Sunday, April 29, 2007

FITD Mid-Season Readers' Polls

I haven't seen the WIRA or WV Governor's Cup results yet so it's a little early to post these polls, but I'll be unable to post for a few days and I want to get them up. I'd suggest you not vote until you see all results for this weekend.

In the right sidebar, you can vote for the top 10 eights and the top 5 fours. Vote the order you think the boats will be in at the end of the season, i.e. after IRAs. Don't get too wrapped up in lineups and who will get to race whom, just assume the season is over and you're looking back to rank. Make your own assumptions about lineups, about who will actually enter races, and who would win theoretical matchups (especially relevant for the fours).

Perhaps I'm too optimistic, but I think these polls can be the most informative around. It's all predicated, of course, on voters following an honor code. Here is what I think that code should be (I like having just three criteria, but if you have more to add, let me know):

  1. Only vote once.
  2. Vote with your head, not your heart.
  3. Only vote if you can make reasonable guesses for each spot.
I think most readers of FITD can meet the third criterion, so no need to get hung up on it (that's why I use the words "reasonable" and "guess.") Just don't vote if you have no clue beyond the top few. I'll keep the polls up through Friday, with the intention of posting the results over the weekend.

Who's #2?

There's a little discussion going on in the comments section of my last post that's now ready to bring to the front page.

As I was looking at the results of the Radcliffe - Princeton dual, I began to compare times across races. Now, we all know that you usually can't do this because conditions (including race intensity) vary too much across races. But, like all of you I often do it anyway. I first noticed that the Princeton 2V was faster than Radcliffe's 1V and only 3 seconds off of it's own number 2 ranked 1V. That would make them roughly the third or fourth fastest lightweight crew. I then moved on to the freshmen. Lo and behold the Radcliffe freshmen had the fastest time of the day! Well, now it was time to fall back on the fact that you usually can't compare races, and I let it go.

The first comment to that post pointed out the freshmen time, and I responded with the conventional wisdom, but wondered if the race used stakeboats (which would make times more comparable). Well it turns out they did and, as Aaron Benson (an MIT coach) noted, the conditions were excellent and very similar across all the races. Yikes! It looks hard to deny - the fastest lightweight boat on the water in Boston on Saturday was the Radcliffe freshmen! Yeah, it's only a second and if Princeton was pushed... But wait a minute, were the Radcliffe frosh pushed? Nope. What are those kids eating up there - Wheaties? Or is it superior coaching from Eric Catalano? Whatever, this is one fast boat.

The stage may be set for Sprints, but how about IRAs? I'm guessing that Coach Tucker will keep this boat together for Sprints so they can win a much deserved championship. Then she'll have two weeks to use all the freshmen and put together a faster varsity boat. I doubt the Radcliffe eight at IRAs will look like the boat we've been seeing all season. I thought Radcliffe would have more speed than they've shown so far, but I didn't think it would come from the freshmen.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Stage is Set

All the players in today's drama played their roles perfectly. Wisconsin and Princeton both won, as their opponents fell into ranked order behind them. In Indianapolis, Wisconsin beat Stanford by 3 seconds, Georgetown by 11 seconds, and Ohio State by about 30 seconds. In Boston, Princeton beat Radcliffe by 11 seconds.

Both Wisconsin and Princeton were 3 seconds up on Stanford, while Wisconsin has been consistently 11 seconds faster than Georgetown, who was only 5.5 seconds off of Princeton. Wisconsin beat Radcliffe at Knecht by 22.5 seconds, as compared to Princeton's 11 seconds.

We can look at all of that and say that Wisconsin deserves its number one ranking, with Princeton a close second. I look at it and say one more thing - the momentum belongs to Stanford. The Cardinal seems to be the boat that is gaining speed faster than the others. Dare I suggest that this might be Stanford's year? Rowing is funny like that - it doesn't matter how fast you are during the season, it only matters how fast you are at the end.

Well, tuck the mental picture of Stanford standing on the medal dock in Camden in the back of your mind as we move on to more conventional thoughts. Eastern Sprints on May 13th has all the makings of a clash of Titans. While on paper Wisconsin appears to have the edge, the reality is that it's just too close to even hazard a guess. Georgetown and Radcliffe (who also seems to have gained a fair amount of speed) won't let Sprints turn into a two boat race, but we'll all be waiting to see what happens the first time Wisconsin and Princeton line up next to each other this season.

In the 2V, which will be a Sprints event for the first time this year, Princeton handily defeated Radcliffe by 24 seconds. We have yet to see Wisconsin race an actual 2V, so they'll be a complete unknown going into the regatta. More Wisco - Princeton drama.

Princeton's four won their race by 21 seconds. In freshmen races, Radcliffe remains undefeated as they beat Princeton by 16 seconds. The Wisconsin freshmen beat heavyweight boats from Purdue and Ohio State.

Incoming Results

A Reader posts that Wisconsin won in Indianapolis, followed by Stanford, Georgetown, and (although not mentioned) Ohio State.

Earlier today Princeton defeated Radcliffe.

More when we have some times.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Racing This Weekend - Midwest Melodrama

The number one crew in the country stays relatively close to home as they travel to Indianapolis to take on Stanford, Georgetown, and host Ohio State. This is the same day as the Indianapolis Invitational so perhaps this race has been inserted into the schedule (or will just take advantage of a buoyed course?). I've also seen this referred to as a double dual, so I'm not sure of the race format, but I hope all boats will be able to race one another.

As expected, this is the biggest non-regatta race of the season. On paper, the Hoyas and the Cardinal are extremely closely matched, and both should have a chance to overtake Wisconsin. The Buckeyes haven't raced crews the caliber of the other three, so they'll want to prove they belong. In previous races Georgetown was 11 seconds behind Wisco and 5.5 seconds behind Princeton. Stanford was 3 seconds behind the Tigers. OSU is untested among the top programs. It's tempting to say Wisco over Stanford by 8.5 seconds, but we all know things don't work that way. Everyone is getting faster here, we just don't know who is improving the most. Wisconsin is clearly the favorite, but I wouldn't expect an easy row. Stanford vs Georgetown should be a barnburner. And OSU, the host, may have a few tricks up its sleeve. This race will give us a much better idea of relative strengths heading into Sprints and Dad Vails.

In Boston, Radcliffe hosts Princeton to decide who takes home the Class of 1999 Cup. In what has been a rebuilding year for Radcliffe, the Black and White could upset the applecart with a win on Saturday. Although at Knecht Radcliffe was 11 seconds back from Georgetown, this is as close to a rivalry race as these two schools get. When the only two Ivy schools with lightweight programs (a disgrace for the Ivy League) race, things don't always turn out as expected. No one knows this better than Radcliffe who went into last year's race as strong favorites, but saw Princeton take the Cup. The 2Vs should provide good racing as I think this will be the first straight 2V lightweight race for Radcliffe. Both boats are relatively unknown to each other and are likely to provide tight racing. The Radcliffe freshmen get another chance to continue their undefeated season. Until last weekend's loss, Princeton looked like the only boat with a chance to bring down the Cantab frosh. That defeat, however, may have only served to make the young Tigers more determined.

WIRAs take place this weekend on Lake Natoma (a future IRA site?). There are strong light four (10 entries) and eight (6 entries) fields. In the light four, Cal, USD, Long Beach State, Willamette, Mills College, Humboldt State, UCSD, Santa Clara, LMU, and Pacific Lutheran will face off. Several of these fours have run into each other earlier in the season, with Long Beach State, Humboldt, PLU, and UCSD showing some speed. Long Beach State may be headed into this race as the favorite, but LMU has an excellent program (I just don't think we've seen them race a four yet) and with some injury and weight issues holding PLU out of the eight, they'll be concentrating on creating a fast four.

In the eight, LMU, Long Beach State, Arizona State, Cal, UCSD, and Chapman are entered. The pecking order has been established among all of these teams except Cal, and this will be an excellent time to disrupt the rankings. Cal has been uneven this season, no doubt the result of injury struggles, and it's not clear where they fall among these crews. I'd say this championship will come down to Cal and LMU and judging by speed relative to Stanford, it should be Cal's. In any case, it should be a good, close race. This kind of turnout is only surpassed by the Knecht Cup and IRAs (for eights), and shows that the West Coast is really starting to become a force in lightweight rowing. A West Coast IRA should only help that process.

At the West Virginia Governor's Cup in Charleston, WV, a five boat lightweight four event is scheduled. Carnegie Mellon, Cleveland State, Wittenburg, and two Duquesne boats are entered. I'm not sure we've seen Cleveland State or Wittenburg race before, but we have seen CMU and Duquesne crank for 2000 meters. At Knecht, Duquesne edged by CMU by 0.2 seconds. Think the Tartan crew is looking forward to this rematch?

The Indianapolis Invitational occasionally has light eights entered in the 2V event. Last year Ohio State, Miami, and Michigan State entered light eights. This year, of course, OSU will be racing Wisconsin, et al.

Last year a couple of light fours raced at the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Rowing Association Spring Championship, the 2007 version of which is scheduled for this weekend in NY.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

National Selection Regatta II

Most of you know that NSR II begins Friday and you ought to take a look at the entries for the Light 2x. I'm not familiar with every one of the women racing, but there are at at least three recent graduates of lightweight programs. Radcliffe's Sarah Bates will race for NYAC, Wisconsin's Katie Sweet will race for Pocock, and another Wisco grad, Claire Wallace will race in a Union/Riverside composite boat. With last year's national team 2x, Julie Nichols and Renee Hykel, in the mix, the target is clear. Rumor has it that this boat has looked vulnerable as a result of injury, so we'll see this weekend how they've recovered.

Heavyweights are constantly surrounded by reminders of the next step, and it's easy for good heavyweights to find encouragement to take that step and move on to the national team. I don't think this is always true for lightweights so from time to time I'll note the doings of our national team crews and hopefuls. As much as lightweight rowing is the future of college rowing (you did know that, didn't you?), it's also the future of international rowing. And guess what? The USOC counts a lightweight 2x medal the same as a heavyweight eight medal. And I guarantee China does.

If It's Wednesday, It Must Be Polls

The new coaches' poll is fairly uncontroversial. Princeton drops from a first place tie with Wisconsin to second. Given that Princeton's margin over Georgetown last weekend was less than Wisconsin's the week before, this move was expected. It's hard to view the Tigers' performance against the Hoyas as a disappointment, but when someone has to be ranked first, you look at things like margins. The coaches continue to rank Bucknell despite it's plan to only race lightweights at IRAs.

In response to my musings about a possible Dad Vail light eight field, a few readers have wished for that same field to race at IRAs. If a big field from Dad Vail moved on to enter IRAs, in addition to the Sprints schools and at least Stanford from the West, we could find ourselves with more than 12 schools entered. The IRA regatta committee hasn't faced the issue of more than 12 lightweight eight entries for some time and it's not clear what they would do. I suspect (although I don't know for certain) that the field would be held to 12. If this happened, where would that put Bucknell? With their biggest wins (and only races) being victories over Temple and Radcliffe's 2V, would their entry be accepted? How could it be accepted over say, Duquesne, who has also beaten Temple, along with UMass and Lehigh? All of a sudden Bucknell may be playing a dangerous game. Unless, of course, lightweights aren't a concern.

The cMax rankings are also out. The first four places are the same as the coaches and FITD, but UCF is ranked fifth over Radcliffe. This is probably explained by UCF's two races against Princeton. The Golden Knights lost to Princeton by 20 and 25 seconds while Radcliffe lost to Wisconsin by almost 23 seconds the one time they raced. Even though Wisco is higher than Princeton, UCF has some consistent results vs the Tigers while Radcliffe has just one race against Wisco. That's all speculation, however, and the Cliffies have an opportunity to jump back up when they race Princeton this weekend, so it's not worth getting too worked up over.

The second half of the cMax rankings are a bit of a surprise. LMU and Long Beach State are 8th and 9th, while LMU checks in at 15 on the coaches' poll and LBS doesn't appear at all. Could it be that we're all East Coast biased? That's undoubtedly true, but it doesn't mean we're wrong. These boats will race at WIRA, but without Stanford, it will be hard to gauge their speed. In any case, at this point we really have no reason to believe that these boats aren't as fast as Buffalo or Dayton. LMU was only 21 seconds behind Princeton, 18 behind Stanford, and 10 behind UCF. Actually, as I wrote those last two sentences, I started to think that cMax has a point. This is the beauty of these kinds of computer rankings, they challenge your assumptions and make you consider your biases.

Whatever these rankings say, I'll be running the FITD reader polls after this weekend's racing. Other commitments may force me to put them up Saturday night, but I suggest you wait until after all racing this weekend before voting. They'll be up for a week and I'll include a fours poll (although I think I'll only have you vote for the top five fours - tell me if you think I should do top ten).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

More From Last Weekend

Last Saturday Lehigh and Penn State reprised their Murphy Cup battle, with Lehigh once again victorious. The Lehigh light eight won this dual by 13 seconds, increasing their 4 second Murphy Cup margin over the Nittany Lions.

On Sunday, Lehigh's light four went up against rival Lafayette, but with decidedly different results. Lafayette won the race by 26 seconds. This is a nice win for a Lafayette boat that has been racing and seeing steady improvement as a result.

At the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships, Marist handily won the light four event over second place Iona, who was followed by Loyola and Manhattan. The MAAC is another conference that awards team points for the lightweight event.

Following up on the pairs race at the Midwest Sprints, a reader noted that there was a cross wind of 17 mph with gusts over 25 mph, causing several non-Wisconsin boats to scratch. Yikes! Speaking of Wisconsin, another reader wondered where the Wisco 2V has been all season. That's a good question. As I understand it, the 2V event has been added to Sprints with the understanding that the Sprints programs will support it, so I assume that Wisconsin will race one there. Wisconsin had 2 eights in the heavyweight 2V event at Midwest Sprints, one of which won, [although a reader notes that was the novice lightweights racing a heavyweight 3V or 4V.]so I doubt that numbers are a problem. I don't know when Wisco will break out the 2V in a lightweight race, but given that the boat is faster than their own heavyweight 2V, I'd say it has some speed. [The Wisconsin 2V remains a mystery.]

[Update: A reader noted that at NCRC four of the seven light four entries failed weigh-ins, leaving a three boat field. PLU won, followed by Willemette and Seattle Pacific.]

The UMass Light Eight

A reader wrote to say that the UMass light eight that raced at A10s last weekend was not the same boat that raced MIT. With one exception, the A10 boat was crewed by novices. It sounds, however, like there may be some hope that the Boston UMass boat will race again.

Thinking about the UMass light eight racing, makes me think of Dad Vail. It's plausible to me that we could have light eight entries from Dayton, UMass, Buffalo, Duquesne, Lehigh, Temple, and Philadelphia. Looking at past results, we could see boats from Villanova, Ohio State, and Purdue. UCSB and Cal have also competed recently, as has UCF. Without ECAC to pull entries, there could be a great field at Dad Vail, full enough to require heats. Some of these boats, like UMass, may think about not racing a light eight so they can put their four top rowers into the light four. For those considering that, I have just one word - Pittsburgh.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Saturday's Racing - The Top Tightens

Number one Princeton's first opportunity to measure itself against a Sprints foe on Saturday, resulted in a 5.5 second victory over Georgetown. What does this tell us? Not much, and a lot. It tells us Princeton is fast, but perhaps not as fast as Wisconsin who beat Georgetown last week by 11 seconds. It tells us Georgetown is fast, but perhaps not as fast as Stanford who came within 3 seconds of the Tigers last week. Then again... Princeton was racing on an unfamiliar course, times were fast making spreads a little tighter, and Georgetown didn't sit still for a week. All told, probably worth a few seconds. But in the end, here's where we are - neither Princeton nor Wisconsin have reason to believe one is faster than the other, and the same can be said about Georgetown and Stanford. Georgetown and Stanford are close to the two leaders and getting faster, making both viable threats to knock them off. Here's the best part - Georgetown, Wisconsin, and Stanford all race each other this weekend in Indianapolis, along with host Ohio State.

The Georgetown freshmen surprised Princeton with an emphatic 11 second win, after losing to the Tigers by 3 seconds at Knecht. Princeton's 2V continued to show the depth of that program with a dominating 27 second victory over Georgetown.

Radcliffe, meanwhile, who has (temporarily) slipped off the edge of the radar screen, posted an 18 second victory over MIT. Radcliffe's 2V was a little over 8 seconds back from MIT. The good news for MIT, though, came in the four, which remained undefeated among lightweights as it beat Radcliffe by a little over 20 seconds. It would really be nice to see MIT and Pitt race down a course somewhere. Radcliffe's freshmen continue to hammer all opponents. A steadily improving Radcliffe crew takes on Princeton this coming weekend in Boston.

At The Big Row, Stanford took care of Cal in both the eight and the four, winning the eight by 11 seconds and the four by 49 seconds. Stanford also put a scare into the Cal heavyweight 3V [earlier in the day], losing by a little over 3 seconds. I'm not sure which race was first. Not a terribly trying day for the Cardinal, but in case you've missed this point earlier, Stanford is fast.

At the A10 championships there were four boat races for both the eight and the four. (It's amazing what awarding team points will do for an event.) In the eight, Dayton recovered from a lackluster, and fatiguing, Knecht to win the title over Duquesne. Although Dayton beat Duquesne earlier in the season, at Knecht the Dukes looked to be the faster crew. Dayton would have none of it, however, as they retain their A10 title by 14 seconds. Duquesne was followed 5 seconds later by a surprising Temple crew that finished 5 seconds ahead of UMass. UMass looked like they could be strong after their MIT dual, but apparently that race was more a sign of an off day by MIT than a really fast UMass boat. Duquesne, who has come out of nowhere this year to really make some noise in the lightweight league, won the four in a championship record time of 7:56.0. Three seconds later came UMass, followed by URI and LaSalle. URI is no doubt racing the remnants of the old lightweight squad when an opportunity presents itself, while LaSalle probably put a boat together in an attempt to earn some team points. I'm beginning to wonder if the A10 is where we'll see the next wave of strong lightweight crews emerge. Of the four eights racing for the championship, three are racing regularly this season, with UMass also racing once outside of the championship. With lightweights scoring team points at this regatta, there is an incentive to develop good lightweight crews. It doesn't happen overnight, but this shows how lightweight team points can help the growth of the league.

At the Midwest Rowing Championships the Wisco lights were everywhere. Highlights include a win in the novice eight over several of their own heavyweight boats as well as Northern Michigan, a 4th place finish in the heavy four behind their own heavies but ahead of Drake, and a win in the heavyweight 2V over their own heavies. In the heavy V8, the Wisco heavies retained the boathouse speed crown along with the boathouse weight crown as the lights came in third behind their boathouse mates, 18 seconds from first place. One other race of note was the 2-. It was populated completely by Wisco lightweights. I love to see college rowers rowing small (2x/- or 1x) boats because it is so incredibly helpful for big boat rowing. As an opposing coach, I would hate to see 10 Wisconsin lightweights racing pairs.

In the light four at SIRAs, Georgia continues to dominate the south, defeating second place Auburn by 14 seconds. Clemson was third, followed by Washington University. Purdue won the novice light four by 38 seconds over the College of Charleston, who was followed closely by Warren Wilson. UT Chattanooga and Auburn were fourth and fifth. Purdue has put out some fast lightweight crews in years past, so maybe this is a sign of a resurgence.

The UConn light four was back on the water, beating two Buffalo boats by 8 and 17 seconds. Later in the day the Buffalo light eight defeated heavyweight 2Vs from Eastern Michigan and UConn.

On Mission Bay Chapman and UCSD raced lightweight eights, with Chapman rowing to a 5 second victory. Maybe it's a Stanford halo effect, but it seems to me we've seen more light eights racing on the West Coast this season.

There is a race report, but no results, for a tri-meet among Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne, and Pittsburgh. The Duquesne women were at A10s, but it looks like there was a CMU-Pitt light four race scheduled. [Update: A reader comments that Pitt won.]

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Picture = 1000 Words at Windermere

You'll remember that one of the races at Windermere involved a three boat clash among Cal, ASU (mixed), and Princeton's 2V. This was unusual because the Windermere course is only two lanes. A picture was posted to row2k that shows this race headed down the course. Princeton is up, but Cal and ASU are locked in a tight battle. It's clear from this shot that Cal had the toughest steering job since they had to maneuver from their start in "lane zero" back onto the course. This shot also gives you an idea of the effect of the wind on the second half of the course, as it looks like all three boats are steering to starboard after being blown to port coming through the bridge.

Races This Weekend

This weekend's top race takes place in Washington, DC, where the Georgetown Hoyas welcome the Princeton Tigers. The two crews meet for the first time in a sprint race since last season, when Georgetown defeated Princeton 2 out of 3 times. Princeton comes into this race as the favorite, but that status is based entirely on two fall races, which happened a long time ago. If you want to know how little those races mean now, just ask the Hoyas who lost to both Radcliffe and MIT at the Charles. The coaches seem to reflect conventional wisdom and have Georgetown ranked fourth, a fair amount back from the Tigers. cMax, however, tells a different story as the Hoyas are ranked third, and predicted to be only about 4 seconds back, a margin similar to Stanford's vs Princeton. Add in the fact that the Hoyas are racing on home water and I'll take Georgetown and those four seconds. In fact, I think this race is a toss-up. Either way, it's a critical race for the Tigers, as it's the first Sprints school they've met this season. The outcome here will be used by everyone to measure an enigmatic Tiger boat against the top of the lightweight field. By the way, Stanford should be cheering for Princeton here since they almost rowed down the Tigers at Windermere. A fast Princeton boat means a fast Stanford boat. This is one race I'd like to see.

In Boston, Radcliffe faces MIT. This race provides a perfect opportunity for MIT to regain some of the momentum they lost last weekend. The Engineers have some talent and it will resurface sooner or later, with this weekend's race against a hometown rival a likely time. Radcliffe who, as we heard, is experimenting with lineups and techniques, will want to nail down the special sauce recipe before Princeton comes to town. A strong outing here may do that. With a fours race on tap, MIT will bring an undefeated boat to the line. On paper, the eight should be a Radcliffe win. With some motivated MIT rowers showing up, I don't think it will be so easy. And, given the MIT novice's performance last weekend, they may even give the Radcliffe freshmen a race.

Back at Cooper River this weekend is the Atlantic 10 Championship. Given who we've seen race eights so far this season, we could have a four boat light eight event with UMass, Dayton, Temple, and Duquesne. If that's the race, we could have quite a battle. UMass and Duquesne should be close and although Dayton was back from Duquesne at Knecht, racing with fresher legs may pull them right into the fray. Temple, with a lot of novices in the boat, is getting faster, but probably won't be able to hang with the other three. A light four will be contested as well, although it's not clear who we might see there. I should note that the A10 championships are one of the few regattas of which I'm aware that award points for lightweight events that count toward the championship. If more championships did this we'd have more lightweight boats. That's an easy one.

SIRAs take place in Oak Ridge, TN this weekend, and include a light V4 and a light N4. Warren Wilson, Purdue, Chattanooga, College of Charleston, and Auburn will race in the novice event, while Auburn, Georgia, and Clemson will race in the varsity four. We've seen the V4 race before, at SERCS, which was won by Georgia. Virginia Tech was originally the lone entry in the light eight. I don't know if they're still coming (I believe only two boats are making the trip), but it would be an awful shame if they were still willing to race and no one stepped up to provide a challenge. I wonder if there are lightweight boats racing as heavies who could help keep their own category alive.

Wisconsin turns out the entire boathouse on Saturday for the Midwest Championships. I did my Ode to the Midwest Sprints last year so I won't repeat it again. I'll simply note another once great regional championship brought nearly to the point of ruin by the NCAA (the guardians of our collective collegiate athletic heritage).

In Redwood Shores, Stanford takes on Cal in the lightweight version of The Big Row. Cal is just now recovering from some injuries and certainly has their work cut out for them. I think Stanford will have bragging rights for another year, although not for lack of effort by a valiant Cal crew.

The NCRC Championship will be held Saturday on Lake Stevens, WA. There's no schedule so I'm not sure if there will be any lightweight events, although there will be crews there who have raced lightweights previously. Teams include PLU, SPU, Lewis & Clark, Puget Sound, and Willamette. Last year there was a light four event. As an aside, the current Pacific Lutheran Athlete Spotlight is a lightweight rower, Audrey Knutson. (I'm dying for a Mr. Green Jeans sandwich!)

Finally, another rivalry row takes place Saturday, this one in Pennsylvania, as Lehigh takes on Lafayette. I'm not sure if Lafayette has a full light eight, but they do have a four, which should provide good competition for Lehigh.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Radcliffe Eschews Euphemism

Radcliffe Heavyweight Wins Over Columbia - Radcliffe release on last weekend's racing

It is what it is, isn't it?

New Rankings

Both the USRowing Collegiate Poll and the cMax rankings are out. First, let's look at the coaches' poll.

Wisconsin and Princeton are tied for number one. This sounds about right to me. Both crews have been impressive - Princeton in a series of races and Wisconsin in one major regatta. After Princeton races Georgetown this weekend we should have a little better idea of their relative strengths. Stanford jumps way up to number three while Georgetown drops one place to fourth. If you look at the points, though, you'll see that these two crews are awfully close. I agree with this as well. Stanford in three is really a bit of a reward for coming out so strongly after a mediocre season last year. Georgetown didn't really lose the third slot as much as Stanford took it. They'll race in Indiana in a week and a half so shed no tears for the Hoyas now. Radcliffe and UCF look about right at 5 and 6 also. The thing about Radcliffe, though, is that they won't sit quietly at five. They have a few tricks up their sleeve and I still think the Princeton dual will be a race to watch. Radcliffe will be at home on a familiar course, and it could turn into a Princeton nightmare.

After a not-so-great week, MIT moves up a spot, largely at Bucknell's expense. Bucknell comes in at eight, which is interesting because if Bucknell puts together the light eight it had last year (they lost two), I don't think any voter thinks they'll be eighth at season's end. I think this ranking reflects some voters who felt they couldn't be ranked because they haven't raced enough, and some voters who put them higher in the list. My feeling is obvious - if they don't race, they can't be ranked. Next come Buffalo, Dayton, and Lehigh. Buffalo had a good Knecht, but Dayton and Lehigh finished behind Duquesne. Why are the Dukes way down at 15?

So, some quirks, but not a bad ranking. Again, I think it's important to note that 15 legitimate (we'll give Bucknell the benefit of the doubt) lightweight eights are ranked, with more racing. It's certainly a more robust category than the DII heavyweights, and it is showing strength.

Now let's turn to cMax. One reader already expressed frustration at the latest cMax release. A couple of points to remember - only crews that have raced two other ranked crews can be included, and the rankings improve with more qualifying races.

So, the first question is, How can Wisconsin be ranked 14 seconds faster than Princeton? Followed by How can Wisconsin be 17 seconds ahead of Georgetown when they only beat them by 11 seconds? Let's take the second question first. Now, I didn't create this system and I'm not an expert, but I like it and Chris Maxwell has explained some of it to me now and then, so let me give it a shot. I think about these time spreads as averages. In other words, given the races that have occurred to date, on an average day, we'd expect Georgetown to be 17 seconds behind Wisconsin. We rarely see and average day, however. If the two crews raced again with the same 11 second spread, no doubt cMax would be much closer to 11 seconds as well. It's still a bit early, and in Wisco's case it's very early, so take these with a grain of salt. That's not to say they're wrong, just that they'll improve with more races to feed into the black box. (Read a bit more about that black box here.)

What about Princeton? Well, I don't know the answer to that, but the formula apparently liked the quality of Wisconsin's few wins over the quality of Princeton's several. It's hard to argue against that, isn't it? Princeton beat Stanford by three seconds, a crew that, until that point, had only raced some West Coast crews that don't normally figure into the national rankings. If you're an objective observer, which the cMax engine is, everything's still a bit of a mystery. We're asking questions based on biases we hold from seasons past, but the fact is, overall, the quality of Wisconsin's victories is higher than that of Princeton's.

Stanford, Radcliffe, and UCF seem to fit, but OSU looks like an aberration to me. OSU has really only raced heavyweights at this point (qualifying races), so their ranking is bound to be squirrelly. Some amazement was also expressed at Wisco ranking 13 overall. Again, we're fairly early in the season so don't get too hung up on this. One thing that plays into my biases, however, is Wisconsin's estimate of 0.7 seconds faster than Bucknell's heavies. I've said that the IRA champ should beat the Dad Vail heavyweight champ, and this suggests that's true. Again, let's not get too hung up on this so early, but I see nothing here to lessen my faith in cMax. Remember, one of the reasons we use computer rankings is to try to take emotion out of the process. So when your emotions tell you they're wrong, you can't be surprised. Last year, before Sprints when Princeton looked like the fastest crew, cMax told us it was Wisconsin. cMax was right.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No Water Time? Join the Club

We've heard a lot of crews (no, I don't just mean Wisconsin) complain about their lack of water time this season. There seems to be no relief in sight. Pictures of Princeton's flooded boathouse were all over the internet today. I wonder what impact the weekend's storm had on Washington, DC? If the Hoyas can get back on the water before the Tigers, they may just be able to gain an advantage, and in Saturday's race, any advantage could make the difference.

Going back to the weekend for a moment, the George Mason presser highlights the light four's performance.

Crossing the Buoy Line

On Fight in the Dog, I do my best to stay totally on topic. This blog began with lightweight women's rowing, it continues with lightweight women's rowing, and when it ends (yes, there is a predetermined end date) the last words written will be about lightweight women's rowing. In some ways, I'm the prototypical blogger - I use this blog to offer my opinions, while trying my best to give you an opportunity to offer yours as well. In other ways, though, I'm the antithesis of a blogger - I never write about myself or about blogging, mostly because FITD isn't about me or about blogging, it's about you (and both of the other subjects are pretty boring). Nonetheless, I follow the happenings in the "blogosphere" fairly closely. I watched the meteoric rise of Twitter (and briefly considered using it for race results) and subsequent backlash. I listened to bloggers pontificate about the Kathy Sierra mess (I have a code of ethics for you - your parents). I watched with amusement as the silly "Z List" and "Five things you didn't know about me" memes circulated. They're all pretty much irrelevant to me because of my focus.

A few days ago, however, a reader, Susan Ito, nominated me for a Thinking Bloggers Award, and said some very nice things about FITD in the process (and made me self conscious about my writing!). This was truly above and beyond the call of duty.

The point of these things is to pass them along, something I would normally ignore, but because I felt that Susan's mention of FITD was a bit more than a gratuitous listing I thought I would use it to write a post mentioning some blogs that might interest you. Because I haven't found too many blogs covering lightweight women's rowing (well, OK, any), I have to stray a bit from my focus and look at all of rowing. Unfortunately I haven't found many blogs covering the broader world of rowing either, although some new ones have recently sprung up. Because of this dearth of rowing blogs, I'll be miserly with the award, but mention some of the newer blogs as well as some that mix rowing with other things.

If it's thought provoking you want, I have to nominate Alan Thomas's Rowing Science blog. Alan's been missing in action lately, but he usually comes back with a flurry. He rarely posts something that you don't think you need to read.

Despite the fact the Rowing News sometimes seems to be lightweight women's nemesis, they host Kip McDaniel's excellent blog. The writing is as good as the insights. In his latest post, on The Boat Race, he validates my criticism of "rowing gymnasts" when he says, "Throughout these five minutes however, we were also calm. Looking at the video afterwards, I was impressed by how relaxed we looked compared to Oxford. Whereas every stroke showed on their tense faces, we showed no emotion at all. We look cold and calculated."

Longtime supporters of FITD are Coach Jay and "Emily, the long-suffering coach's wife," who blog at Launch Exhaust. Coach Jay coaches a high school crew and, although he occasionally writes on non-rowing topics, he frequently has thought provoking posts on coaching, rowing, and training.

"TheOarsman" at First Light is also a FITD reader. Unfortunately TheOarsman, a sometimes lightweight, is injured and his posts can be a bit depressing right now. On the other hand, he should make you happy to be healthy and able to spend hours a day sitting on your butt and going backwards.

Any list of rowing blogs has to mention Xeno Muller's blog, Indoor Rowing. Xeno (also a FITD reader) a former Olympic gold and silver medalist in the 1x, blogs in support of his businesses, Iron Oarsman (check out the video) and his RowPerfect distributorship, but often has excellent posts on training, racing, and rowing.

Rebecca Caroe, a RowPerfect dealer in the UK, mostly blogs about business (ugh) but also mixes in some rowing.

Finally, I need to mention two new blogs, both of whom are written by FITD readers. The first is Sculler's Deck by Scott Wisniewski, a former college rower, now sculling at Undine in Philadelphia. Scott plans to cover the entire spectrum of rowing, from junior to elite and from training to rigging.

The second new blog, as many of you know, is College Rowing, written by Mahalo. As the title suggests, the blog will cover all categories and levels of college rowing. Mahalo frequently comments on FITD and will obviously have more to say at College Rowing.

Finally, not a rowing blog, but a rowing post, is this piece from S. L. Kim on Printculture. Although I ultimately disagree with its premise, I like it because it nicely describes the intellectual sacrifices of a college rower and a professor's perspective of what the athlete misses. Every high school rower who wants to row in college should read this. After you've read it though, let me tell you where I disagree. I think Kim's underlying premise is that time spent rowing is time lost to education. Rowing is education. Pick any college rower and ask her if time spent rowing was wasted. To a woman, she'll say that the sport was an integral part of her education. Many will say they learned more on the river and on crew road trips than in the classroom. We all make trade-offs. Would we wonder the same thing about a violinist? If her time spent practicing was time better spent in the classroom or lecture hall? The trap for athletes is being too lazy to make time for lectures and seminars. Finding it easier to hang out with teammates than to make non-rowing friends. College is a time to expand your horizons, to learn new things, to learn to think, and to question. Rowing is part of that, but it's not the only part.

Sorry, I'm not sure why I got on that soapbox! If anyone knows of any other rowing blogs, post them in the comments and let us all in on the fun.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wingnuts and Washers - Links From the Weekend

To round out the weekend's racing, here are some links to school pressers:

Starting in California, Stanford has a release on both Saturday's races and Sunday's. Princeton's own release on Windermere is here. UCF's Saturday release is here and Sunday's release is here. LMU's release is here. It's never good when a release starts off, "Lions Gain Experience..." but I think LMU is an improving team. Their losses were worse last year (except to Stanford who was having a bad year) and they have a victory over a pretty decent Long Beach State boat. I'm not sure what LMU's plans are, but they've been racing a light eight pretty regularly over the last few years, are getting faster, and can become another consistent, high quality lightweight program on the West Coast to complement Stanford and Cal. By the same token, as a young crew that watched its 2006 veterans get sucked into the heavyweight squad, UCF should be pleased with their victory over LMU.

Moving to the Knecht Cup, Wisconsin's release is here (I would've sworn it said something a bit different earlier in the day), and Radcliffe's is here, with a much more interesting Crimson article here. The article points out something I missed - Radcliffe's V8 raced in the heavyweight event as well as the lightweight event. With the regatta compressed into one day, although I don't recall the timing of the races, this had to affect the Black and White's performance. The article also reveals that Radcliffe is doing a lot of experimenting, both with lineups as well as with training techniques. This all makes me think that Radcliffe has another card to play, with the deal likely coming on April 28th. Dayton's Knecht presser is here, and reveals that several members of the light eight also raced in the heavyweight 2V race just before the light eight heat.

Finally, I come back to the MIT-UMass race. From readers' comments it sounds like the race took place under some terrible conditions, but that the results are correct. As a result, we need to get the UMass lights into the rankings. MIT can't have been happy with their race, but they'll get a chance for redemption, even if it's not against UMass. Speaking of which, hopefully we'll see that UMass boat race next week at A10s and I hope Coach Dietz is thinking about IRAs.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Other Races This Weekend

MIT and UMass squared off in Boston with UMass taking a 7 second victory over the MIT novice eight. MIT's V8 is listed 2 seconds later followed by the MIT novice B boat. I'm not sure what to make of these results, not because I doubt UMass's speed, but because I would question MIT's novices going faster than the varsity. Maybe someone can tell us more?

The Cal lights raced heavyweights at the Santa Clara Invite on Saturday, finishing fourth behind St. Mary's, Santa Clara, and Sonoma State.

In Newport Beach, Chapman and Long Beach State raced light eights, with LBS winning by just over 7 seconds.

PLU and Puget Sound raced, but no events showed lightweight boats.

In Ohio, OSU's Ohio Cup was canceled as a result of permitting issues.

Windermere Crew Classic - Princeton Wins, But It's Stanford's Regatta

While the rest of the lightweight league warred on the East Coast, Stanford, LMU, and Cal welcomed Princeton and UCF to the West.

On Saturday morning Stanford handled LMU with an 18 second win, followed by a reprise of the Princeton victory over UCF, this time by 25 seconds. The afternoon races resulted in Stanford defeating UCF by 25 seconds, while Princeton knocked off LMU by 21. Wow! What better set-up for a Sunday Princeton-Stanford showdown could there be?

At the 500 meter mark of that Sunday showdown, the Tigers were out to a 3 second lead, and spectators could be forgiven for expecting a comfortable Princeton victory. It was not to be, however, as the Tigers only picked up another second and a half by the 1k mark, and then watched the Cardinal slowly move back. Princeton won the race, but by a mere 3 seconds, with Stanford turning in a faster final 1000 meters. It was hard to see much detail on the Web cast, but in the last 500, over which Stanford was a second faster, it looked like Princeton was struggling to get out of their puddles while Stanford maintained their length. Last year I believed it was UCF who would come roaring back from a less than ideal season the prior year, and this year I've said that it would be Stanford. It looks like I was right.

Also on Sunday, UCF and LMU, both holding 0 and 2 records at the regatta, met for the final lightweight eight showdown. In a race led by UCF the whole way, the Golden Knights defeated LMU by 10 seconds. Both of these crews came into Windermere and ran into buzz saws in the forms of Princeton and Stanford. They rowed well, but the Tigers and Cardinal were just too strong. In LMU's case, they competed against three of the top crews in lightweight rowing and acquitted themselves well.

The Princeton 2V was also at Windermere and finally got that race against Cal's heavyweight 3V. Cal jumped out to a 6 second lead by 500 meters and only gradually lengthened it from there, ultimately winning by 20 seconds. It was a tough row for Princeton as they faced a head wind which was an advantage for Cal the Tigers could ill afford to give up.

In the Princeton 2V's second race, on Sunday, they faced the Cal lightweights and Arizona State. Sam Chang, who wrote the Windermere preview on row2k, told me that ASU brought 4 lightweight rowers and their entire heavyweight boat with them, so the boat faced by Cal and Princeton was at least half heavyweights. This was the three boat demolition derby race with Cal, in lane zero, the most likely to run into trouble. Although the race ran off schedule so the results aren't listed, spotters tell me Princeton had an open water lead by the bridge, with Cal and ASU locked in a tight battle behind. Princeton maintained and lengthened its lead, winning by a couple of lengths open, with the Cal - ASU duel uncertain. Cal had to maneuver through the bridge so they clearly had a disadvantage, but whatever the outcome, the Golden Bears raced down a heavyweight crew from ASU, a nice result for a boat that hasn't had a lot of time together this season. Princeton's 2V, meanwhile, apparently put together a good race and showed their speed.

At the end of the day, a Stanford light four dominated a Cal light four, winning by 57 seconds.

With Stanford's resurgence Princeton begins to look vulnerable and the West Coast begins to become a larger factor in lightweight rowing. Princeton flies back east knowing they have yet to find the answer, and Stanford goes home with a new confidence and the understanding that by IRAs they should be contending for a medal. This result, combined with that from Knecht, makes me rethink the relative strength of the top crews. While I still believe Princeton is capable, I think Wisconsin is once again the crew to beat and that Stanford is in the top three. Next week's Princeton-Georgetown dual will tell us more, with the Stanford, Georgetown, Wisconsin, OSU race in two weeks looming especially large.

Knecht Cup Eights - They're Baaaack

There was no shortage of questions coming into the eights event at the Knecht Cup - could Georgetown maintain its slight 1 second edge over Radcliffe, how fast would Wisconsin be in its first race of the year, and could any other eights stay up with the three Sprints schools?

Heat 1 looked like a rowover for Wisconsin, and so it proved to be as the Badgers finished 29 seconds ahead of the Radcliffe 2V, with Buffalo finishing another 4 seconds back. Needless to say, Wisconsin was in control from the start.

Heat 2 quickly became a two boat race between Radcliffe and Georgetown. Radcliffe pulled away in the second half as the Hoyas, clearly executing a race plan, cruised to the finish rowing low and long. A moderately surprising Duquesne boat finished third to knock Lehigh out of the grand final.

By the time of the late day final, it was clear that Wisconsin was the crew to beat, and that Georgetown and Radcliffe had bigger worries than who was the fastest between them. Ultimately, the final played out like one more year tacked on to Groundhog Day, with the Radcliffe and Georgetown boats filled with Phil Connerses, praying to wake up from their nightmare. By the 1000 meter mark Wisconsin was ahead to stay, winning the event by 11 seconds. Georgetown and Radcliffe had a battle going for a while, until the Hoyas pulled away to take second, 12 seconds ahead of the Black and White. The Radcliffe 2V took fourth, followed by Buffalo and Duquesne.

Wisconsin hasn't actually won Knecht since 2002, reflecting what has been traditionally a late starting crew. At this point, I would normally talk about how little time Wisconsin has on the water this early in the season, and it holds true for this year as well. Because of the squirrelly weather, though, I'm not sure if it's been much less than the other northern crews. Has Wisconsin become an early starting crew, or has the water time simply evened out? Or, even more frightening, are the Badgers off to their usual slow start with the usual amount of speed yet to be gained?

The Georgetown-Radcliffe duel also proved to be anticlimactic, as the Hoyas opened up space between themselves and the Black and White. Radcliffe continues to have a bumpy season, reflective of the rebuilding effort going on in Cambridge.

Turning to the freshmen, the Radcliffe eight continued to dominate, winning the event by 12 seconds over Princeton, which was 3 seconds ahead of Wisconsin [and] Georgetown[, who crossed the line in a virtual dead heat. (The official results incorrectly reported Georgetown's time.)] and Philadelphia rounded out the field. Princeton and Wisconsin also made it to the grand final of the heavy frosh eight event, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.

Wisconsin's performance at Knecht was impressive, if not entirely unexpected. Things were a bit more interesting on the West Coast however, and we may need to rethink the rankings...

Knecht Cup Fours - Surprising Boats, Except One

"It's gonna be a close one." This was the opinion of one UConn rower as she and her boatmates looked at the results of the women's light four heats at the weather compressed Knecht Cup. The three heat winners, Georgetown, UConn, and Pitt, were all within 0.3 seconds of each other. Two of the Pitt crew were at the results board at the same time and, after hearing the remark, as they walked away, one gave the other a look that could only have been interpreted as, "Yikes!" In retrospect, I wonder if it didn't have another meaning.

For spectators, the race begins around the 1k mark, because that's the first time you can really make out who has a lead (and then only if you squint really hard). At the halfway mark in heat 1, Georgetown was out in front of Duquesne and Buffalo, rowing relatively smoothly at a higher rate than the other boats. On this breezy day, the Hoyas weren't throwing up much spray. By the 500, Georgetown had the race won, and Buffalo was vainly trying to stay in contact with Duquesne. Maintaining it's rate through the finish, Georgetown won by 11 seconds over Duquesne, which secured its grand final spot by 15 seconds over Buffalo.

In heat 2, UConn, George Mason, and Radcliffe all looked to be within striking distance of each other at the 1k mark. By the time they reached the 500, the race had become a UConn, George Mason battle. Interesting, because there were four different strokes going on in the GM boat, but somehow they were in the thick of it. UConn pulled ahead in the last 250 with more of a power sprint than a rating sprint, winning by 6 seconds over George Mason, who was 19 seconds ahead of Radcliffe.

In heat 3, the heat predicted to be the fastest, Susquehanna came off the back early, leaving Carnegie Mellon, Wisconsin, and Pitt fighting to reach the 1000 first. By the 1k it was a CMU, Pitt race, but it was soon clear that Pitt was in control. Pitt had no need of a sprint as the Panthers won by 21 seconds, with second place CMU 10 seconds ahead of Wisconsin A.

All of which brings us to the "It's gonna be close" final. Unfortunately for me, life intruded at this point like a roommate who changes the channel during a Jack Bauer cliffhanger, and I was unable to see the race. I can only imagine Pitt, UConn, and Georgetown stealing glances at each other as they locked onto the stakeboats. Finding their point as they wonder if they need to win this race with the start or if they'll have a second go at it in the body. Tensing as the starter brings them to attention for their biggest race yet. Then somehow, over the next 2000 meters, a funny thing happened - it wasn't a "close one." I imagine that Georgetown and UConn were in it at the 1000, but then had to succumb to a superior force. I'm told that a sign of intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in one's mind at the same time. Knowing that rowers are the most intelligent of athletes, the Pitt crew was no doubt amazed that they were taking this race in dominating fashion, while at the same time understanding that they were simply witnessing the inevitable occurring. Pitt beat second place Georgetown by a lucky 13 seconds, while UConn was another 4 seconds back. This victory solidifies Pitt's position as the class of the national light four field, and sets up Dad Vail as a potential national championship race for fours. It goes without saying that Pittsburgh should be extremely proud of this race, but still wondering who might show up at Dad Vail. Is there a fast Nova Southeastern boat out there? What about Georgia, or even Lawrence? Pitt, or should they somehow lose at Dad Vail, the Dad Vail winner, deserves a shot at the remaining Sprints fours - MIT comes to mind. If we're lucky, someday we'll have fours at IRAs.

So what happened to Wisconsin and Radcliffe? Clearly, one of the Wisconsin boats was a novice four. The other four rowed better, but not quickly, so it's not clear who was in that boat. Wisconsin only had one eight, so their 2V athletes were available, which doesn't tell us much about what the Badgers were up to. Radcliffe raced a second eight, leaving few rowers available for the four, with at least one member of the crew a walk-on freshman. Despite this, we take absolutely nothing away from Pitt's victory. Whether a result of different priorities, or because they're on the wrong side of the Line of Hope, Pitt's competition is now forced to recognize them as the top four in the country. With a 2V race at Sprints this year, the EAWRC programs may be concentrating more than usual on two eights, which makes an IRA fours event all the more desirable. If Pitt wins Dad Vail, the Panthers will deserve a shot.

As for that Radcliffe walk-on, her parents, who flew out from Chicago, filled the role of freshman walk-on Mom and Dad perfectly. As Dad fretted that her boat was behind, Mom talked about how what mattered was how proud she was that her daughter was part of this odd sport. Trust me, in a few years Mom will either rip the guts out of anyone who suggests her daughter's boat might not win, or she'll be unable to watch any race with a family member involved. Dad will believe himself a far superior coach to Cecil Tucker.

Friday, April 13, 2007

More Racing This Weekend

Windermere and Knecht Cup aren't the only races this weekend, although they'll get the lion's share of the attention.

One of the more interesting matchups pits MIT against UMass. I don't recall seeing a UMass light eight race yet this spring, but the program doesn't put out "just-for-the-heck-of-it" boats. Given the lack of water time MIT had before the Princeton/UCF race, I don't think their results there were a fair indication of their speed. They'll have a chance to prove me right on Sunday. By the same token, if UMass intends to race a lightweight boat more frequently this season, now is the time to make an impression.

In Dublin, Ohio, Ohio State is sponsoring the Ohio Cup. A light four event will be contested among OSU, Miami University, and Cleveland State. To retain its status as a potentially dangerous crew, OSU needs to win this race. The heavy eight event will include OSU's lights, entered as the B boat, racing against their own heavies, as well as those from Xavier, John Carroll, Denison, and Case.

On Saturday Chapman hosts U.C. Santa Barbara, U.C. Irvine, and Long Beach State. These schools have boated lightweights in the past, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a light eight or four here. Long Beach State came within 3.5 seconds of LMU while Chapman beat ASU at the Crew Classic. UCSB won Dad Vails a few years ago (but hasn't been heard from since) and it would be nice to see them back in the lightweight fold. This could be a good light eight race.

On American Lake in Washington, Puget Sound takes on Pacific Lutheran at the Meyer Lamberth Cup. PLU has boated a light eight, although I'm not sure about SPU. Hopefully we'll see a lightweight race at some point in the day.

On Sunday on Carter Lake in Omaha, Creighton hosts the Upper Midwest Collegiate Sprints. A light eight and a light four are on the schedule, although no word on entries. Creighton has raced a light four this season, finishing only 5.5 seconds back from Tulsa.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Knecht Cup Preview

Windermere is big, but the biggest race of the weekend is in Camden, NJ at the Knecht Cup. Knecht has become the most important non-championship regatta for lightweights and this year's version is no exception. The conflict with Windermere has removed Princeton, and possibly UCF and Stanford from the mix, but at the end of the day Sunday, we'll have a much better idea of who's fast and who's not.

We'll start with the light fours. After my brush with greatness on Monday (aka email to the race director), an "inside source" must've contacted officials because the heat assignments were redone. The heats look to be more fair and, while Heat 1 is possibly the weakest, I don't see anyone with a free ticket to the grand final. In the first heat Villanova, Georgetown, Duquesne, Susquehanna B, and Buffalo square off. Although they lost to Radcliffe, Georgetown seems the obvious pick here, but second isn't so easy. Duquesne has beaten Dayton, not exactly a slouch crew, while Buffalo beat, and finished a close second to, a fast Tulsa four in a scrimmage. Susqhehanna B is an unknown (but slower than the A boat) and Villanova was 5th at Murphy and lost to the UConn four. My guess is that Georgetown and Buffalo make it into the grand.

Heat 2 has Lafayette, UConn, George Mason, Radcliffe, and Wisconsin B. I'd say Radcliffe is the top pick, helped by their 17 second victory over the Hoyas a few weeks ago. This heat is the first time a Wisconsin boat will have raced this spring, so we don't really know how fast they'll be, particularly a B boat. They won't be slow. UConn has a 34 second victory over Villanova under it's belt, while a young Lafayette crew was 4th at Murphy, about 4 seconds ahead of Villanova. George Mason is unknown to me. My guess is that Radcliffe makes the grand with UConn and Wisco B fighting it out for the second qualifying spot. I'll go out on a limb and pick UConn as the second qualifier.

Heat 3 may be the fastest heat, with Sacred Heart, Carnegie Mellon, Wisconsin A, Pitt, and Susquehanna A. Again, Wisconsin is untested but we all know they'll be fast, particularly their A boat. Pitt, which won Murphy Cup, is tested and they are fast. Meanwhile, I think Carnegie Mellon gets the Hard Luck Award as they're in a two to move heat with two of the fastest boats in the regatta. CMU was second at Murphy Cup so they have some speed, but will it be enough? Susqhehanna, third at Murphy, is in second place for the Hard Luck Award. They've no doubt gained some speed since Murphy, but they'll need to have gained quite a bit to move on to the grand final. Sacred Heart, 6th at Murphy, will no doubt be hanging on for dear life in this one. I see Pitt and Wisco moving on to the grand.

In the eights, Dayton, Wisconsin, Buffalo, Temple, and Radcliffe B face off in Heat 1. This will be the debut of the Wisconsin eight and, although there are some good boats in this race, I expect them to be in control, working to stay safely ahead of the field while expending as little energy as possible. This won't be as easy as it may seem. Buffalo has already beaten Dayton by 8 seconds over 1500 meters, a loss that will help spur Dayton on. Radcliffe's 2V has shown speed with a victory over Georgetown's 2V. A young Temple boat will learn what it's like to play with the big girls. The schedule says three boats move on to the grand final, and my guess is Wisconsin, Buffalo, and Radcliffe, although Dayton could pull this one out.

Heat 2 will show us Lehigh, Georgetown, Radcliffe A, and Duquesne. We won't have to wait long for that Radcliffe-Georgetown rematch, but this won't be it. Both boats should pull away from Lehigh and Duquesne and unless bravado takes charge they won't be racing each other to the finish. Lehigh and Duquesne won't exactly be over the horizon, although I expect Lehigh will take the third qualifying spot.

Saturday finishes up with the frosh lightweight eight. Philadelphia, Radcliffe, Wisconsin, Princeton, and Georgetown are entered. The Radcliffe boat that dominated in the fall has one victory under its belt over Georgetown, while Princeton has beaten MIT and the Bucknell heavies. Wisconsin is untested but always fast. As for Philadelphia - Yo Philly! Welcome to your first varsity season! (I love to see new programs get their feet wet in races like this. It shows them what they can do with some hard work. And sometimes, you find a new program that has already put in the hard work, and they surprise everyone - this is a frosh event after all.) You've got to give the favorite label to Radcliffe, but I think this race is wide open.

The Princeton and Wisconsin (at least) frosh eights are also entered in the heavy frosh event. Unfortunately, just like last year, they are both in the same heat.

The finals are Sunday at 7:30am for the four and at 10:30am for the eight. (The times tell me that the Knecht Cup HAS NO IDEA what they have here.) Saturday looks like a decent day, weather wise, but Sunday looks like trouble. With wind and rain forecast, we may be lucky to have early morning races.

We have one of the best weekends of the season coming up. In the eights, we look forward to Wisconsin's debut and the Radcliffe-Georgetown rematch, while the fours will tell us just how fast Pitt really is. Rain or shine, it will be a great series of races.

Lightweight Rankings

As alert readers have noted, the lightweight women's Coaches' Poll has been released. I don't think there are any real surprises among the top 10, with the top five being Princeton, Wisconsin, Georgetown, Radcliffe, and UCF. Bucknell comes in at 6th, and this highlights a difference between the poll and what I try to do on FITD. On FITD I try to rank crews as they race through the season. For that reason I can't slot in a crew that hasn't raced other boats in the top 10, like Bucknell. The poll, as I understand it, is really a current view of how the coaches think the season will end up. Although we don't know if Bucknell will race the IRA, if they do we all suspect the boat will be fast. Hence, they get ranked in the coaches' poll, but not here.

The coaches seem to agree that Stanford's 2006 was an aberration and they're back. Oddly enough Marist, which I don't think will be racing a light eight this year, comes in at 15. While not ranked, Tulsa, which only raced a four, received some votes for an eight. Removing those two crews, however, still gives us 21 boats that received votes in the poll. That's a lot of boats! I know, I know, the speed varies widely among those boats, but growing numbers isn't a bad place to start. Compare that to the DII poll - and those boats have their own NCAA championship.

I think that I will turn over the rankings in my sidebar to you, the readers, competitors, and coaches. If I can have a poll here at the season start (as I did), midway through, and just before IRAs, I think that would be more meaningful than my own opinion. For this to work, we need to follow an honor code which says, vote once, vote for all ten places, and vote your head, not your heart. I think you'll do that, and that will give us the best poll in rowing. I start to run out of space, but I'll do it for fours as well, maybe a week later.

Speaking of Bucknell, last year when I questioned Bucknell's policy of not racing their light eight against lightweights (other than one race), but racing against heavyweight jayvees, I was reprimanded a bit and told they did it because there wasn't enough competition in the lightweight league. Neighbors Georgetown, Radcliffe, Princeton, et al. didn't seem to have that problem, but ok, let's go with it. Now comes this year and I'm struggling to reconcile what is happening with last year's explanation. This year Bucknell races the top ranked lightweight eight in the nation, but boats only heavyweights. Is Princeton not competition for the Bucknell lights? Then how can they be competition for the heavies? Do the lights beat the heavies? Then, Bucknell races Temple's lights, and boats a light eight. Temple is not in the top 15 of a league that Bucknell has complained offers no competition. I struggle to understand. Maybe it's this - Bucknell's lights had no competition last year so they raced heavies. Bucknell's heavies have too much competition this year so they race lights. Is that it? How then, do we explain the Temple lightweight race?

Look, I'd rather see Bucknell jump into IRAs at the end of the season than skip it. But what I'd really rather see is some lightweight leadership from the Bucknell administration. With some of the best lightweight athletes and one of the fastest boats in the country, the Bison should be an example of how to strengthen the category, not how to game the system. As once great lightweight events languish for lack of entries at the San Diego Crew Classic (life support), Dad Vail (life support), and ECAC (dead), I fear someone is using, not supporting, the category to burnish a resume.

Comment Clarification

In a comment to my post, "The End of URI Lightweights?,"a reader stated that URI would be racing at EARWC Sprints as a guest team. The ECAC has clarified this by saying that has yet to be determined. I am told that

Both Holy Cross and URI have applied for membership to the EAWRC and both are contending for the opening that exists this year. The results of the Knecht Cup this weekend will help determine which team gets invited, or if neither will be invited.

Windermere Update

Cal dropped me a line to say that they will be racing the eight Sunday at Windermere. It will be a three boat race with ASU and the Princeton 2V.

Now, the Windermere course is two lanes.

Only two lanes.

Apparently you can fit three boats at the start, but then comes the bridge at 1000 meters. Dang! If these three boats get there at the same time, the sinking of the Chinese eight at HOCR will look like a fender bender!

Just one more reason to get to Windermere on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Windermere Crew Classic Preview

Racing this weekend will be overshadowed by the Knecht Cup and, to a lesser extent, by the Windermere Crew Classic. We'll start with Windermere in Redwood Shores, California. This is a regatta at which the participants are treated like queens and kings, particularly the out-of-towners. In some cases (all?) local Windermere real estate offices pick visiting teams to cheer for and root for those crews all weekend. Those of us who have rowed on the West Coast know that it's a great place to be and I hope the region develops more lightweight teams in the coming years.

For our purposes the racing kicks off on Saturday at 1108 as Stanford takes on LMU, followed by a reprise of Princeton vs UCF. I'll start off by saying that I think Stanford will be a lot faster than most people expect. They clearly toyed with the other crews at the Crew Classic and after a pretty crummy spring last year, the Cardinal will be ready to strut their stuff. LMU has a good boat this year (I think significantly faster than other years, if they get all their best lightweights in it), but they'll have their hands full. I'm not saying this will be a blowout, but I think Stanford will take this one. Princeton and UCF just raced last week and although the Golden Knights probably got faster over the week, I don't think it's enough time to make up 20 seconds. For UCF to have a chance here the Tigers have to have a bad row and UCF needs a great row.

At 1226 Princeton's 2V is scheduled to take on the Cal heavyweight 3V. Cal's heavyweights are currently ranked 5th in the nation so although the schedule says 3V, I assume this boat can hammer. I bet Cal is talking about not embarrassing the little lightweights. This matchup was also scheduled last year, but never took place; hopefully this year is different. Prediction? I have no idea, but this could be the most intense lightweight race of the regatta. I'd love to get a picture of these two crews lined up next to each other!

Saturday evening the crews switch as Stanford takes on UCF and Princeton battles LMU. Last year UCF went west for the Pacific Coast Championships looking for revenge against a Stanford crew that just beat them at the IRA. The tables are turned this year as it's Stanford's turn to prove they're contenders. This should be one of the more exciting races at the regatta. A good win by Stanford might make some Tigers lose sleep Saturday night. First, of course, Princeton needs to get by LMU. Just as with UCF, LMU will need a great race while Princeton has a bad one to see an upset here.

Sunday begins with the Princeton 2V taking on Arizona State. This will be some good racing experience for ASU, but I expect Princeton to take this one. At 1130 Stanford takes on Princeton followed by LMU vs UCF. If you can only make it to the race course one day, make it Sunday (ooooh, except maybe for that Princeton2V - Cal heavy 3V matchup). This is a big race for Stanford as they'll take on the current top ranked lightweight boat in the country. If Princeton lives up to its billing, it will be a difficult task for the Cardinal, but it's because of that "if" that we race. A better race than some might expect, but Princeton should win. The LMU - UCF race will be a dog fight. Easties (and Stanford) are used to LMU being a gimme, but that won't be true this year. If their top lightweight boat makes it to the starting line (and I assume it will) UCF will have a race on its hands. It's awfully early in the season to make predictions, so to me this is too close to call.

At 1230 a Stanford four takes on a Cal four. I expected Cal to be racing an eight, but injuries kept them from the Crew Classic so I'm guessing that they're not quite healed yet. That's a tough break.

I like Windermere and I like how Stanford gets East Coast crews to travel West. It's great to spread the lightweight karma around the country and get good crews racing each other no matter where they're located. That's what elite college sports are all about. It calls the bluff of those crews, located in the heart of the eastern lightweight concentration, who complain about having to race as a lower level heavyweight boat to find good races. These Windermere programs are committed to lightweight rowing and put their money and effort where their mouths are (and yes, Stanford has traveled to Knecht in the past). Speaking of which, part of Princeton's commitment to the league is bringing two boats West. I, however, would've been tempted to only take the 1V and race the 2V at Knecht. That 2V is a pretty fast boat and it would've been interesting to see what it could have done.

cMax Rankings

As a reader already noted, the cMax rankings are out. With only a few races under our belt this early in the season, they're not as meaningful as they will be later. As you know, I really like these rankings. They take the human element out of it (although that isn't always bad) and rank based only on cold, hard, facts. Because lightweight women is one of the categories with the fewest participants (DII will eventually have less), the rankings can be difficult. For example, a crew like Bucknell, that for the most part doesn't race lightweight boats until the IRA, may never make it onto the ranking because they have no category results (for this same reason they're not on my list). For an explanation of how these rankings are put together look here.

Chris Maxwell does an incredible job of gathering the data and crunching the numbers for these rankings. Just imagine tracking every single race reported on row2k and you'll get only some idea of the effort he puts into it. Chris has been kind enough to help me out with data from time to time and I'm grateful for it.

I could embellish the Windermere and Knecht previews with predictions based on these rankings but as Chris notes, "with so many teams not in the rankings yet, it's a little premature to start predicting team strength." Tempting though it may be, I'll wait until we have more data.

The End of URI Lightweights?

The coaching regime change at URI was made permanent on Monday, probably sounding the death knell for URI's lightweights. I have no idea why the old coaching staff left, but under Coaches Julia Chilicki-Beasley and Tina Paniel, the URI lights were seen as a "permanent fixture." Since Coach Shelagh Donohoe came on board it appears that URI has only occasionally raced a light four of opportunity.

It's exciting when a varsity program supports lightweights and I thought URI might become the next UCF. This is very disappointing, but not entirely surprising given all of the factors that I discussed in my last few posts. URI is a DI rowing school competing against the Princetons, OSUs, Cals, and Browns of the world. When we see them coming as close to winning the NCAAs over those schools as they might to winning the IRA (5th in 2004, before last year's emphasis), we can declare the move a success.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Is Oklahoma OK?

As a reader pointed out, Tulsa is absent from the light four event at Knecht. You may recall that Tulsa had an excellent row at the Head of the Charles (as evidenced by its fall season number four ranking) and I for one was looking forward to seeing how they would make out this spring. As a result, I wrote to Coach Kevin Harris to see what happened. Coach Harris responded by saying that the crew has suffered injury and sickness and is done for the year (didn't this happen to Pitt last year? [Update: see comments; I should've remembered this.]). He's clearly disappointed as is the crew. As a varsity program that is giving some attention to lightweights, I was pulling for the Golden Hurricane to have a successful spring. We shouldn't get too worried though, as Coach Harris goes on to say:

[W]e are still working hard to promote lightweight rowing at TU and I expect that we will be back with a more solid team next year. We'll be looking, with envy, at all of our lightweight colleagues races this spring! We wish we could be there.

In more news from Oklahoma, I see that Oklahoma City University is adding sculling to its program. This is the men's program but FITD readers know that I'm a big proponent of sculling and this is a good step. [Update: See comments - OCU is also recruiting lightweight women scullers!] There are problems that go along with it, of course, beginning with finding opponents. Nonetheless, I applaud the move. Isn't it funny that some of the freshest thinking is coming from Oklahoma (e.g. night racing), a place until recently viewed as a rowing backwater? Heck, we even have a pretty good lightweight team there!

I'd love to see a quad take over from the four, but again, there are some logistical problems with that. The next time I get on a conference call with FISA and the IOC, I've got the new Olympic program for them - only the fastest boats in each class (i.e. 8+, 4x, 2x, 1x), and both sexes and weight classes in each boat class except eights, which will only have heavyweight men and women. That would result in more international participation (because there are more lightweights) while cutting the total number of rowers by two (an IOC goal). It would be more exciting (faster boats) and more inclusive. Hmmm, maybe I should send that idea to the NCAA too.

Rowing News Ignores Lightweights - Again

Yesterday's post put me in a belligerent mood, so before I get back to this weekend's races, I may as well air it all out. In it's latest issue, Rowing News (the establishment mouthpiece) published an article discussing the greatest eights of all time. A difficult proposition to be sure, and several eights are discussed. Several, that is, for each category - heavyweight men, heavyweight women, lightweight men, and, and, and.... Yes, that's right, it ignores lightweight women. Why cover three categories and not the fourth? Are there no great lightweight women's eights? Hard to believe given that we've seen three incredibly dominant programs - Radcliffe in the 90s (and earlier), Princeton in the early 2000s, and Wisconsin now (plus a surprising Villanova in 1998). No boat in there was great? Given that the great boats were only compared against others in their category, by definition there MUST be a great lightweight women's eight. Or, could it be that Rowing News considers the category to be so weak that there is no boat worthy? There is a promised second part, that will cover junior crews! Junior crews are worthy but collegiate lightweight women are not!? As always, Rowing News refuses to publish letters from me (sorry, I'm not going away), so if this bothers you as much as it does me, please write a letter to the editor. You can reach him at

Rowing News also has a story about women's heavyweight rowing ten years after the first NCAA championship. Much time is spent on the growth in numbers and visibility of heavyweights brought on by NCAA recognition. Readers of FITD know that I appreciate this aspect of NCAA involvement and that my principle beef with the NCAA is the way it has marginalized lightweight women. Despite all of the problems and the NCAA's continuing lack of understanding of the sport, if lightweights were offered an NCAA championship I'd take it in a minute. In a world where most people are afraid to think for themselves (even athletic directors), the NCAA imprimatur would enable lightweight rowing to grow far faster than without it.

In a sidebar (of course) to the story, Chip Davis makes two points I've been making for almost two years now (could he be a secret reader?):

Highly competitive student-athletes continue to race to tight finishes each year in weight class events. But collegiate lightweight women still crown their national champions in the shadow of men's events at the IRA. Recent tragedies with wrestlers trying to cut too much weight combined with a heightened concern for eating disorders have kept lightweight events out of the NCAA. Some coaches have also bristled at the idea of splitting limited talent between two categories.
Hallelujah! Credit to Chip here for speaking the truth. I've talked to coaches, lightweight and heavyweight, as well as NCAA officials, and nearly every single one has denied that weight and eating disorder concerns play a part in the NCAA's antipathy toward lightweight women. As Chip points out, that's ridiculous, and that's why I spend time on FITD questioning the sensational eating disorder articles we see in the press and the "scientific studies" that, failing to prove a connection between today's lightweight athletes and eating disorders, go on to discuss how "common sense" tells us otherwise so we need to be careful. My point is not that uncontrolled weight loss isn't dangerous, but that today's lightweight women's programs control it and produce healthy athletes. I won't even get into the lack of studies looking at the obesity problem and heavyweights, but turnabout is fair play, isn't it? I've begged for scientific studies that produce a comparison of eating disorder prevalence among lightweight women and their college age peer group, but have yet to find any.

The negative feelings of heavyweight coaches (not all, of course) toward lightweights that Chip mentions has also been mentioned to me by lightweight coaches. This is why the CRCA does not and cannot represent the interests of lightweight women.

In the article, Jim Dietz (who was interviewed on FITD) hits upon the solution for lightweight women when he says:
Although the NCAA voted to make us a team sport, where a team consists of two eights and a four, I think the sport would be better served if we were an individual team sport, where each boat had to qualify on its own merits, its own speed.
He's talking about expanding the boat classes here, not specifically about lightweights, but allowing boats to qualify individually would open the door for lightweight boats.

Look, we all know that heavyweight women's rowing is the ethanol of college sports - unable to exist at current levels on its own, but thriving through the gift of government regulation. If you're a plug-in hybrid in an ethanol world, you've got problems. You need to get some of that regulation for yourself. You know it's not the right way to do it, but if it's there, you need it to compete. Given the inflated amount of money and attention lavished on heavyweight women, it's a testament to the strength of lightweight women's rowing that it can exist at all.

Yeah, I'm on a bitchy jag right now, but when I see the kind of interest a goofy little blog like FITD can generate; when I see how many women row lightweight or want to row lightweight; when I see incredible but normal sized athletes crank down race courses moving big boats really fast, I get a little upset when they're ignored by the rowing world. I've said many times here that we're all in it together, but sometimes it sure doesn't feel like it.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Boat Priorities - NCAA Style

Over the past several days, we've had two related discussions going on in the comments section of various posts. They tie together and I think they're important enough to bring to the front page.

The first revolves around the relative competitiveness and intensity of racing at NCAAs vs. IRAs. I (and others here) have argued that last year's IRA was as intense and competitive as last year's NCAA, if not more so. While I think the competitiveness of the two events is an important discussion, it's been discussed here quite a bit, both on the front page and in comments, and I've yet to hear a reasonable argument to support the NCAA side in 2006. I'll leave competitiveness at that. A reader commented, however, that "If any of the UCF lightweights make a boat and race at NCAA's, they will step up to a higher level of intensity than they have ever experienced."

Now, I don't think that this intensity discussion is particularly important or fruitful because intensity is a function of many things, not simply the importance of the race. Unlike "spectacle sport" athletes, rowers derive intensity from the competition against themselves as well as their opponent; from the the battle for perfection. I've experienced practice pieces as intense as championship races. Intensity of any race or regatta will vary from year to year and from event to event.

I understand why the reader who posted the comment above wants to hold that view. I understand that we've been conditioned to believe that something about the NCAA legitimizes a championship that mere mortals can't handle for themselves. Nonetheless, I completely reject the notion that in any given year the NCAA championship is more intense than the IRA championship. That position is unsupportable by any objective means. (By the way, the opposite proposition is also unsupportable.) Let's go back to 2006. I was at both the NCAA championships and the IRA championships. The surprises and back and forth nature of the IRAs have been discussed many times here and I assume are familiar to the reader. The NCAA championship was over within 20 strokes. That's right, 20 strokes, and by 500 meters Princeton had open water on the field and for 1500 meters simply countered any boat silly enough to attempt a move. I can't imagine a less competitive race. Oh, wait, I forgot that the slower boats frothing in Princeton's wake were in a battle too, for the team trophy (aka the "national championship"). And that brings me to the next point of discussion.

For many years, when you raced a dual or a regatta, there were only two questions to answer - Did you win? and Did you sweep? While there were point trophies, no one really cared about them because if your boat didn't win, they were simply self esteem trophies. It wasn't until the NCAA got hold of rowing and deemed it a "team sport" that we were told we need to care about point trophies (this is a different discussion if we're talking international rowing). We need to care because now, the point trophy is really the "national championship." Well, let me tell you a secret about point trophies - no one cares. Let me say that again - NO ONE CARES. Well, except the winners who see it as the next best thing to a sweep (maybe it is) if they won the V8, or see it as a self esteem trophy if they lost the V8. Whenever I read about the "national champion" Cal women, I laugh.

Look at the men, however. We all know who won the V8 at IRAs - Cal. Cal is the National Champion. Do you know who won the point trophy? Is there a point trophy? Give truth serum to a member of the Cal women's V8 last year and ask her if she'd rather be a "national champion" or winner of the V8. What do you think she'd say? I know what she'd say. The NCAA has distorted rowing's priorities.

It is this distortion that has had a deleterious effect on lightweight women. In another comment, when discussing lightweights rowing with heavyweights, a reader noted that " the point is that maybe it ought to be about the fastest BOAT, regardless of class year OR size of the rower." I agree with this point completely. This is why heavyweights will always take precedence and always be more glamorous. It's when we get beyond that fastest boat that things get dicey.

To me, there is a natural priority of boats when the sport is unencumbered by outside influences. That priority is:

  1. Heavyweight 1V
  2. Lightweight 1V
  3. Heavyweight 2V
  4. Lightweight 2V
  5. Heavyweight 3V4
  6. Lightweight 3V4
This priority assumes all six boats can be equally competitive in their categories (an unlikely assumption). After the heavy 1V, the light 1V is comprised of the best rowers in that class. If we bother to create the class, it's best rowers get priority over the second best rowers in another class. Priorities adjust when certain boats are not competitive (I'll come back to this).

Under the NCAA regime, the priorities are as follows:
  1. Heavyweight 1V
  2. Heavyweight 2V
  3. Heavyweight 3V4
  4. Lightweight 1V
This is a complete distortion of the sport's historical and natural priorities. Under the guise of a "national championship" the lightweight category has been relegated to rowing's backwater, ignored by the NCAA, the CRCA, and athletic directors. As one poster said:
There should be lightweight V8 and V4 events at NCAAs, not as part of the heavyweight team event, but as an entirely other category, they same way DII and DIII programs have their own championship. From what I can tell, there are far more competitive Lightweight programs than there are DII programs.
Unfortunately, as long as rowing is a team sport, this can't happen. Lightweights can only be added as another event in the "national championship" which would mean that all contenders would need to boat a lightweight crew. Let's all hold our breath for the CRCA vote on that, shall we?

Sorry for the length here, but one last point. If the heavy 1V looks like it will be cannon fodder, but the light 1V could be competitive, a coach has a strategic decision to make. With the NCAA involved, every coach will still go with the cannon fodder heavyweights, when perhaps it would be best for the program to go with a nationally contending light 1V. Same for a light 1V - this was the point of the Line of Hope. If the lights are cannon fodder, they go back to a heavy 2V or 3V4. This happens all the time.

There's the straw man, set a match to it if you will. Of course you'd like a shot at the heavy 1V over the lightweight boat, but please skip the "NCAA think" and be honest with yourself before you tell me how you'd rather be wallowing around in a heavyweight JayVee than contending for the national championship in a lightweight Varsity.