I've read them, I found two things quite interesting. First is this report:

There was some discussion that non-NCAA Women’s Teams be allowed to join the CRCA (lightweights). This met with Board approval with the understanding that these coaches could not serve as Directors on the Board of the CRCA.
Huh? Lightweight teams aren't members of the organization whose stated mission is "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?" An organization that serves "as the primary adviser on collegiate women's rowing issues to the United States Rowing Association?" Oh, don't worry, as long as no lightweight coaches defile the board, they can join. Look, either the CRCA "exists to unify collegiate women’s rowing coaches" or it exists to unify heavyweight women's rowing coaches. This is why they lack credibility. If this is a heavyweight only organization, fine, say so. If not, why make lightweights second class citizens? Just be honest.

Second is the update on lightweight issues from the head of the lightweight committee, Cecile Tucker.
The major point of discussion was whether the CRCA would provide awards to Lightweight Athletes and Lightweight Coaches. She agreed to determine how many colleges sponsored 'varsity' lightweight programs and would provide that information back to the board.
Obviously I think this is an excellent step and one on which I've posted before. This idea of determining the number of "varsity" lightweight programs is particularly interesting. There are a couple of ways of looking at it. First, is undoubtedly the board's way - we need to know how many programs there are to determine if an award would be meaningful. OK, that seems reasonable. A cynic, however, might say that it's a question asked because given the fluid nature of women's lightweight rowing, there are several very different but still "correct," answers. A look back at my own attempt to answer this question will show you what I mean. There are all sorts of definitional problems here. Let's take Bucknell. Is Bucknell a varsity lightweight program? It's a varsity program all right, but it only races lightweights at IRAs (and perhaps one other race during the season). Is it a varsity lightweight program? I can answer that with a yes while the CRCA board can answer that with a no. Another point here is that we could accept that there are enough programs (there were 12 good boats entered at IRAs last year plus a few more at Dad Vails) and use the awards to promote lightweight rowing and help it to grow. Before reading anything more into this, let's just see where it goes.

One quick note on the lightweight committee. That group has a thankless task working within the structure of the CRCA for the betterment of lightweight rowing. It's easy to sit outside and take shots (as I do), but much more difficult to be inside trying to make it work. The CRCA is the group that lightweights have to work with and the committee does the best it can within the constraints it is given. I've never heard, directly or indirectly, any member criticize the CRCA.

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USRowing Convention

The USRowing annual convention begins tomorrow in Portland, Oregon. In addition to events and speakers of interest to all rowers, there are two events of particular interest to lightweight women. The first event is Saturday's meeting of the CRCA lightweight committee. I'm not sure what is on the agenda, but perhaps FITD can get a post meeting report.

The second event is Dr. Tim Hosea's presentation on lightweight weigh-ins. If you remember, Dr. Hosea heads up a team looking at weigh-ins and he will be reporting their findings. I've asked Dr. Hosea for his report after he presents it on Saturday. If he sends it to me (no response yet) I'll be sure to publish it's contents. Even if the effect isn't immediate, I expect that this report will be quite influential in how weigh-ins are handled in collegiate races.

Other meetings of interest are the NCAA/CRCA meeting and the ECAC/IRA meetings on Friday. I can't help but wonder if any lightweight issues will be discussed in the NCAA/CRCA meeting and if last year's botched IRA championship will be discussed in the ECAC/IRA meeting.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lightweights Rowing as Heavyweights Until IRAs

In response to the UCF schedule post, a reader commented that "these races mean little since their best rowers will compete in their
1v and 2v htwt. boats until that racing season is complete." Other readers pointed out that the races mean quite a bit to those lightweights racing in them, not least because 2V athletes have a chance to show what they can do in 1V races. Nonetheless, the first reader makes a good point when (s)he asks if "this practice is good for lightweight womens rowing as a whole?"

Anyone who's read much of FITD knows that I would far and away prefer that the UCF lightweights race as lightweights all year, bringing a higher level of competition to the non-championship, in-season races. Unfortunately, though, if I were the UCF coach, I'm sure I would also race the better lightweights in the heavyweight 1V. I'd like to think I wouldn't use them in the 2V, however. In programs such as UCF, without separate lightweight teams, the heavyweights will always take precedence. The reasons are many, but they begin with the importance of the women's heavyweights in the eyes of athletic directors. Because of Title IX and NCAA support, for athletic directors, heavyweight women will always be a top priority, taking precedence over the men as well. This priority is further strengthened by the perception that there is no competition among lightweight women and therefore a championship means less. Just this summer, a heavyweight Georgetown male rower (now graduated) told me how the Georgetown lightweights were talking about their national ranking last season, which he said was four at the time. His response was, "Yeah, out of six!" Erroneous perceptions like this die hard.

This attitude of heavyweight priority is also the prime reason why heavyweight coaches in general, and the CRCA specifically, do not support lightweight women. They say they do, of course, but it's not true, because they believe separate lightweight programs would only draw resources away from the heavies. (If you have doubts, re-read my exchange with the CRCA president, Andy Teitelbaum.) The troublesome aspect of this is not that heavyweight coaches don't support lightweights, it's that they're not honest about it. If they laid out their concerns, perhaps they could be addressed and the sport would be better off. Phony support helps no one. (I've been criticized for this position before, and I'm sure I will again, but no one has yet shown me how heavyweight women's coaches, with the possible exception of Jim Dietz, work for the betterment of lightweight women.)

In a perfect world, the field would be deep enough to make IRAs an invitation only event for lightweight women and the preceding season would mean something. That's wishful thinking, however, because even for the heavyweights, only two regattas are important. A lightweight crew could lose every race during the season, but win IRAs and still be national champions. For heavyweights, they only have to win their regional race and then NCAAs and they too, are national champions. There should be some penalty for poor results during the season (or not racing at all).

I don't mean to imply that UCF will do poorly without their top two or three rowers, because I don't think that's the case at all. That squad is deep enough to still do very well. Others, however, are not. In some ways, though, this is like complaining about the weather - there isn't a whole lot that can be done right now. The priority must be to grow the sport. Until more boats are racing lightweight, we can't expect to be selective. In the past couple of years the category has grown tremendously, mostly in competitiveness, but also in size. The sport would be helped if UCF raced its top lightweight rowers all season as lightweights, but I understand the pressures to do otherwise. It hurts the IRA boat because it would be faster if it was together all season, but it often takes most of the season to find the right combination anyway. At least they do race lightweights during the season.

This all points to one thing - I can't think of anything in women's lightweight rowing right now more important than growth.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

UCF Releases Spring Schedule

The spring season is beginning to come into focus as UCF releases its spring schedule. Two races stand out - an April 7th race in Boston against Radcliffe, MIT, and Princeton and the Windermere Classic the following weekend on April 14th. Things tend to solidify closer to the season as other online schedules disagree with UCF's, but given that UCF has put out a press release, I'll assume they have the best information.

This is good racing for UCF as it gives them a couple of early opportunities to see their main competition before IRAs, with enough time in between to make some changes if need be. With this announcement too, it looks like Windermere may become the new Knecht Cup. At one time I thought Villanova might change the Knecht date but with Easter on April 8th and the A10 championships on April 21st, I'd say it's pretty much set. I wish UCF would also head north to Dad Vails since there aren't a lot of lightweights racing in the South/Central Regionals the same weekend. Nonetheless, you've got to hand it to the Golden Knights, they're going on the attack.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

2006 Fall WLV8 Rankings

FITD's fall rankings based on fall results:

1) Princeton

2) Wisconsin

3) Radcliffe

4) MIT

5) Georgetown

6) UCF

7) Stanford

8) Marist

9) California

10) Dayton

The first five crews are pretty obvious - they finished 1 - 5 at the Head of the Charles and the Princeton Chase confirmed that result for those who raced there. The only argument here might be those who say that Princeton's 2V should be third but, sorry, this only ranks 1Vs so a school only gets one boat.

Some judgment comes into play for positions five through ten. UCF finishes 6th because, despite not racing in the Charles and really only showing up once, they dominated the Head of the Hooch. They also get to live a bit off of their results last spring. Stanford comes in at 7th, based on it's races against California. Cal raced in the Charles so we have some means to compare Stanford with the other Charles boats and Stanford's margins over Cal puts them ahead of Marist. Marist was 6th at the Charles and so, in a bit of a surprise, comes in at 8th. Cal followed Marist in Boston and takes 9th, while Dayton, which also only raced once (the Tennessee), comes in 10th. Quite honestly, while the Stanford, Marist, Cal order is correct, where UCF and Dayton fit is an educated guess. UCF and Dayton raced no one who was at Boston so comparisons are very difficult. Dayton may in fact be faster than some of the crews ahead of it, but those crews get the benefit of the doubt for racing at the Charles.

So this is the way the fall shakes out. The major story was the strength of the Princeton squad, while a minor story was the success of MIT. Princeton will start the spring season as the crew to beat. To be fair, Wisconsin was only 14 seconds back at Boston, a margin which would narrow considerably in a 2k race, with Radcliffe only another 14 seconds back from Wisco. Perhaps even more impressive than Princeton's Boston result, however, was it's Chase result, where the Tigers finished 1 -2 over Radcliffe and Georgetown. We don't need a student newspaper article quoting rowers talking about team depth to know Princeton has it. With a likely 12, or even 16 rowers who could be in Princeton's varsity eight, there will be no rest for the weary on Lake Carnegie come spring. MIT, meanwhile, continues to build off of last year's impressive IRA petites win by finishing fourth in Boston. So often a rebuilding program squanders the previous season's momentum, but MIT seems determined not to let that happen.

There may have been other lightweight eights racing this fall, but if they weren't designated as lightweights, they couldn't be ranked.

In a few days I'll post the fours ranking.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Erg Backlash?

Could we be seeing an erg backlash? Doubtful (old habits die hard), but it was interesting to see the Dr. Rowing column in Rowing News challenge coaches to "unbias" themselves from the erg. The column was prompted by a father who wrote wondering why his son, an accomplished high school rower, was unable to make an erg boat this fall in college. Whatever the specifics of that case may be, Dr. Rowing lays down a challenge to coaches everywhere - run winter training and the spring season normally, but never look at erg scores. Set the boat based entirely on seat racing.

Andy Anderson (Dr. Rowing) relates a tale of two ergs - Matthias Siejkowski, the 2k world record holder, and Rob Waddell, whose record he broke. Siejkowski is a "renowned anchor," who has never rowed in a fast boat. Waddell won the Olympic single in 2000. The two fastest ergs of all time and one makes boats slow while the other makes boats fast. Anderson echoes FITD when he says that the erg "may be the worst thing to have happened to the coaching profession."

Anderson promises some ink to any coach who takes him up on his challenge. Of course, the dependence on the erg makes one wonder if seat racing is a lost art. Can coaches still run seat races in a way that never allows rowers to know when they are being seat raced until it's too late? We know rowing is all about making boats go fast, but it's so easy to believe that's the same thing as making a 2k go by fast on an erg. Why seat race your biggest erg? She'll beat everyone, right? Ask Matthias Siejkowski's coaches.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that this erg challenge appeared in the pages of Rowing News. Rowing News is typically a mouthpiece for the rowing establishment so an erg backlash there may mean more to come.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fall Rankings

Thanksgiving is here and that means it's time for FITD's fall rankings. Hopefully by the end of Thanksgiving break I'll have the rankings up. I'll also do fours and try to get them out a bit earlier than last year. These will be end-of-season fall rankings, not spring season predictions - they come later. In many cases the end-of-season rankings are pretty straightforward, but not always. I'll explain my reasoning with the post. You can see last year's rankings post here . The fours rankings post is here.

Tulsa Gets a New Boathouse

Back in October the Tulsa student newspaper published a story about Tulsa crew's new boathouse. Tulsa's lightweight four had an impressive finish at the Head of the Charles and Coach Kevin Harris plans to build the lightweight program. Tulsa is a great example of where growth can be found in the lightweight category. With some focus on a moderately sized but growing category like lightweight women, a relatively young but growing program may be able to have a national impact.

Meanwhile, Coach Harris paints such a nice picture of the Tulsa community that I'm thinking of sending in an application next year!

One interesting point is the fact that the main boathouse benefactor is a Yale alumnus. The story doesn't say if he rowed at Yale, but even if he didn't he was no doubt aware of the importance of the sport at the school. It's great to see a member of the community that was responsible for the first intercollegiate athletic competition in the US bring that sport to an area of the country some on the coasts used to think of as unrowable. Although some politicians may refer to the center of the country as "fly-over country," it's definitely not "row-over country."

MIT Release

There's a nice press release on MIT's web site about the lightweights' performance at the Foot. These articles are always self-serving but I think MIT deserves the positive review. Not too long ago MIT was often unable to field a competitive eight for the championship regattas and would forgo that category for a V4. They could be competitive there, but a fast eight seemed out of their grasp. I think those days are coming rapidly to an end. The Engineers appear to have a fairly deep team this year and Coach Jenkins seems to have a good start on building off of last year's IRA petite final win.

While I'm on the subject of MIT, maybe someone there can clear up an urban legend. The story goes that the architect who designed the MIT boathouse neglected to consider how new and trailered boats would be brought into the boathouse. The result was a turning staircase in the middle of the house and only one way to bring a boat into the bays - from the dock. The solution was to cut a gate in the fence lining the river just above the docks so new and trailered boats could be handed down to the docks from the sidewalk. Obviously such a mistake would be a bit embarrassing to a school nicknamed the Engineers. Is this true? (The architect went to Harvard, I'm guessing?)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Speed Orders

At last weekend's speed orders at least two recent graduates competed in the lightweight single. Sara Bates, a 2006 Radcliffe graduate was 5th of 21 and Claire Wallace, a 2006 Wisconsin graduate, was 11th. Also, you may recall that Katie Sweet, a 2005 Wisconsin graduate was a member of the US lightweight quad last summer. I'm encouraged to see women who rowed as lightweights in college working themselves into the national team mix. Most national team lightweights seem to have rowed as heavyweights in college and drop weight after graduation (some, of course, were lightweights in school but rowed for smaller programs with no lightweight boats). I think the fact that these lightweights are rowing after school is a sign that the college lightweight category is becoming an established part of US rowing. They're not simply participating, however, they're excelling. Sweet's achievement over the summer and Bates's and Wallace's finishes in speed orders mark them as real contenders for national and Olympic team slots.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Foot of the Charles Results

On Saturday the New England schools took to the Charles for one last race in 2006 - The Foot of the Charles. In the varsity four competition (at least I assume that's what it is, it's not named in the results) MIT was the top lightweight boat, finishing 14th out of 40. Radcliffe was next, 9 seconds back, followed by UMass, Radcliffe B and C, and MIT B. In the novice eight race the mighty Radcliffe freshmen were third, 20 seconds off of the Radcliffe heavies and 5 seconds off of the Dartmouth heavies. The MIT freshmen were 17th out of 30, almost two minutes behind Radcliffe. MIT was followed by the Radcliffe and MIT B boats. In the varsity eight race MIT lights were 3rd out of eight boats while the Radcliffe lights were 8th. I'm not entirely clear on what this race is since it's small and the results are often odd. I'm sure a reader can tell me but I assume these are 2 or 3Vs? [Update: See comments.]

MIT has to be pleased with their fours performance. They beat their own heavyweights as well as a few other heavyweight A boats and a whole lot of heavyweight B and C boats, not to mention Radcliffe's lights. This is also a nice turnaround from last year when MIT was almost a minute behind Radcliffe. The Radcliffe freshman eight continues to churn up the waters, here apparently facing stacked heavyweight boats. This boat appears to be very, very fast and unless it's broken up to bring some rowers into varsity boats, it should be exciting to watch in the spring. It seems untouchable at this point and it would likely go through undefeated, much as Princeton did last season. One of the effects of the Radcliffe freshmen has been to overshadow the MIT freshmen who are having a good fall in their own right. In the middle of the heavyweight pack on Saturday, they beat several heavyweight A boats, including their own.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More on Erg vs. Boat

As a result of my last post on ergs vs. boats, Aaron Benson posted a comment in which he noted that the difference between footstretcher and handle force comes about because "a stationary ergometer requires the rower to accelerate and decelerate the mass of the upper body at both ends of the stroke in order to reverse direction." He goes on to point out that this "disparity between footstretcher force and handle force can be minimized by rowing on Slides, or by using a RowPerfect ergometer."

This comment reminded me of several discussions I've had about how much of an advantage a rower gets from erging on a slide vs. without a slide. The consensus is that because of the effect Coach Benson describes above, less energy is required to go up and down the slide so a rower should go faster on an erg on slides. Apparently there is a study by Fritz Hagerman that I've seen referenced but haven't actually read, that shows more energy expended on slides as measured by heart rate. This is counterintuitive, however, and it's not clear why would be so. I also recall reading that the benefit mostly shows up in longer pieces (longer than 2k). I can't find either of these studies online or I'd link to them here (if anyone has them let me know).

Another factor that comes into play with slides (or the RowPerfect) is technique. The point of slides is to simulate an actual boat so it seems reasonable to think that a rower with better technique would benefit more from a slide while a rower with poor technique might actually suffer (banging into the ends, etc.). I've seen both. This all raises an interesting question - could you seat race on land by rigging together two sets of eight ergs on slides and looking at the average "boat" time (the monitors can be rigged to do that)? Better than single, static ergs, but still not a boat. Now if we could just put the ergs on slides on top of telephone poles laid on the floor... Oh heck, maybe we should just get in a boat.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Erg Technique vs. Water Technique

After I linked to the Rowing Biomechanics Newsletter a few posts ago, I looked back at some past issues and found one that sheds a little more light on the erg discussion we've been having. At the risk of getting off topic (this isn't lightweight specific) or too technical, I thought I'd mention it.

This issue discusses handle and force measurements taken from a rower while rowing an erg and while rowing a single. On an erg, foot-stretcher force develops sooner than in a boat, but leg velocity is higher in a boat. This higher leg velocity means a higher percentage of power comes from the legs in a boat when compared to the erg. On the erg then, more power comes from the arms than in a boat. There is, however, greater acceleration of the arms on the drive on the water. If you look at the power breakdown among legs, trunk, and arms, it looks like this:

Erg - 37%,41%,22%
Boat - 45%,37%,18%

Quite often you see some rowers with good erg scores, and many land only rowers, whip the handle in a way you know wouldn't work on the water. Maybe this is why. There is no claim here that the tested rower has perfect form, only that given the same rower, one rows differently in a boat than on an erg. The Newsletter's author, Valery Kleshnev, concludes that,
a comparison of various rowers’ profiles show that the power production differs between ergo and on-water. Rowers with fast legs produce more power on-water, while athletes with slower legs and stronger upper body have relatively higher ergo scores.

This may be stating the obvious, but even before accounting for technique and chemistry, rowing an erg isn't quite the same as rowing a boat.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It Keeps Getting Better

More news today about the benefits of being a lightweight: "Want to live to a healthy 85? Stay trim." In this case staying trim means a Body Mass Index below 25. For a 5'6" woman to hit a 25 BMI she'd have to pork all the way up to 155, so this isn't exactly limited to lightweights. (On the other hand, at 130 a 5'6" woman has a BMI of 21, right in the middle of the 18 to 24 normal range.)

It's really a combination of nine risk factors that determine your chances of living to a ripe old age. Here they are with my guess as to how lightweight rowers should stack up:

Overweight - Hardly

High blood glucose levels - Fitness should help here

High triglyceride levels - Fitness should help here

High blood pressure - Fitness should help here

Low grip strength - Uh, all you do is grip an oar all day

Smoking - Good grief, I hope not

Not graduating from high school - Been there, done that

Being unmarried - Really? (Certain of you should ignore this one, and you know who you are)

Consuming three or more alcoholic drinks daily - Just as soon as you graduate... No wait! You're dry during the season!

Patagonia Targets Lightweight Rowers

Well, not just lightweights. I received an email from a Patagonia marketing rep who asked if I would mention the Patagonia Pro Sales Program. "This program enables qualified, competitive teams to purchase anything from Patagonia at a significant discount." It seems Patagonia has caught on to the fact that rowing involves "sweating; starting and stopping; overexertion; wind, rain, cold, hot, hypothermia and heat exhaustion" and decided it might fit with the products they sell.

I don't work for Patagonia, I receive no payments from Patagonia, and I have no financial interest in getting anyone to sign on to their program. They did, however, see fit to make a pitch to lightweights so I thought I'd pass it on.

The team web site is here.

The team application is here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Radcliffe Wins the Belly!

I don't mean wins the lightweight category, I mean wins the race. Yes, the heavyweight boats in this freshmen race are supposed to be evenly matched, but c'mon, this is a great result for the Black and White. The next fastest boat was the Princeton heavyweights who were 2 seconds back. Princeton, by the way, only had one heavy eight entered so I'd say this is the best they've got. The Princeton lights were the next lightweight boat, 43 seconds behind Radcliffe, with the Georgetown lights another 26 seconds back. Both Radcliffe and Georgetown entered B boats which finished a bit further back in the pack.

That Radcliffe boat must have been smoking. No doubt the freshmen provide a good training partner for the varsity. The key point here seems to be that Radcliffe can bring some of these freshmen into the mix for seat racing this spring, adding speed to the V8 while still keeping a fast freshman eight. Thinking of the Pittsburgh four, this makes me wonder what the average erg score is of the Radcliffe boat. Think it's faster than all of the heavyweights in that race?

Two crews have now thrown down markers this fall - the Princeton varsity and the Radcliffe freshmen. Now, when the snow starts to fall, they'll move inside and begin making or breaking their spring seasons.

Weekend Results

Penn State had a nice 24 second advantage (these are 2k races) over Philadelphia University in the light eight event at the Frostbite Regatta in Philadelphia. Lehigh took a close light four event over Fairfield, who was a second and a half behind. Fairfield was followed by Penn State, Lafayette, and Scranton. Lafayette was right on Lehigh at Navy Day, but quite a bit back at this one. Given that crews are really training for head races in the fall, throwing a sprint race in there isn't entirely fair. Once crews start to train for sprint races at higher stroke rates, things change. I still anticipate a nice rivalry race between Lehigh and Lafayette in the spring.

At the Head of the South Virginia Tech beat Georgia Tech handily, while Alabama was a no-show. Georgia won the light fours by 27 seconds over Alabama. Bama was followed by Virginia Tech, Georgia B, Jacksonville, Georgia State, and Berry College. Geogia State was much closer to Georgia at the Hooch, so the Dogs opened it up in Augusta.

At the Newport Autumn Rowing Festival Stanford lights finished fourth in the heavyweight event. This is a nice result for Stanford and suggests they are recovering from their rough outing at last season's IRAs. Cal was further back at 15th in the 21 boat race. Stanford and Cal also raced fours (Stanford 13th out of 21) and novice eights (Stanford 7th out of 20 and Cal 19th out of 20) in the heavyweight events. There was also a light eight event in which Cal State Long Beach beat Arizona.

Ohio State - Dayton results aren't available yet.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Boat Speed Increase at Worlds

The August issue of the Rowing Biomechanics Newsletter discussed the average annual growth in boat speed from 1993 to 2006. I was surprised to read that the speed of the lightweight women's 2x is increasing at the third slowest rate of the 14 Olympic boat classes. I'm surprised because some other statistics I've seen and discussed seemed to suggest that the LW2x should be increasing speed at a greater rate than other boats. This seemed to fit with the idea that as relative newcomers on the scene, lightweight women would be gaining speed faster than heavyweights who have been around a lot longer. It may have been that in the past I've looked at the LW2x's speed relative to the heavy W2x. In that case, because the speed of the W2x has actually been slowing over the period measured, the gap is closing quickly. The same thing is happening among the light men as the LM2x is increasing speed faster than the heavy M2x. In fact, the Newsletter projects that the 2008 speeds of the winning LM2x and M2x will be nearly identical. If this were to occur, it would no doubt be used to bolster the argument to do away with lightweights because if there is no difference in speed, why should there be a different category? I think this is a bit of a red herring though, because the LM2x contains 2 of the top 6 lightweights in the world, while the M2x contains 2 of the top 21 heavyweights in the world. Potentially, then, we could be comparing the top 2 lightweights to the number 20 and 21 heavyweights.

The Newsletter also shows graphs of times by boat. There are two distinct patterns among the graphs and the only explanation I can think of is that they are grouped by the day of the final so that conditions for each group are similar.

I'm not sure how useful this kind of statistic is given how conditions can affect times, but it will be interesting to see what the LW2x times look like in Beijing in 2008, particularly now that the Chinese are paying a lot of attention to rowing.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Racing This Weekend

We're coming to the end of the fall season, but there are still a few more races to go.

At the Head of the South in Augusta, Georgia Tech, Alabama, and Virginia Tech face off, while in the light four Berry, Georgia State, Jacksonville, Georgia (2 boats), Alabama, and Virginia Tech race. Virginia Tech has beaten Alabama at the Head of the Hooch in eights, while Georgia beat Georgia State by a mere 3 seconds at the Hooch. Should be good racing.

The Frostbite Regatta in Philadelphia has lightweight four and eight events with Scranton, Penn State, Lehigh, Fairfield and Lafayette meeting in fours and Philadelphia U. and Penn State racing in eights. When Lafayette raced Lehigh at the Navy Day Regatta, if the posted results are to be believed, the two fours rowed the same time. This should be a great rematch. Philadelphia is in the early days of its program so we'll probably see Penn State take the eights.

On the West Coast the Newport Autumn Rowing Festival doesn't have entries listed, but Stanford and Cal both raced last year. The Head of the Lagoon doesn't have entries listed either, but last year UCSD and NorCal raced light fours.

In a traditional race (although a recent tradition, I think), Dayton welcomes Ohio State to a dual race on Saturday.

On Sunday the freshman have at it at the Belly of the Carnegie. Georgetown Princeton, and Radcliffe will be there, praying for better weather than that for the Chase.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Knecht/Windermere Conflict

It appears that the Knecht Cup conflicts with the Windermere Classic this spring, as both are currently scheduled for April 14th. In the past we've seen some of the faster non-West Coast crews such as Radcliffe, Princeton, and Wisconsin race at Windermere and if they do so this year that will degrade the quality of the Knecht field. This later date is probably a better time for Windermere since the crews will have more water time in and will be closer to their end-of-season speed. When it was held earlier in the season, it was hard to draw any real conclusions from the results, although last year Radcliffe did sustain their top ranking after Windermere for quite some time. It's not clear who will race at Windermere, although Wisconsin has both Knecht and Windermere on their schedule and Princeton, Radcliffe, Stanford, and LMU raced there last year. If any two of Princeton, Wisconsin, or Radcliffe go to Winderemere over Knecht, I suspect the other will also go (I think we'll see at least these three in California).

Although it's still early and dates may change, I'm not entirely sorry to see the Knecht Cup broken up. While I think it was a good opportunity to get the best light eights racing each other before IRAs, I don't think the regatta understood what they had and therefore were unable to capitalize on it. The lightweight race was an elite event occurring in the midst of a Dad Vail level regatta. And I do mean the midst. The men's novice four final was later in the day than the light eight, for goodness sake. The downside is that some schools with fast lightweight boats and so-so heavyweight boats were more likely to race there because the whole team was making the trip. Windermere, on the other hand, can't be beat for atmoshpere and the excitement of a match race. Visiting crews are treated like royalty. Sometimes, when you are at the pinnacle of your sport, even rowing, it's nice to be treated with respect. Windermere does it, Knecht doesn't.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Alabama Lightweights

There was a nice blurb in The Crimson White about the Alabama women's crew's results at the Head of the Hooch. The lightweights figure prominently because they led the way. It would be great to see Alabama continue to develop lightweights now that they are varsity (last year their coach told me that he would like to do this). If they did, I could easily see them creating a Wisconsin type of program - big (in numbers) and fast. I think that this will be hard to do, however, because athletic directors want NCAA championships and the best lightweight crew in the country won't bring that to Alabama.

More Results

Fordham won the light four at the Grimaldi Cup, followed by Iona, Sacred Heart, and Manhattan.

Tulsa won the light four at the Wichita Frostbite over Wash U. and Oklahoma City.

At the Head of the Occoquan, Penn State beat Duquesne in the light eight event.

More Recognition for Wisconsin

A lot of big time football schools use football game TV timeouts to honor the achievements of sports other than football. The team typically runs out onto the field while their championship is announced, they give a quick wave, get a few pictures taken, and run back off. It's good PR for the team and good PR for the athletic department. Last Saturday it was the Wisconsin lightweight women's turn. (Please note, I didn't take this picture.) Further proof that Wisconsin does it right.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Race Results

UCF kicked it's season off with a win in the light eight at the Head of the Hooch. I thought Atlanta might give them a run for their money and they were second, 16 seconds back. Virginia Tech, Alabama, and Miami U. followed. This is a nice start for UCF although a good season last spring brings with it the burden of expectations and we would have expected nothing less here. In the light fours, Georgia pulled off a tight, 3 second win over Georgia State. Virginia Tech was third, followed by Alabama, Auburn, Florida, and Clemson. There should be some fun racing between these two in-state rivals in the spring.

The Georgetown novice lightweights turned in a good result at the GW Novice scrimmage in Washington, finishing third behind the UVA and Georgetown heavyweight novices. They beat GW's top novice heavyweight boat, as well as the other B boats.

At The Green Monster, Frosh Invitational in Hanover, NH, the Radcliffe frosh lightweights turned in a dominating performance, winning the race ahead of the heavyweight frosh from Dartmouth, BU, MIT, UMass, Northeastern, and UVM. The MIT lightweight frosh also raced, finishing 7th, ahead of the top heavyweight frosh boats from UMass, Northeastern, and UVM. This may have been an event in which the heavyweights send out even boats, but these are impressive results nonetheless (the MIT lights look like they sent out even boats themselves since they finished 2 seconds apart; only one Radcliffe boat raced).

Lightweights in the News

There was a nice article in The Columbian about a pacific Lutheran lightweight rower. There were a couple of interesting points in this article. The first was that PLU practices at 4am! Classes must start awfully early at PLU (if this is correct). The second point is the discussion of cutting weight. The rower, Shayna Horracks, laughs about how hard it was for her to drop weight to 130 pounds, and says that her normal weight is 132. In fact, she cut to 126.6, probably as a result of the Head of the Charles practice of averaging. One hundred thirty two is a pretty normal weight for a lightweight rower (as well as a pretty normal weight for 5'7" woman), but no doubt she had a bit of a struggle to get to 126. I'm sure she had teammates closer to the 138 HOCR limit. This is why there is no averaging in collegiate events, because it makes everyone cut weight, even those athletes who are natural lightweights.

On another topic, a reader noted the story about the USC men adding lightweights to the program and wondered if the women will be next. This would be great if it happened, but I think it is not too likely. First of all there is the Football Theorem at work (average weight of the women's crew is proportional to the prominence of a school's football program), coupled with the natural reticence of women's varsity coaches to consider lightweights. The most interesting thing about the men's story is the attitude of the men's coach toward the lightweights. After saying that he is adding lightweights to increase the opportunities for students to row, he says that "a person can develop athletically quite dramatically from one year to the next. Someone who is a lightweight this year can turn into quite a decent heavyweight oarsman next year.” In addition, the lightweights are racing in the "sub-varsity" category, whatever that is. Doesn't quite sound like an unequivocal commitment to lightweights to me.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin continues to tout the achievements of its women's lightweights. A story in the Wisconsin State Journal discusses the high caliber of Wisconsin athletics, pointing to the lightweights as national champions and examples of athletic excellence. Wisconsin really does a great job of giving its lightweights recognition and setting them up as models for other Wisconsin teams to follow. (Of course, it helps when you've won three national championships in a row!)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Racing This Weekend - Head of the Hooch

There are other races this weekend but the biggest is the Head of the Hooch. The light eight has five entries including Alabama, Virginia Tech, Miami U., and UCF (Atlanta Rowing Club will also compete). This is effectively the fall debut of UCF as they race against other lightweight crews for the first time. They should dominate here although Atlanta can't be overlooked. The light four is loaded with 19 entries including, among others, Jacksonville University, Virginia Tech Crew, UGA Rowing Club, Alabama, UTC, Georgia State, Miami University, and Georgia Tech. The Hooch continues to be a premiere fall regatta for lightweight crews.

Typical Speculative Weight Story in Yale Daily News

A few weeks ago the Yale Daily News published a story entitled, Weight troubles athletes. This story is typical of the genre in that it discusses eating disorders among lightweight rowers (in this case men) without providing any statistics or even anecdotal evidence that this group of athletes experiences these disorders more frequently than the population at large. In fact, it fails to produce one member of the team with an eating disorder. One person quoted as an authority is a female heavyweight rower who claims to see male rowers who lose 30 pounds from summer to season. Obviously, that kind of rower is not a lightweight, but she offers no names and her claim isn't confirmed.

The weigh-in issue we've discussed here is touched upon by rowers, however, when the article states, "The 17 to 20 hours between weigh-in and a race give rowers a chance to hydrate and take in calories before the competition, team members said." Readers have pointed to this exact practice and have criticized these weigh-in rules saying that true lightweights should be capable of weighing-in just prior to a race without a loss of performance due to dehydration or lack of calories.

The usual three points to be made here:

- "Eating disorders" as defined in all studies I've seen with definitions is what a lay person would call "dieting." All college women do it.

- Whenever I've seen statistics for lightweight women rowers with "eating disorders" (using the expansive definition), the numbers show that they are no more likely to be affected than their peer group.

- Lightweight rowing should not be lumped with other allegedly "at-risk" sports because unlike those other sports, there is no incentive for rowers to drop to a weight below the minimum. In fact, rowers want to be as close as they can to the minimum because lower weight will mean a loss of power.

I get tired of reading these stories and I get tired of writing about these stories, but I don't feel it is proper to let them go unchallenged.