Sunday, April 15, 2007

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.


Anonymous said...

I think I took your picture yesterday after I rowed better but not quickly

Anonymous said...

you're such a little creeper!!!!!11111111111


Anonymous said...

Interesting that Pitt was still able to dominate after virtually no water time since Murphy. The other crews out of Pittsburgh (Duquesne and CMU) were also representing in the final and they only had a couple more water practices than Pitt. Good to see they were all still able to perform well in NJ, and as the weather in Pittsburgh improves they all should be picking up more speed to finish out their seasons.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anybody North of Tennessee has much water time since the Murphy's cup :)

Anonymous said...

The old saying that times in the heats don't mean anyting in the final was proven once again.

Anonymous said...

I think that you underestimate the speed of the Pitt 4. Last year they were one of the fastest light 4s in the country, and they have improved significantly since then. Unless there is a bionic boat that has not yet raced hiding out there, Pitt is going to go through this season undefeated.

JW Burk said...

Do you think *I* underestimate Pitt's speed? If so, I think I gave you the wrong impression. Perhaps I couch what I say a little too much with "ifs" and suggesting that there is a bionic boat out there. Now, it's always possible that one is lurking, but mostly I'm just superstitious. Bad luck to predict that someone will run the table!

Anonymous said...

there might be a bionic boat lurking close to home