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.


Anonymous said...

hBummer you never followed up on this post with the results, which had the four collegiate lightweights that you mentioned all rowing in the B final - actually in the four slowest doubles at the regatta.

If lightweight rowing is the future of international rowing, perhaps we ought to be encouraging our smaller collegiate athletes to step up their game in the open category as collegians, a la Jana Heere (openweight at Temple), Wendy Campanella (openweight at Simmons), Julie Nichol (openweight at Cal), Renee Hykel (openweight at St. Joe's) or Brit Nixon (openweight at Smith). Could it be that rowing against the fastest competition might be better preparation for making the next step???? Hmmmmm...

JW Burk said...

You make a good point about how few college lightweights actually row internationally. Unfortunately, I think the issue is that with fewer weight loss safeguards in international competition, women who would not be allowed to row as lightweights at the major lightweight schools row as lightweights internationally. You can see this by the fact that USRowing allows their lights to send in erg scores when they weigh over 140, when the international average is 125.

Far be it for me to pass judgment on the weight practices of national team rowers, I'm simply stating what I believe to be one of the major issues.

Some of the crews you mention above are actually what I would consider cannon fodder heavyweight crews (as far as NCAA DI is concerned) so I don't think it was the competition that did it.

Anonymous said...

I think it's all about standards and where the bar for "good" is set. A "cannon-fodder" openweight squad may be going essentially the same speed as a top-end lightweight squad, but the difference is that instead of going out and stomping the competition week in and week out and concluding that that's what "fast" is, the rower in the cannon-fodder squad will get to see what fast REALLY is, and will be challenged to raise her game if she wants to compete with the better programs. Same boat speed, very different perspective about the adequacy of that boat speed.

There's the intra-squad competition aspect as well, which is probably even more important. Is a 7:30 erg score considered stellar, as it would be in a lot of lightweight programs, or very middle of the road, as it would be in even many "cannon-fodder" openweight programs? Being part of a squad where it's considered normal for women to be going in the low 7's and even below sets a very different bar. At the elite level, the bar is set VERY high - seems to me that the best lightweight scullers in the US may have benefited from having to strive for that level from day one just to keep up with their openweight peers.

The folks who really make it as elite lightweights are usually fast enough as collegians to row in the top boat not just for cannon-fodder schools, but for the very best programs in the country. Think Julie Nichols stroking Cal's 1V in the NCAA grand final in 1999 and 2000, or Rachel Anderson winning consecutive national titles in Brown's 1V in those same two years, or (wrong gender, but same point) Paul Teti passing up Princeton's lightweight squad to earn an IRA silver medal in the heavyweight 1V in 2001. These are folks who REALLY understand what fast is.

JW Burk said...

These are all good points. The "cannon fodder" aspect of my response was related to previous assertions that only the fastest boats contain good athletes (something I obviously do not believe and which would rule out all boats other than heavy men).

I still think, however, that you must address the idea that many national team lightweight women are really midweights who would not be allowed to drop to lightweight in a properly supervised college program. Natural speed potential in rowing comes from weight (as long as at least some of that weight is from muscle) and leverage, or height. Natural midweights have the height advantage all over natural lightweights. You are correct, of course, that feeling good about a 7:30 doesn't get you far internationally, but given the different set of weight management standards between college (strict) and international (nonexistent) rowing, it's difficult to compare the two. Because of this, I'm not sure we'll ever really see college lightweights make a big splash internationally.