Saturday, March 31, 2007

Georgetown - Radcliffe

Now that the results are posted, we see that Georgetown beat Radcliffe by just under 1 second. The Radcliffe release on the race notes that the Black and White were up a length at the 1000 meter mark, but the Hoyas reeled them back in. That should be an ominous sign for future Georgetown opponents - a crew that doesn't panic, doesn't feel it needs to win the race at the start, and now a crew with confidence in itself. As I said, a bow ball or a length, this is an excellent win for Georgetown. Knecht Cup will be a great race!

As we look through the other races, we first notice that the Radcliffe 2V beat Georgetown's 2v by a bit more than 23 seconds. Clearly Radcliffe has some athletes able to challenge for the 1V, and I'm certain the Black and White will spend the next couple of weeks trying to figure out if they have the right combination. For Georgetown, the race was close enough that they realize they can't rest on their laurels (not that they would anyway) and will be doing the very same thing.

Radcliffe also won the 4 and the F8. This was the first test for the Radcliffe freshmen who dominated in the fall, and they passed by 14 seconds.

Georgetown is for real, and they're not going away. At this point in the season, we can say something that I don't know has ever been said about women's lightweights - we have a four way dog fight for best in the nation, and all the dogs have yet to show their fangs.

Reader Comment - Georgetown beats Radcliffe

A reader just posted a comment saying that Georgetown has beaten Radcliffe this morning. I don't know by how much, but even if it's a bow ball, the Hoyas have just made a statement. It's going to be a hot spring! More when we see the full results.

Lightweight Roundup

A reader beat me to the Princeton preview (thanks for the link) and noted that it was a bit "uninformative." Agreed, although for someone not familiar with what happened last season and in the fall, it set the stage. Most interesting to me was Coach Rassam's tone, which I would characterize as cautious optimism. It's probably just about the right tone to take, implying confidence in his crews but praising those new to the top of the league and noting the growing strength of the category.

We have some newly posted results from Ohio State's dual with Purdue last weekend in which the lights raced Purdue's heavyweight JV, getting knocked about a bit and finishing 27 seconds back. I'm not all that sure what this tells us because it's early in the season and Purdue can put out some strong crews. I wish they'd crank up their lightweight machine which won Dad Vails a few years ago.

Dayton has a preview of their Cincinnati race.

Wisconsin heads south for spring break, which is about two weeks later this year. Sounds like there was some cause for concern because of the long unbroken indoor training period (ugh!) but the coaches feel everyone came through it OK. We'll have to see if it causes the Badgers to get going a little later than most years.

A UCF release notes that the crews are heading into the difficult part of their schedule.

Although a juniors story, the Washington Post has an item of interest as it notes that "the National Capital Area Scholastic Rowing Association is using a "lightweight management" program, designed to ensure that lightweight rowers (boys under 150 pounds, girls under 130) make their weight in a healthy fashion. Rowers must be certified by a trainer, and U.S. Rowing is looking at the process with an eye toward using it in other parts of the country . . ."

A January 2007 study is out that suggests "although carbohydrate and sodium intake may be important in the recovery period between weigh-in and 2000-m rowing ergometer performance, fluid intake has a greater influence on performance among lightweight male rowers who undertake short-term weight loss to achieve specified body-mass limits." This study was done on men and I can't get to the whole thing, but you can see the abstract here.

Finally, here's news about a device we needed during the winter. For those of you with erg related back problems - a boat powered by an elliptical machine!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Duals this weekend

Two more Sprints schools swing into action this weekend as Radcliffe travels to Georgetown and Princeton welcomes Bucknell.

On Saturday Radcliffe and Georgetown battle over the Class of 2004 Cup. And I do mean battle. Radcliffe is looking for revenge and Georgetown is ready to prove that 2006 was no fluke. The Harvard Crimson article I linked to previously plays right into these themes:

The Radliffe lightweights will look to avenge this late-season turn-for-the-worse in the coming weekend against those very Hoyas.

Next Saturday, the Black and White will travel to Georgetown for the first meet of its young season, and, more importantly, for its first chance at redemption.

Having failed to win an IRA national championship over the past ten years, defeats such as the ones incurred at the hands of the Hoyas and Wisconsin last year are striking setbacks.

But these challenges motivate the squad, and, with the spring season about to begin, the team is ready.
The fact is, Radcliffe is strong this year, and could very well dominate the entire league, not just Georgetown.

Then again, shall we just stop taking the Hoyas for granted right now? This was the second place team in the nation - a position earned, not given. Last year was a breakthrough season and this race will be the first opportunity for Georgetown to state, once and for all, that it was only the beginning. Second was great, once. Now it's on to the championship, and the trip begins Saturday.

On Sunday, Princeton takes on Bucknell. We don't know if it will be a lightweight or a heavyweight Bucknell boat. Rumors still persist that the Bison will only race heavyweights until the IRAs, but the last Bucknell press release stated that the "lightweights" will be racing at Princeton. I've asked Bucknell for some clarification, but I haven't yet received a response.

For the Tigers, however, it doesn't really matter if it's the heavyweights or the lightweights, because a crew that hopes to win IRAs must beat either boat. While there is almost no way to actually compare speed, I think you can make a pretty good case for saying that the lightweight IRA champion is faster than the Dad Vail heavyweight champion. Bucknell heavies were in the petites the last two years, but even if you assume they win Dad Vail this year (although it's not on their schedule), Princeton must be faster if they want to be on track for an IRA championship. This will be a nice race for Princeton and given that it's early in the season (when brute force often dominates skill), this could be a bit of a see-saw battle.

As for Bucknell's plans for the rest of the season, we'll know a little bit more when we see who races at Princeton. [Update: See comment for an interesting take on this.]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Crew Classic, NCRC, and Other Races This Weekend

The San Diego Crew Classic is this weekend, a regatta which has the potential to be a lightweight showcase on the West Coast, but has seen some dropping entries (the entire regatta has experienced a bit of trouble in this regard). Heck, the event even has a named cup for a trophy - the A.W. Coggeshall Cup. Last year, however, only two eights raced - Stanford and Wisconsin. (It's hard to think of the Crew Classic without thinking of the Wisconsin pep band wading into Mission Bay to play "On Wisconsin" for the lightweights.) This year showed signs of improvement though, as five boats were entered - Cal, LMU, Stanford, Chapman, and Arizona State. Unfortunately, LMU and Cal scratched and we're down to three boats. Still an exciting race for those three, but it would be nice to see a bigger field. Maybe we could get the Dad Vail committee talking to the Crew Classic committee and together they could create some incentive for crews to come to these events. Two excellent events suffering from low entries (makes you think it might be important for lightweight crews to race lightweight events). The West Coast is producing more consistent lightweight boats, however, and I'm hopeful that this event quickly returns to at least its 2005 level when 9 boats entered.

I was concerned that the Cal and LMU scratches had ominous undertones for the rest of the season, but both coaches have told me that their eights will continue to race this spring. Cal suffered a sudden rash of injuries, nearly all non-rowing related (don't these women have restricted activities in their contracts?), but they'll be back and ready to go at Windermere. LMU experienced some recent sickness as well as logistical problems with the race (including some lights holding seats in heavy boats). They too will be back for Windermere.

Now, for the race at hand. While not a known quantity at the start of the year, we know that Stanford will put out a good eight. They've already had some good races this year, just barely missing out on second in the heavy race at Sacramento State. The Cardinal will come to town as the favorite, and ready to race. Chapman hasn't raced an eight yet this season (that I'm aware of), so this race will show us what they have. The same goes for Arizona State. I love to see new lightweight crews racing and ASU, which just got into WIRA, seems to be on the upswing. We'll see if they can hang with Stanford.

The NCRC Invitational is this weekend in Vancouver, Washington. I haven't been able to locate a schedule, but I would expect at least Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound to race.

The University Rowing Association Championships take place on Sunday outside of Pittsburgh. Wash U. and Carnegie Mellon will face off in light fours (no Pittsburgh? Invitations are restricted - see comments).

Dayton faces off against Cincinnati, Indiana, and Eastern Michigan, while rival Ohio State takes on Michigan State (a club team?). I'm not sure if there will be any lightweight races at these regattas. I think this will be Ohio State's first race of the spring.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Race Tomorrow and More Press

In a rare mid-week dual, Stanford will be racing Santa Clara tomorrow in Los Gatos. This is a bit of a re-match as the Cardinal and the Broncos met up a few weeks ago at the Sacramento Invitational. Racing in the heavy eight event, Stanford finished just 9 seconds ahead of Santa Clara, while in the light four, Stanford was nearly 35 seconds ahead of the Santa Clara crew. This should be a good race as SC will certainly be looking for revenge.

Lehigh's gold medal winning lightweights took the headline of the Mountain Hawks' Murphy Cup press release. Also making Murphy Cup headlines were Villanova's lights for the light four's performance. It's nice to see the Wildcat lightweights back in the news.

Duquesne's press release notes the lightweights' fine performance against Dayton, listing the four's victory as well as the eight's win in the second of two races. Speaking of Dayton, the student newspaper has a nice season preview, which notes the Flyers' nice finishes last year.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Radcliffe Press Release

Harvard athletics published a nice press release on the Radcliffe lights. Some highlights:

- Five returning seniors
- Three rowers participated in a U23 camp last summer
- Freshmen dominated in the fall (did we mention that here once or twice?)

The most significant fact for me is the participation of three athletes in the U23 sculling camp. I know the sweep rower ethos, because at one point I drank the Kool-Aid along with everyone else - scullers are pansies, they're loners, they think technique is important, their catches are too soft, they're too in control. Uh-huh. Keep thinking those thoughts as as you suck down their wake. Those of you who are only sweep rowers don't believe me now, but to learn to scull well is to learn to move a boat. While sweep "hammers" wrench in oars, throw their bodies around the boat, and burst veins in their necks, scullers impassively turn pain into poetry while defying observers to know the difference between the paddle and full pressure by anything other than boat speed. Why? Because they know that any errant movement will upset the balance of a boat, that any wasted energy will come back to haunt you when you are the only engine. Don't get me wrong, I like to jump into the engine room of an eight and whale on the oar as much as the next person, but if you can scull, you can make any boat go fast. If you look back at my summer nationals post, you'll see the names of those Radcliffe rowers mentioned. (UCF had two rowers sculling at Nationals while Princeton and Bucknell each had one. And don't forget Bucknell's fall sculling program.) I'll get down off of my soapbox now, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Speaking of warning, I said before that when Radcliffe meets Princeton on April 28th it will be a 1 vs. 2 race. This will be Princeton's first race with any of last year's top three crews, while Radcliffe will have won Knecht (not a particularly bold call, assuming Wisco has their usual slow start). This may very well be Princeton's first wake up call of the year and the rest of their season will depend on how well they handle it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

More Results...

What a day in Tacoma Washington! The Daffodil Cup went off Saturday in the face of tremendous wind and rain, although the last five events had to be canceled as a result of the horrendous conditions. How horrendous? Well, when it takes fours over ten minutes to run the course, you know you have a bit of a head wind. A head wind like that, unfortunately, will just about kill the chances of any lightweight crew racing heavyweights, which is what several lightweight boats did.

I haven't yet seen the official results, but a reader was kind enough to post them in a comment, and noted that "B" boats were lightweight boats. Pacific Lutheran raced a light eight in the 2V event, finishing second behind Puget Sound but ahead of Lewis and Clark. PLU raced a light four in the heavy four event, and saw the head wind push them to the back of the field, 75 seconds off of their own winning heavy four. A Puget Sound B boat (lightweight) raced in the heavyweight novice eight, finishing third out of three. A PLU B boat raced in the heavyweight 2V four event, finishing behind Puget sound and Lewis and Clark heavies, but ahead of a Portland heavyweight boat.

All in all it had to have been an incredibly difficult day, even more so for lightweights trying to cut through a headwind. I guess the only thing to do on days like that is to think of Nietszche.

In Oklahoma, Tulsa and Creighton locked horns in lightweight fours with Tulsa coming out on top by 5 seconds. Tulsa has a pretty decent four so Creighton shows some potential in this race.

In Los Angeles, LMU put their light eight out a combination novice/lightweight boat to face USC's 3V8 and novice 8. LMU was third, 53 seconds behind the 3V and 30 seconds behind the novice. USC is a powerful squad, but I think these results reflect an off day (or a different crew) for LMU. [Update: Thanks to a reader for clearing up the LMU boating.]

In the Berg Cup at Newport Beach, Long Beach State raced a light eight in the 2V race, winning the event over heavies from USD, UCSD, and Chapman. Long Beach State was 12 seconds ahead of second place USD.

More Saturday Results

Dayton and Duquesne raced light eights and light fours at their dual in Dayton. The Flyers won the eight by 24 seconds, a strong showing for Dayton. A second lineup was raced, which was won by Duquesne. I don't know if this was a 2V or just switched seats. It would be great if these two programs had enough lightweights for a second eight, but I suspect it was a combination of switched seats and new rowers. Duquesne won the light four by 16 seconds.

At the Blue Heron Sprints in Eureka, Humboldt State's light four won a combo light/JV race over Humboldt's JV, Seattle Pacific, and Mills. It's not clear if the latter two boats were lightweight or heavyweight.

At the Petrakis Cup in Florida, UCF came in first and second in the light four, beating a Jacksonville boat. In the heavy eight event, the lights were third, behind their own heavies and Miami's heavies, but beating heavyweights from Jacksonville and Tulane.

In Washington DC the Georgetown freshmen lights raced George Mason, North Carolina, and their own heavies. In two separate races the frosh beat their own heavies and George Mason's heavies, while losing to North Carolina's 2F heavies in a separate race. Somewhat convoluted story here.

No news yet on the Daffodil Cup in Tacoma.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Pitt Odds and Ends

You'll remember that the HOCR fours post generated some comments about erg scores and resulted in an extended ergers vs rowers discussion. The point, of course, was that good ergers aren't necessarily good rowers. Well, since the fall, it appears that those four rowers put in the work necessary to drop their scores. The one athlete left with an erg score above 8:00, weighs about 100 pounds so she can afford to give up some time. Apparently that rower just avoided the lightweight nightmare, when a coach says, "You're going to be a coxswain." (And you want to say, "I'm a rower, nitwit.") Just a guess, but I think there's a coach in western PA that's pretty glad he's down one coxswain. This is always a great story because FITD readers know that I love to see boat movers make a mockery of low erg scores (Hmm, think that has anything to do with my own erging ability?).

Murphy Cup

Today was gray and cool in Philadelphia as crews boated out for the light four and eight events at the Murphy Cup. First up, at 3pm, was the six boat light four race. Pittsburgh, the favorite in this race, came in with big momentum and equally big expectations. The rest of the field, if they paid attention at all, knew they would be sorely tested. In-town rival, Carnegie Mellon, knew that simply to win local supremacy, they would have to be one of the best light fours in the nation. For the rest of the field, in a quick 7 to 7 and a half minutes (doesn't feel quick, does it?) they'd know where they stood.

Although I didn't actually see any, it was a difficult day for starts, as they were floating and there was a decent current. At least that's what a few complaining coaches said. However the start of the fours would go, it wasn't going to be a big factor in this race. By the time the crews neared the wire at the 700 meter mark, Pitt was clearly in control. They weren't pressed in the latter part of the race and barely put on a sprint, finishing with 5 or 6 lengths open on the rest of the field. Expectations fulfilled. CMU proved it's mettle finishing 14 seconds back in second. One had to wonder if in another year that row would've won it. A good race, but work ahead if they want to catch the Panthers. Placing third, 23 seconds back, was Susquehanna. An unknown quantity before this race, it will now be on a few radar screens. In fourth was Lafayette, 31 seconds back. This is a crew with several novices and although it seems like forever right now, a 30 second gap from a fast crew like Pitt shows some potential. Rounding out the field were Villanova and Sacred Heart, 36 and 43 seconds back respectively.

As one might expect at an early season race, the field was pretty dispersed as crews had varying amounts of water time and boat time. Quite honestly, the scariest thing about this race, was the fact that the Pitt boat was a bit rusty. One thing we know about this boat is that the crew knows how to row, so as they smooth out and get back that HOCR swing, it doesn't bode well for the rest of the lightweight nation. I pray the Pitt boat goes to Knecht healthy and ready to rock and roll, because that looks like their only chance to race the Sprints crews. That race will be critical to understanding how they stand in relation to those schools. Too bad it's not closer to the end of the season. Wonder if the crews could get together and set up a fours challenge race just before IRAs?

With a Bucknell scratch in the light eight (more on that later), Lehigh became the favorite. (I wonder if the Mountain Hawks learned of the scratch at the line, or prior to boating out.) As the boats neared the 750 meter mark, it looked like Lehigh may have had a length on the field, which seemed quite tight at that point. Lehigh kept that length, maybe opening it up a seat, until the finish, as Penn State came on for second. The field was spread evenly with about a length between each position, Temple and Philadelphia taking third and fourth. This was a nice race for Lehigh, as they were able to stay in control ahead of a field battling hard behind them. It was also an impressive showing for Penn State, a crew we missed last spring but who has shown flashes of potential in the past. The Temple boat, it turns out, is half novices, but I think they were close enough to Lehigh to feel good about the speed they can pick up as the season continues. Even in finishing at the back of the field, Philadelphia had a decent row, only a little over 11 seconds off the winning time. This is a very young program and they'll get faster as the season goes on. At the finish, it sounded as if some of the Philadelphia rowers were giving birth, but they'll tighten up as they get more race experience. There was some initial confusion about the results as Bucknell was listed as winning with a Penn State scratch. Turns out some of the boats went down the course with the wrong bow numbers.

The Princeton Freshmen lights made their annual pilgrimage to Philadelphia and raced in the heavyweight freshmen event. Although they weren't able to pull out the win (as they did last year), they finished a strong second, about a length and a half back from the winner Navy, and a length and a half ahead of the rest of the field.

The Bucknell scratch was not surprising as I've now heard from more than one source that they do not intend to row a lightweight eight during the season, but will weigh in rowers on schedule to qualify for IRAs. I'll have a separate post on this, one that I hope will generate some discussion. Despite some strong feelings I have about this practice, I'm not certain they're correct and I'd like to hear what you think. More on this later. First, of course, we need to remove Bucknell from the rankings, which gets Lehigh onto the list.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Flurry of Press Releases

A flurry of press releases hit the wire over the last few days. Dayton had a great spring preview which highlighted the lightweight eight while also bringing the heavyweights into focus. The story confirms that the Flyers will race Duquesne in both the light four and the light eight. Dayton has one of the best lightweight resumes around, as they are two time winners of both the Dad Vail and the A10 lightweight titles.

The UCF release about the Petrakis Cup notes that the light eight will race in the heavy eight event while a light four event will be held. Jacksonville will have one of the light fours racing.

Georgetown is racing George Mason, George Washington, and North Carolina on the Potomac River, although it looks like only the lightweight freshmen will be participating.

The Harvard Crimson gets a week's jump on Radcliffe's opener with Georgetown by making the race out to be a real blood feud. More on that race next week.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

More Races This Weekend

In addition to the Murphy Cup, there are several other races with lightweight events. On Saturday UCF hosts the Petrakis Cup with Jacksonville, Miami, and Tulane coming to town. Most of these races (all?) will be heavyweight races, but I'm sure the lights will race at home. [Update: see comments for clarification.] Dayton races Duquesne, which may involve a lightweight race. In Tacoma the Daffodil Cup will be contested, with PLU in the mix, while Seattle Pacific heads to the Blue Heron Regatta in Eureka where they'll race Humboldt State and Mills in light fours.

On Sunday, Ohio State stops off in Indianapolis on its return trip from spring break training to race Purdue, Texas, and Michigan State or Grand Valley. Also in the (more) middle of the country, Tulsa takes on Creighton in the light four. It's a big day for Tulsa, as they christen a new boat and dedicate a new boathouse, the J. Bird Sr. Shell Nest. Is that a great name or what!? Check out this sweet description of where Tulsa rows:

The Verdigris River sports a natural setting of 18 miles distance for the TU women's rowing team to practice, and the levees on either side provide calm waters even when the winds gust up to 25 mph.
Is there such a thing as too nice to row?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Murphy Cup

Last year's Murphy Cup had a nice six boat light four field, but only St. Joe's and Miami of Ohio raced the light eight, in a race won by over a minute by St. Joe's. It's a bit different this year as a six boat light four field returns, along with a five boat light eight field. In fact, the lightweight women's field is much larger than the light men, who only have three light eights entered.

The lightweight four event is comprised of Villanova, Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, Lafayette, Sacred Heart, and Susquehanna. This will be our first chance to see the fall's top four, Pittsburgh, which has to be the clear favorite at this point. CMU has shown the ability to stay close to [beat] Pitt in the past [here two years ago], so we'll see where they stand this year. Lafayette has been paying some attention to lightweights recently and, although this is a bit early in the season for a young boat, will be anxious to show what they can do. Villanova likes to race lightweights a few times during the season, see if they can make any noise, and then melt back into the heavies. When they do make noise, it's always in these early races. Susquehanna has been racing a light four for at least a year now, so they'll be looking for some improvement over last year. Sacred Heart is a bit of an unknown at this point.

In the eight we have Philadelphia, Temple, Penn State, Lehigh, and Bucknell. Bucknell has to be the obvious favorite in this field. It's interesting to see Bucknell in this race for several reasons. First, it's a departure from their usual practice of racing the lightweights as the 2V. Second, some of last year's lightweights have been sucked into the heavyweight boat, so this is not likely to be the fastest boat the Bison can put out. Finally, rumor has had it that Bucknell will not be racing lightweights this year. Clearly they're racing here, so I'll wait for the results before I engage in wild speculation about what they might be up to. Next we'll be looking at Lehigh. Lehigh has been gaining speed the last couple of years and this will be an excellent first test for the boat. It's fortunate for both Bucknell and Lehigh that they'll be side by side in the race. It's good to see Penn State back in the lightweight ranks. The Nittany Lions had a good fall a couple of years ago, but never carried it over into the spring. Philadelphia is a new program and is an unknown, just as Temple is. (See my last post for a bit more on Temple.)

Finally, the Princeton lightweight freshmen usually show up at this race and they're scheduled to be here again, racing in the second heat of the heavyweight novice eight event.

The Murphy Cup is a good lightweight regatta this year and really gets the season off to a great start. In this race alone we have three light eights that we didn't see last year. I'm hoping for good, tight races so that everyone stays on the right side of the Line of Hope.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring Regatta Results

The Pete Archer Spring Regatta in Long Beach results are out and LMU had a good day. The Lions won the light eight by 3 seconds over Cal State Long Beach and by 28 seconds over UCSD. LMU followed up the 2k win with a 1k win over CSULB by 1 second.

The LMU boat contained a rower who won the national championship in the intermediate light quad and silver in both the intermediate and senior light double at nationals last summer. It looks like LMU can put out a pretty good light eight this year and with a few weeks until Windermere, they should be able to give Stanford and the Easties a good run.

Lightweights in Philadelphia

A reader wrote to note a new high school lightweight policy for the Pennsylvania Scholastic Rowing Association. A "Lightweight Certification Letter" is required of all lightweight rowers. The reader notes that this looks like a good policy, but some schools will probably choose not to race in some lightweight events to avoid the hassle, and goes on to say that "How to thread the needle and have safe weight policies that encourage natural lightweight seating in boats, while at the same time not creating an unreasonable liability hurdle for schools that will result in further dropping of lightweight participation, will be the task."

It's tempting to believe that those who can't be bothered probably also can't be bothered worrying about natural lightweights and safe weight management. That's likely to be wrong, however, and this is probably a case where rowers should take it upon themselves to remind coaches that they want to compete in lightweight events and are willing to bird-dog the letter through its hoops.

Also from Philadelphia, is a story about Temple's upcoming Murphy Cup races. It mentions Temple's light four race at the Keuper Cup in Florida. Temple also has a light eight entered at Murphy (more on that tomorrow). I think this is big news if Temple is getting serious about lightweight rowing, even if it's only for this year. It's a disgrace that there are no lightweight programs in the Philadelphia area, a hotbed of rowing. Some of the smaller Dad Vail schools could have a real impact if they focused on lightweights, instead of providing cannon fodder for the big heavyweight programs. In the Sprints League, Penn should clearly have lightweight women. Their heavyweight women have been mediocre and they have the example of the light men who had a surprisingly good season a few years ago. When the light men medaled at IRAs it was a surprise to even find the Penn name in a grand final.

Temple is a program that could focus on lightweights and almost immediately do damage on the national scene. They want to play with the big girls and that would get them there. We'll see what kind of success they have and where it takes them.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Last Weekend's Races, and the NCRC

Last weekend was a difficult weekend for racing in the Philadelphia area as a snow and ice storm canceled Lehigh's races in the city as well as the Jesuit Invitational in Camden.

There's always racing in Florida though, and UCF went up against heavyweights from Nova Southeastern, Jacksonville, Rollins, and Georgia in the eight and the four. The Golden Knights finished behind Nova and Jacksonville, but ahead of Rollins and UGA in both races. In the eight, UCF was 12 seconds off of Nova and 5 seconds off of Jacksonville, while the margins narrowed a bit in the four. UCF was closer to Nova last week.

On the West Coast Seattle Pacific and Pacific Lutheran battled it out in Seattle. The V8 race (which a reader tells me was between the schools' lightweight boats) was a barnburner, with SPU winning by less than a second over PLU. The PLU light four raced in the JV four event, finishing 17 seconds behind their own heavy four, but 10 seconds ahead of the SPU heavy four.

A reader posted a comment to my last post noting that the Northwest College Rowing Conference includes lightweight eight and four races. I've added those races to the calendar. A look at PLU's schedule shows the IRA regatta listed so it looks like they're serious about lightweights. (It's not listed on SPU's schedule.) PLU has been a frequent lightweight competitor but you never know if they'll be racing from year to year. Imprecise results reporting doesn't help either. Now that I know, I'll keep an eye out for lightweight racing in the NCRC.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fight in the Dog's 2007 Pre-Season Ranking

It's time again for my most foolhardy post of the year - the pre-season rankings. I was tempted to just go with the Readers' Poll this year, but I thought that would be taking the easy way out. I'm not that much different than the poll, and many places are really a toss-up, but here goes:

  1. Princeton
  2. Wisconsin
  3. Radcliffe
  4. Georgetown
  5. MIT
  6. UCF
  7. Stanford
  8. Bucknell
  9. Dayton
  10. Ohio State
Princeton as number one seems an easy choice and on paper it is. The Tigers won the HOCR and dominated the Princeton Chase. They have every rower back [although losing the coxswain,] from last year's IRA boat. When the seniors were freshmen they dominated Sprints and the Knecht Cup. When the juniors were freshmen, they too dominated, winning Sprints by 9 seconds and winning the heavyweight freshmen eight at Knecht (there was no freshmen light eight). Know what the sophomores did as freshmen? Yup, dominated. Despite the possibility that winning the Head of the Charles is lightweight rowing's version of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, Princeton has to be the heavy favorite heading into this season. Even more impressive to me was the fact that Princeton's 2V was second at the Chase, suggesting that there will be serious competition throughout the season for 1V seats, keeping the boat fast and on its toes.

Where can Princeton go wrong? The most obvious concern is injuries. Just as important as 1V injuries, however, are 2V injuries because Princeton's most powerful asset may be its depth. The other area where Princeton can run into trouble is technical execution. Both results and observation show that the Tigers only occasionally hit on all cylinders in 2006. Highly variable results suggest that the problem is more likely to be technique than power. If Princeton rows well, rows together, avoids gymnasts, and consistently competes for seats, they will be champions at the end of the year.

Wisconsin lost 5 athletes [rowers and the coxswain] from last year's IRA boat and one might be tempted to think they are in a rebuilding mode. They are getting used to a new coach and possibly a new style, both of which can cause a little short-term upset. One might not expect the Badgers to be as dominant as in past years. HOCR showed that would be a mistake. Wisconsin has dominated lightweight women's rowing for so long that it's hard to imagine the Badgers having a down year. Their HOCR finish and the respect engendered by their dominance of the last three years puts Wisconsin at 2.

Radcliffe is a program that seems to clearly be on the upswing and could easily finish in any of the top three positions (as was the case last year). With only two losses from an extremely fast boat last season, the Black and White will be in the hunt all year. With this ranking simply providing a place to start the season, I'd be shocked if Radcliffe never moved higher than third. Given Wisconsin's propensity for a slow start, I expect the April 28th Radcliffe-Princeton race to be a critical test for both crews and, just as it was last year, likely a 1 vs 2 matchup.

Georgetown, on the heels of a great season last year, gets slotted in at fourth. They obviously have the potential to do better than that, but they also have their work cut out for them to do it. As the second place team in the nation last season, they get the benefit of the doubt over MIT, with whom they traded finishing positions at HOCR and the Chase. MIT comes in at fifth, after winning the petites at IRAs last year and an excellent HOCR finish. With a strong tradition and good local competition, the league has been waiting for MIT to raise some Cain, and this year may be the start.

Placing sixth, a spot lower than last year's finish, is UCF. This placing doesn't so much reflect an expectation of less potential as it does concern that some of UCF's depth is being siphoned off to the heavyweights. Although they may all be back for IRAs, there will be some penalty for having to switch into a new team and likely a slightly different style. Stanford's placement at 7th reflects a belief that the Cardinal is also a program on the upswing. The days of believing that Stanford is such an athletic campus that a program of complete walk-ons can win national championships are over. More recruits means a more hard core rowing mind-set, and that means more speed. Stanford has the potential to be the biggest positive surprise of the season.

At 8th, Bucknell suffers from the same concern as UCF - that lightweights are being sucked into the heavyweight program. If all the lightweights are available to row lightweight, they'll be faster than this. If not, they could very well be slower. Dayton and Ohio State round out the top ten. Dayton has shown that they can consistently have a reasonably fast light eight. Now they need to get fast enough to break into the grand at IRAs. Ohio State has a new coach and gets a bump over Lehigh for what that can sometimes do (see Georgetown last year). Cal stays out of the rankings largely because they never race the bulk of the lightweight crews. It would be great to see them at IRAs, but it's a long trip for a club team. Certainly they'll be one of the biggest beneficiaries when the regatta moves West.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spring Break Races Last Week

Buffalo scrimmaged Dayton and Tulsa in Oak Ridge, TN last week, taking two (eights) from Dayton and splitting two (fours) with Tulsa. Buffalo beat Dayton by 8 and 11 seconds over 1,500 meters. The Tulsa four, which had a pretty good HOCR, beat Buffalo by 4 seconds in the first race while trailing by 8 seconds in the second race. Buffalo had some success in lightweight races last year, and it's good to see them back in the fold this year.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Racing This Weekend - March 17-18

UCF heads back to Winter Park one last time for the Rollins Tri-Meet on Saturday. The Golden Knights will race a four and an eight and take on Rollins, Jacksonville, Georgia, and Nova Southeastern. This could be some good racing, particularly in fours, as Georgia has a victory at SERCS and Nova was last year's Dad Vail winner (but are they racing lights this year?).

The Jesuit Invitational is Saturday cancelled. but I've been unable to learn if there will be any lightweight events. Last year Georgetown raced St. Joe's, but the Hawks tell me they aren't racing lights this year.

Lehigh is scheduled to race LaSalle in Philadelphia. LaSalle will, on occasion, put out a lightweight boat so this dual may include a lightweight event. Lehigh is scheduled to Race Villanova on Sunday, although Villanova has the race listed as Saturday.

The Augusta Invitational is scheduled for Saturday as well, and Auburn is looking for competition as the lone entrant in the light four. This regatta had a three boat light fours race last year.

On Sunday, the Spring Regatta at Long Beach has a decent field of four light eights - LMU, CU, UCSD, and Cal State Univ Long Beach (I'm not quite sure who "CU" is). UCSD lights took the heavy four at Sacramento State, now they'll get their chance in the eight. This should be a good race as LMU makes its debut in the big boat.

Finally, on Sunday Chapman races UC Irvine. Both teams put out light boats previously this season, with Chapman entered in the Crew Classic.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Selling Short

A month or two ago, in response to a post about an interview with UCF head coach Leeann Crain in which the lights were not mentioned, a couple of UCF rowers showed commendable loyalty and team spirit by commenting that they understood why the heavies were getting the spotlight and that they deserved it. One noted that "we did get 5th out of 12 teams and the heavies were ranked 20th out of well over 100 teams." While I certainly agree that the UCF heavies had a commendable season, I think this UCF lightweight is selling herself short. Let me tell you why.

First, given the genesis of this discussion, let me define a "competitive" crew as one with a credible chance to make the grand final at IRAs or NCAAs. In addition, at NCAAs, I am only talking about the DI grand final (more on that later). I am also going to make the assumption that boat speed among both lightweights and heavyweights is normally distributed. I haven't done the analysis, but I think this is a reasonable assumption. In any given year, particularly among lightweights, speed may not be normally distributed, but as a working assumption, I'm going with it. (Even if I'm wrong about this, it doesn't necessarily harm the theory because this assumption is used for illustrative, not probative, purposes.)

The NCAA Web site lists 86 DI schools with women's crew, 15 DII schools, and 43 DIII schools, for 144 total programs. Of those 144, 16 eights make it to NCAAs (DI eights; the assumption is that the DI eights are the fastest boats), and 6 make it to the final. Nonetheless, let's say that 20 (with a nod to UCF) heavyweight boats are "competitive." Twenty out of 144 is about 14%. That means that those boats are all more than one standard deviation from the mean heavyweight boat speed (in a normal distribution, 15.8% of boats would be one standard deviation or more faster than the mean). The rest of the heavyweight universe, which in a given year is slower than one standard deviation better than the mean, is, to use an honest but crass term, cannon fodder for the fast DI boats. I have more experience with (in) cannon fodder crews than I would like, and I can tell you that victories are just as glorious and defeats are just as painful, but you spend your season trying to win local duals, state championships, and make the finals at regional championships. You compare yourself with peers who, for one reason or another, are not those crews that are nationally competitive. You plug along, looking for that marginal improvement while hoping for a leap forward that finally makes you competitive. For many it comes, and there is movement into and out of cannon fodder territory.

The chart below illustrates this distribution.
(Recognizing the cannon fodder problem, the NCAA introduced DII and DIII championships, moving those programs onto their own curves, even as it killed serious DIII lightweight rowing. Because lightweights don't have separate divisions, however, I'm ignoring the distinction among heavyweights as well.)

I also assume that lightweights are normally distributed and that there are cannon fodder lightweight boats as well. As you move back from one standard deviation, however, something odd happens. (OK, now we're into theory, and I have no proof, but hear me out.) As the season progresses, the cannon fodder boats disappear. Sure, the 12th place boat at IRAs would get hammered by the 1st place boat, but the same is true of the heavyweights at NCAAs. The real fodder among the lightweights simply vanishes by the end of the season. Because I believe in the law of conservation of mass, I know those athletes have to go somewhere, and where they go, is into heavyweight crews. That's right, by IRAs most lightweight crews have self-selected themselves out of competition and the athletes are rowing in heavyweight boats. Most programs don't even try a lightweight eight because they know they can't be competitive with the Wisconsins of the world, and there is no other lightweight level. As the top lightweight crews plow through early season lightweight hopefuls, those defeated boats realize they're not competitive and fall back into the least restrictive category, and therefore the category that will always be available - heavyweight.

Without lower level championships, lightweight rowing is all or nothing. Yes, there's Dad Vail, but the Dad Vail champ can be pretty competitive at IRAs, meaning that it's a really fast boat. A lightweight boat of moderate speed doesn't have the option of satisfying itself with a DIII championship because there is no DIII championship. The coaches of these boats realize that it would be a waste of time and money to race them as lightweights all season and watch them get their brains beat in. The better option is to take the best rowers out of those boats, put them in the heavyweight varsity or 2V, and make those boats faster. The heavyweights MUST exist, but the lightweights are optional. If the optional boat is slow, you get rid of it and use all of your resources to make the mandatory boat less slow.

The chart below illustrates this, with a line drawn in that I'll call (because I'm an optimist) the Line of Hope. To the left of that line are those lightweight boats that have abandoned hope and moved their rowers into heavyweight boats. (We can argue about the placement of this line, but it exists.) In between the competitive line and the Line of Hope are the hopefuls, those crews hoping they can pull off the upset of upsets.

If the boats at IRAs are really the cream of the lightweight crop, rather than the only available boats, the time spreads from 1st to last should be similar to those spreads among the heavyweight cream of the crop. In 2005 and 2004 things didn't look so good for my theory. The spread between the winning boat and the sixth place boat was 34 and 37 seconds, while among heavies it was 6 and 8 seconds. In 2006 (the year that prompted this post), however, things changed. First to 6th among lights was 14.5 seconds and 1st to 6th among heavies was 14.4 seconds. From 1st to 12th among lights the spread was 37 seconds and from 1st to 6th among heavies the spread was 26 seconds. A dominant Princeton heavyweight boat may have skewed this a bit, but I think we can feel confident that the 2006 lightweight national championship was as competitive as the heavyweight championship.

You see, lightweights, this notion that the lightweight champ is the champion of a very small field is a canard. When you reach the mountaintop first, you don't look around and feel diminished because only 12 people came up behind you. You also count the scores of bodies lying on the slopes below. In lightweight rowing, the last breaths of the defeated are spent changing into heavyweight unis.

Is there room for improvement? Of course. There are still plenty of outstanding lightweight rowers who choose to row in good heavyweight programs. With a stronger lightweight league, perhaps those athletes would row as lightweights. Quite honestly, the lightweight spread should be tighter than the heavyweight spread and if we could get more programs to focus on lightweights it would be. But don't let heavyweights, heavyweight coaches, and the mainstream rowing media dictate your thoughts on this. If heavyweights didn't make fun of you, and everything else, they wouldn't be worth the label "athlete." Likewise, you have every reason to look down your nose at them. This is healthy. This is believing in yourself. This is knowing that what you do is special. This is knowing that you're pulling a 230 pound boat and a 120 pound coxswain down the river while weighing 130 pounds instead of 180 or 200 pounds. Lightweights and heavyweights should fight just like brothers and sisters because in the end, we're all one family. Just don't ever start believing everything your big sisters tell you. As for the rowing media, well, I think we've already seen that they're thought followers, not thought leaders.

Stop selling yourself short. The lightweight national championship is every bit as precious as the heavyweights' and you're about to get another chance to win it. The time is now - get off the erg, get on the water, and kick some ass.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More on UCF Last Weekend

A reader makes a good point, and one which I completely missed, when (s)he comments that in beating the Villanova heavies at the Rollins Invitational, UCF beat a crew that beat Radcliffe, Georgetown, and MIT at the Princeton Chase. Now, before I hear all of the reasons why this doesn't matter, I'll give you a few myself. UCF probably has had a lot more water time than Villanova, since I assume Villanova is in Florida on its spring break trip. Villanova is also probably some time away from determining their optimal lineup. Radcliffe has done poorly the last couple of years at the Chase, making that race a poor indicator of their spring speed. I'm sure you can all think of another reason or two as well.

Despite all of the caveats, we're still left with the inescapable fact that UCF beat the same team that beat Radcliffe, Georgetown, and MIT in the fall. It may prove nothing, or it may be a harbinger of things to come. Either way, Windermere is looking like a lot more fun.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Southeast Regional Collegiate Sprints

SERCS were run last Saturday on Langley Pond in Burnettown, SC. SERCS are hosted by the University of Georgia and the Dawgs didn't disappoint as they took the first two places in a four boat lightweight four race. UGA A was 11 seconds ahead of UGA B, which was 15 seconds ahead of Clemson, which was followed by Auburn 8 seconds later. Georgia was a Dad Vail finalist last year and it looks like they're planning to return to the finals again this year.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

FITD Readers' Poll

I've calculated the results of the FITD Readers' Poll and here is the pre-season ranking of lightweight varsity eights as determined by you (first place votes in parentheses):

  1. Princeton (47) 1,110 points
  2. Wisconsin (34) 1,092
  3. Radcliffe (20) 988
  4. Georgetown (12) 843
  5. UCF 606
  6. MIT (3) 596
  7. Bucknell (12) 582
  8. Stanford (3) 414
  9. California (1) 193
  10. Ohio State 189
I need to explain my methodology, but it was pretty simple - each first place vote a team received was worth ten points, each second place vote was worth nine points, and so on to one point for each tenth place vote. The points were then added up. In the end, I decided to accept ballots that voted for at least the first five places. The next time I do this I'll either just have a five place ballot or I'll throw out all incomplete votes. Of the 134 valid ballots received, only 5 voted for less than ten places. I didn't keep count of the ballots discarded (those voting for less than five places or repeating a team in more than one place), but I would estimate the number to be around 30. A quick look over the ballots showed that there were no duplicates among the valid submissions, a sign that multiple voting was hopefully kept to a minimum.

I thought this poll went extremely well, and by that I mean that I think people voted honestly, rather than simply voted for their own team. A look at the first place votes suggests that UCF should win the honesty award, although all of the discarded ballots may have had the Golden Knights first! I think the requirement to vote for all ten places helped force you to really think about your votes, and cut down on the easy "vote for myself" shenanigans. I know it's hard to make educated guesses for all places, and particularly with teams you don't know or don't race. Nonetheless, I think when I do this again half-way through the season, I'll probably keep the requirement to vote for ten places.

This poll shows just how close Princeton and Wisconsin are considered to be, with another serious battle occurring among MIT, UCF, and Bucknell for 5th, 6th, and 7th. I'll make my own case for the top ten in a week or so, but it's awfully hard to argue with this one. Don't forget the Head of the Charles poll. That was a simple one vote, "Who will win" poll, that was subject to all sorts of multiple voting abuse. Despite all of that, it almost nailed the actual results right on. In any case, it looks like you think Princeton is the team to beat. In three short weeks Bucknell gets to test that hypothesis.

Racing - March 10-11

A lot of teams were in action for the first time this weekend, with perhaps the biggest races occurring in Sacramento at the Sacramento State Invitational. The heavyweight V8 event was a seven boat race which included both the Stanford and Cal lightweights. Stanford finished third, 11 seconds off of the winning Sacramento State heavies, and just 0.6 seconds behind the second place St, Mary's heavies. Cal was seventh, 29 seconds behind Stanford. I don't know how fast the Sacramento State heavies might be, but beating 3 heavy boats, rowing one even, and beating Cal, has to make Stanford pretty satisfied with their first race. This could be a fast Cardinal boat this year which would make Windermere an interesting race. Cal, meanwhile, is glad this is just their first race and happy to know how much faster they need to be.

The lightweight four race in Sacramento was won by Stanford by just more than a second over St. Mary's. Humboldt State was third, followed by Santa Clara, Cal, Sonoma State, and Mills College.

Staying on the West Coast, the LMU lights raced the UCLA freshmen, losing by 27 and 18 seconds to the two Bruin boats.

At the Rollins Invitational UCF was back in action, beating heavy eights from Villanova and Rollins, but losing to Nova Southeastern heavies by 3 seconds. UCF also raced a light four in the heavyweight B four race, losing to Nova Southeastern by less than a second and beating Villanova by 22 seconds.

The Keuper Cup in Fellsmere Florida ran a light four race which was won by Florida Tech, 33 seconds ahead of Temple and 59 seconds ahead of Embry-Riddle. Interesting to see Temple race a lightweight boat.

Back to California we go where a light four from UCSD beat its own heavy four as well as one from UC Irvine. In the novice four, a Long Beach State light four beat a heavy four from UC Irvine as well as both light and heavy fours from UCSD.

Lehigh and Bucknell also raced this weekend, but they raced heavyweight teams and it's not clear if the lightweights raced as unit or which boat they might have been. Bucknell, of course, has made a habit of racing its lights as the 2V, but a look at the roster would suggest that the 2V they just raced against Alabama was a mixed weight boat.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Some Not Reviewed

Because the season previews are done on last year's top ten, some crews that are worthy of pre-season notice are inevitably left out. In particular, no West Coast crews were previewed. While this reflects the down year those crews had last year, it's probably not indicative of their performance this year. I find it hard to believe that Stanford will be kept out of the top 10 for long (or ever again?), and I think it's about time for Cal to break into the group. The problem for Cal, however, is that they can never really get ranked without traveling to IRAs, a trip that is quite an expense for a club team. When the IRAs move west I'm sure we'll see Cal race, as well as a few other crews, such as LMU. Stanford, Cal, and LMU really make up the West Coast lightweight contingent and are often unfairly overlooked. In the case of Cal and LMU it's very difficult to know where they stand with regard to the East Coast schools because they so infrequently race each other. When they do, such as at Windermere, it's early in the season and they're unlikely to be in top form. Even Cal's trip to Boston this year left questions since they were involved in a collision and were unable to show their true speed. The Bears do have the IRAs on their schedule this year, so perhaps we'll see them in Camden.

Another program that has pretty faithfully raced lightweight boats is Marist. Marist will be at Knecht and they also have the IRAs on their schedule. The Red Foxes have been fighting through a spate of injuries all fall and winter, a situation that could imperil the light eight. Marist would like to race a fast eight at IRAs and they finished as high as 8th in 2001, so they do have some history at the big race. I'll cross my fingers for some quick healing Red Foxes.

Also a quick update on St. Joe's. The Hawks will not be racing lightweights this year. A disappointment, but even when they start the season with a light boat they often fall away as time goes on. I do think that one of these years we'll see them put out a strong boat for an entire season.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Racing This Weekend

On Saturday, Bucknell races Alabama and Lehigh races St. Joe's, LaSalle, and Delaware. It's possible that there will be a lightweight race at one or both of those events, but I would guess that's unlikely.

In South Carolina the Southeast Regional Collegiate Sprints will be held with a five boat light four race. Auburn, Chattanooga, Clemson, and two Georgia boats will battle it out. This will be a nice early look at Georgia who often races lightweights at Dad Vails. Several members of the lightweight four crews will also race in heavy eights.

Stanford and Cal will be racing at the Sacramento State Invitational. They'll race a lot of heavyweight boats in addition to each other, although there is usually a good group of light fours racing as well.

[Update: UCF is back in action at Rollins, racing the heavies from Villanova, Nova Southeastern, and Rollins.]

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Chapman Racing a Light Eight

In response to my last post, a reader noted that Chapman has a light eight entered in the San Diego Crew Classic. Since that's a few weeks off, I hadn't looked at the entries yet, so wasn't aware that the Panthers had entered the race for the Coggeshall Cup. A quick look at the Chapman roster (which only lists heights) suggests that there may be a quite a few lightweights on the crew. We're probably seeing this boat now because it happens to fit the personnel, but it sure would be nice to see another lightweight crew start up on the west coast.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What a Tangled Web We Weave

A story in Saturday's Philadelphia Inquirer explained how Princeton's men's wrestling team at least partially owes its existence to the Princeton lightweight women (with a boost from the women's water polo team), while Bucknell's women's crew owes the existence of its new assistant coaches (maybe freeing up one to work with the lightweights?) to Bucknell wrestling. The article is about men's wrestling programs that had been given Title IX death sentences, coming back to life through the intervention of alumni fundraisers. The article starts by noting that Bucknell wrestling has been revived through the donation of alumnus Bill Graham, who also funded certain Bucknell women's programs, including crew. Although certainly not the official line, there can be little doubt that the women's funding was what is known to politicians as a bribe, to enable wrestling's reinstatement.

At Princeton, wrestling was given its Title IX death sentence in 1993, at which time fundraising efforts began immediately.

[Alumni] offered to endow Princeton's team as soon as it was eliminated. The university, knowing that alone wouldn't solve its Title IX problems, declined.

It wasn't until 1995, when new athletic director Gary Walters created a women's lightweight crew and upgraded a women's water polo club to varsity status, that the restoration of Princeton wrestling became possible.
It's somewhat ironic, isn't it, that the fates of two prominent weight class sports have become so intertwined? I'm ambivalent about the value of Title IX. It sure has done some great things for female athletes, and in particular for heavyweight women rowers. It has had some benefits, to a much lesser extent, for lightweight women as well. But any law that results in de facto quotas and zero sum games pitting male sports vs. female sports, has to be flawed. I wish I were smarter and could come up with a better solution, but I can't. One thing starts to seem pretty obvious, though, maybe football should suffer a little pain. Think the quality of the game would suffer with less than 85 scholarships? As Dennis Dodd said back in 2002,
Don't you get it? Oklahoma and Nebraska could have 22 iguanas facing off against each other, and it would still be a football rivalry.

Race Last Weekend

Chapman and Mills squared off in light fours in Newport Beach, CA last Saturday, with Chapman taking the win by a wide margin. I can't say I've ever heard of these schools racing lightweights before, but you just never know who will turn up...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Submit Your Pre-Season Ranking Ballot

Don't forget to submit your pre-season ranking in the form on the right side-bar. I know it's a pain to rank boats all the way down to number 10, but hopefully it will make you think about your votes while scaring away those random voters who really don't know much about women's lightweights.

Remember that you need to vote for a crew in every position for your vote to be counted. This poll will remain up until the end of the week, at which time I'll post the results.

Thanks for taking the time to vote!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Metro Cup Results

UCF opened it's season yesterday with wins over Rollins in the novice eight, V4, and V8. Rollins won the novice four. The closest race was the V4 which [pitted a Rollins heavyweight boat against] also had the most experienced UCF rowers. It looks like the Rollins four will be worth watching. This race gets new UCF head coach Andy Derrick off to a good start. [Thanks for the clarifying comments.]

In a Friday press release announcing this weekend's lineups and a recap of last year, UCF again ignores the lightweights' fine season to focus on the heavyweights. A look at the lineups shows that the giant sucking sound heard in Orlando earlier this year was the heavyweight team pulling lightweights into their boats (as noted earlier by a reader). I certainly hope the UCF lights aren't about to be Villanovaed (Villanova won the lightweight national championship in 1998, focused on heavies shortly thereafter, and has never impacted the national scene in either category again). It looks like most of the lightweights were in boats other than the V8, which makes a casual observer wonder if they're there mainly to fill out seats for seat racing. (I know, those rowers are capable of making the boat, and one or two no doubt will, but...) I wonder what Coach Derrick could do if he was able to make use of every lightweight on the UCF team for an entire season. Could he win a national championship?

Friday, March 02, 2007

2007 Season Preview - University of Wisconsin

Over the past three years, the Wisconsin Badgers have been masters of the peak. The metaphorical peak, of course, but also the physical peak. In the last three Knecht Cups, they've never finished better than second (2005), yet they've won two of the last three Eastern Sprints and, of course, they've been national champions the last three years in a row. Better than any other crew, it seems, Wisconsin understands that the goal is to win IRAs and the rest of the season exists to serve that goal (well, almost). While undefeated national champions can be awesome, even transcendent, there is nothing quite so exciting as standing at the finish line at Sprints and IRAs wondering if the Badgers will peak at the right time again this year. But now, Wisconsin crossing the line first at the end of the season is no longer a surprise, in fact it's expected. We live in the Age of Wisconsin.

The Badgers begin the defense of their third national championship on April 7th at the Indiana Championships. This race is listed as tentative and while the heavyweights race Indiana and Notre Dame that day, I don't know who the lights might race (Purdue?). Whomever it is, this race will serve as a tuneup for the Knecht Cup which comes a week later. On April 21st Wisconsin beats up on some heavyweight crews on home water at the Midwest Rowing Championships. A week later comes the Best New Race of the Year, which is now expected to be in Indianapolis, against Georgetown, Stanford, and Ohio State. In mid-May are Sprints, followed by IRAs at the end of May.

There is no California trip for the Badgers this year and I'm a bit surprised because I thought they had been alternating the Crew Classic with Windermere. With Windermere and Knecht on the same weekend, they've decided to skip the trip west and head east instead. [Update: See comments for the explanation]

With only three rowers coming back from last year's IRA boat, this year we'll see if the Badgers are rebuilding or reloading. Also new this year is head coach Erik Miller. It's a pretty difficult job taking over a program that just won its third national championship, but the excellent athletes at Wisconsin coupled with the support of the University will help make the transition a smooth one.

In last year's preview I spent some time explaining why I think a strong Wisconsin program is good for lightweight women's rowing. I won't go through it all again, but I will reiterate that "As an exception to the Football Theorem, the Badgers’ program provides hope that one day the theorem will no longer hold." (Football Theorem: the size of a school's women rowers is directly proportional to the prominence of its football program.) Wisconsin has brought a refreshing, Midwestern, Big 10 style to the sport of lightweight women's rowing and has provided a worthy opponent for the rest of the lightweight league (too worthy for many!). The Badgers must like those targets on their backs because they're wearing them again this year. Last year was one of the most exciting years in lightweight women's rowing in a long time, and Wisconsin did their part. I'm sure they'll do it again this year.

And as to the rebuild or reload question - I'd bet on reload.
(Calendar updated)

Download high res version here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rowing News Ignores Lightweights Again

I'm a little late on this because I just came across the January issue now, but in an article discussing the IRA's likely move to the West coast in the next year or two, the regatta is described as "the national championship of American men's collegiate rowing." Hmmm. I wonder where we've all been going in the beginning of June for the last ten years or so?

One of the things the article talks about is the impact the move could have on attendance. Given that there are so few lightweight women's programs on the West coast, it's unlikely that any other category could be as affected, a pretty important point that should have been made. Well, I guess that's only true if you give a darn about lightweight women.

Now when we think of that establishment organ, Rowing News, we can just think of Steve Martin in a plaid sports coat saying, "I forgot!"