Wednesday, May 30, 2007

IRA Eights

Switch Princeton and Radcliffe, and we enter IRAs in a similar position to that of last year. Wisconsin coming off a Sprints win, Princeton (Radcliffe last year) coming off a strong regular season but with only a silver medal at Sprints, and Georgetown gaining speed throughout the season to finish third at Sprints. It all made for a rather unpredictable national championship regatta.

The favorites in this year's first heat are Wisconsin and Georgetown. Radcliffe probably has the best opportunity to send one of those two to the reps, especially now that they are able to bring the freshmen fully into the mix. Loyola Marymount will get a feel for an Ohio State crew that knocked off Long Beach State at Dad Vail, while MIT, which has struggled in the V8 this year, will see if it has a shot at the grand final.

The second heat may be the more difficult of the two, with Princeton and Stanford, two crews close in speed, facing UCF, Bucknell, Lehigh, and Long Beach State. UCF is a relative unknown, having last raced at Windermere in mid-April. Bucknell is a complete unknown, since they only boated a light eight twice, neither time against any crews at IRAs. Bucknell only lost a couple of athletes from last year's boat, but apparently some of last year's lightweights had some weight issues and may have made a permanent move to heavyweight. This will be a good test for LBS since although they've beaten Lehigh before, they haven't faced competition at the level of Princeton and Stanford. Lehigh gets a chance to show what they've learned from their Dad Vail experience. Of Stanford and Princeton, I actually think the Tigers may be in the most danger of finding themselves in the reps. Stanford is getting faster but having lost to Princeton before, will want to make sure no one sneaks up on them for second. If Princeton snoozes at all, they fall behind Stanford and are then worried about trying to stay ahead of Bucknell and UCF, two crews who could make a run at them. Sounds unlikely, but it happened to Wisconsin last year.

It's hard to imagine a final without Wisconsin, Georgetown, Princeton, and Stanford. Given Radcliffe's new pool of talent (even if there are no new faces in the boat), I suspect they'll pick up speed and make the grand. The battle for last place in the final should be a dog fight, and it's hard to call it now. Thanks to Stanford, I would guess that either Bucknell or UCF will race the petite after making last year's grand, but in no way is it a foregone conclusion that one of those two makes it in.

If we're completely honest about how the field looked at the beginning of the season, we'll admit that it looked weak. Other than Princeton, that is. While Wisconsin lost five from last year's boat, and everyone else lost at least two, Princeton lost none. None, by the way, from a boat that beat the Badgers in the heat in 2006. If this isn't the year of the Tiger, when will it be? Somehow, though, Princeton finds itself an underdog. The Tigers no doubt know what their issues are, and if they spent the last few weeks making some technical corrections and seat racing with that fast 2V, they could blow away the field. If they simply did pieces, they're in for disappointment. Wisconsin comes in with a young crew (four sophomores), but as the favorite. Their speed this year not only puts them in position to win their fourth national championship, but suggests that the string won't end this year. Stanford, meanwhile, could surprise everyone. With an even younger crew of three freshmen and one sophomore, the Cardinal is in a position to make a sustained run at the national championship. [Update: See comments for more information on the latest boatings.]

All signs point to another tight final this year, and given last year's surprising turn of events, just about anything can happen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

IRA Fours

The addition of the four to the IRA, even as an exhibition, is a great step forward for women's lightweight rowing. I don't know what will be used to determine if it becomes a permanent event, but I'm sure interest will be high. With a bit more notice more schools will be able to plan for the race and I would guess that it will become one of the more competitive events (both to enter and to win) at the IRA.

Pitt's absence from the field leaves us without an obvious favorite, although perhaps not everyone would agree. While Pitt beat up on the Knecht Cup field by almost 14 seconds, at Dad Vail Lawrence was within 7 seconds. The only boat in this field that didn't race either Lawrence or Pitt this spring is Princeton. The Tigers did, however, race Pitt in the HOCR, finishing 18 seconds back. This looked like a pretty big gap then, but now that we've seen Pitt race 2ks, it doesn't seem quite as large.

I think Lawrence, though, must be considered the favorite in this race. At only 13 seconds behind Pitt at Dad Vail, Duquesne can claim to be a likely second. Princeton's chances, I think, are tempered by how they approach this race. If they use it to race a fast boat - say the top four from their 2V - they've got to be one of the favorites. If on the other hand, they use it as a development race for some of their freshmen, they're not. The same goes for Wisconsin, Radcliffe, and Georgetown, although to a lesser extent since their 2Vs weren't up to Princeton's speed. With the quirkiness of the four though (meaning it takes more skill to row it well), any one of these crews could put out a very fast boat.

Lawrence's biggest enemy, I think, will be their lack of big race experience. Or really, just race experience. This didn't seem to bother them at Dad Vail, however, so they apparently know how to handle it. If they race with confidence and poise, Lawrence can pull this off. We can't count out Duquesne, however, because 5 seconds (Dad Vail time to Lawrence) isn't a huge gap to a crew that made up 20 seconds on Pitt between Knecht and Dad Vail. But with all of the Sprints schools unknowns, truly anything can happen. Without heats, each crew will have to watch the entire field for a sign of who will challenge, adding pressure to the coxswain's job. These fours could very well provide the most exciting racing of the regatta, a result that just might ensure a 2008 race.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Awards and Other Press

The CRCA scholar athlete awards came out and we have press releases for some of the winners. You can read about Radcliffe winners Blankstein, Conyngham, and Walro here. Stanford winners Coleman, Morawetz, and Prevost are announced here. [Update: You can also read about Buffalo's two scholar athletes, Barnum and Minardo, here, MIT's winner Schumacher here, and Georgetown's Goldman, Hupp, Moldawer, and Lipperini here. (Thanks to readers for pointing these out.)]

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin State Journal gives the Badgers some attention:

Over here is the men's rowing program, whose roots at the school can be traced to 1874. That's a good 15 years before football was introduced and 25 years before men's basketball came on the scene.

Over there is the women's lightweight program, which has won three straight national titles. The top-ranked Badgers have whipped all comers again this season and have an excellent shot at four consecutive crowns.

Their acute anonymity is tempered somewhat by the fact the men's and women's crews share new office and training headquarters inside the beautiful Porter Boathouse, which overlooks Lake Mendota.

For his "wow" statistic, the columnist notes that heavyweight coach Bebe Bryans said that "her student-athletes train more than 1,000 hours for every minute of actual racing."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Head of the Charles Changes Lightweight Limit

Although the elimination of Saturday practice seems to be the bigger news, the Head of the Charles also changed the limit for lightweight women. In the past lightweight boats averaged 130 with an individual maximum of 138 pounds. The new rule sets an individual limit of 133 with no averaging. I think this is a great move and I previously discussed my opposition to the old limits. The new rules were proposed by the lightweight committee of the CRCA. I'm still not at all certain why the limit isn't a straight 130. Why are you allowed to weigh more in the fall?

In any case, this is a good change and another sign of how the lightweight community is working together and starting to take control of their own destiny.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


While we languish in the calm before the storm (unless you're seat racing, that is), I thought I'd post a short video about the most recent US women's lightweight double. This is really a pitch for Philadelphia, but it talks about the 2x. Watch the video and take a look at this crew's length and catches. Pretty sweet.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lessons Learned

As we prepare for the 2007 IRA, one can't help but think about last year's dam opening that occurred during the championship races. Despite the fact that Rowing News and row2k never admitted that they published false information about the opening, there was one organization that acknowledged the problem and seems resolved to do their best to avoid a repeat - the ECAC, the regatta sponsor. While I still think it odd (and somewhat unethical) that the rowing press never admitted their mistakes in the reporting of the situation (Oh the shame, scooped by an anonymous blogger!), the ECAC had nothing to do with that and admitted the problem from the beginning. I'm pretty sure everyone will know when that dam is open and when it is closed this year.

About a month ago a story appeared in South Jersey's Courier-Post that gave some perspective to what the local authorities wrestle with when deciding when to open the Cooper River dam. This story dealt with local residents' concerns that the dam was kept open for the Knecht Cup, resulting in unnecessary flooding. This situation seems to be the opposite of last year's IRA when the dam was opened to the detriment of the regatta. (Recall that the issue last year, of course, was not that houses should be flooded for the regatta, it was communicating the state of the dam.) This Knecht Cup story leaves unanswered the question of why the dam wasn't opened until Sunday when the regatta ended Saturday afternoon, but it certainly gives you a good idea of the competing interests that must be balanced by the county. Take a look at some of the comments to this story to see just how sensitive an issue rowing on the Cooper is. Remember this when you're there in two weeks and have the urge to park in a no-parking zone or leave your Power Bar wrapper on the ground.

We're all praying for good weather for this year's IRA, but as an outdoor sport contested on nature's racecourses, problems will occur. This year, though, I feel pretty confident that they won't be of the man-made variety.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

IRA Notes

The MIT press release that came out last week noted that this year's Sprints was only the second time MIT has fielded a light eight in the event since becoming a varsity program. It also says that the novices will be in the mix for the IRA boat. Slowly but surely MIT is making steady progress in building the lightweight program. Their schedule includes the best the league has to offer so progress isn't always obvious, but it's there. Given a bit of time, MIT should be regularly challenging for Sprints medals.

Some readers wondered if UCF would have all of its lightweights available for the IRA even if the heavies are going to NCAAs. I said that according to NCAA rules I thought they would have everyone available other than any lights in the varsity boat (the only boat invited), but a reader responded by saying that rumor has it that UCF instituted their own rule barring heavyweight rowers from crossing over to lightweight for the IRA. The reason, apparently, is that the coaches don't want these athletes to worry about maintaining their weight during the heavyweight season for IRA. A short note from the hypocrisy file is that in larger scholarship programs there is often a great deal of pressure on "light" heavyweights (and often normal heavyweights as well) to gain weight. While I don't know if this is true at UCF, the notion of not worrying about weight often simply means that these women are encouraged to put on weight.

Another reader noted that these NCAA rules on how many championships a rower can race is one area where the NCAA has it right. I tend to agree. If you don't race the category all year you shouldn't race in a championship for that category. This is, however, a bit more problematic for lightweight women because the category is trying to grow and often happy for as much competition as possible. This kind of rule, of course, would exclude a boat like Bucknell. [Update: See reader comment disputing this, although it's not clear what "NCAA rules" have to do with lightweight rowing.]

Some readers have expressed confusion over the selection criteria for the IRA fours race. I agree that as stated there did seem to be a mix of purposes, but for this first one, I'd cut the organizers a bit of slack. Although it wasn't explained this way, it seems to make sense to me if you view the invitations as simply going to those boats that have won championships. By including smaller or "developing" school championships you get the broad range of fours available. I admit that the selection criteria for the "IRA programs" was somewhat less clear and the lack of a light four at Sprints will create problems in the future. Once some of the various champions were unable to make the event, the invitations did not revert to a "developing program" criterion, and shouldn't have. While there was not much of a drop off in speed going to Dad Vail silver medalist Lawrence, to continue to move down through that field would start to miss the point of the IRA. If the event continues, surely the only criterion can be victories in major regattas, since the IRA is not about simply providing a venue for a couple of races.

As other readers have noted, this year's event will not settle any questions of the fastest four in the nation. Some schools had scheduling conflicts due to the late notice (most notably Pitt), while it's not clear that the Sprints schools will be boating their top fours. Some of these schools may be using the event as a "development" race of their own. More important though, is the fact that this race is being staged at all. This is a huge step and, as another reader has noted, lightweight women beat lightweight men to getting a fours race at IRAs. That is a big deal.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rankings - For the Last Time

For the last time this year, we'll take a look at the rankings, starting with the coaches' poll. The top six boats stayed the same, but Ohio State made a huge jump from 14 to 7. This was precipitated, of course, by their Dad Vail victory. Long Beach State jumped from unranked to 8th, also as a result of their Dad Vail performance.

Buffalo drops one spot to 9th, and LMU also drops to 10th. LMU's rank below both Buffalo and Long Beach State is curious. The Lions raced LBS twice, winning both times. The last win was by a sliver, but a win nonetheless. They seem to be in the wrong place to me, but since all these boats should be going to the IRA, we'll find out soon enough. One other interesting move here is Bucknell's drop from 7th to 12th. I'm not sure what might have caused a coach who has been voting Bucknell 7th to now drop them, unless there is some concern about whether they can actually field a light eight or if the eight will be competitive.

In looking at the cMax rankings, we should begin by looking at last week's rank and margins, and how they compared to the actual margins at Sprints.

Margin cMax Actual Difference
Wisconsin - - -
Princeton 2.8 2.63 (0.17)
Georgetown 10.3 6.03 (4.27)
Radcliffe 13.0 12.57 (0.43)
MIT 24.5 46.36 21.86

With the exception of MIT and, to some extent Georgetown, it was awfully close. Georgetown got faster and most observers would have predicted a result closer to cMax's estimate. In the current rankings, the margins don't change a great amount, and once again OSU gets a big bump up from 18th to 6th. At this point, you should have a pretty good idea what a huge win Dad Vail was for the Buckeyes. UCF hangs in at 7 and here LMU is ranked 8th, above LBS and Buffalo. Interestingly, Dayton sneaks in at 9th. I'd say the cMax poll gives us a pretty good idea of where we stand right now.

As an aside, I want to mention the Georgetown press release on the Hoya's Sprints performance. It covers the usual ground, but includes this quote from Coach O'Connor:
Due to the success these girls have had over the last two seasons it might be easy for people to forget that only two years ago we lost this race by 19 seconds. The group has come a long way and it is a good sign of the continued improvement of the entire squad.
Excellent point and again, this is the same position Georgetown was in last year when they won silver at IRAs.

Comments on the IRA Fours

The Exhibition race for women's lightweight fours that will be held at the IRA (see previous post) is, of course, a tremendous step forward for lightweight women. Many programs that are unable to put out competitive light eights, are able to boat extremely competitive light fours. For this reason, a fours event at the IRA is even more meaningful for the lightweight women. The addition of this race (although on a temporary basis at the moment), is another sign of the growth of the category. At Sprints this year, the spread among the top three boats was as tight as among the top three heavyweight boats, with first and second even closer among the lights than the heavies. At Dad Vail, the spread was a little wider, but still compared favorably among the top three. At lower levels, of course, the category continues to see a wider dispersion, but it's not what it was just a few years ago. This is an exciting new initiative and I feel confident it will be successful this year and become a permanent event.

As for the selection process, it's hard to get too worked up about an exhibition race (which I suppose simply means no medals, no championship, and temporary for now), but let's take a quick look. It's pretty hard to argue with the idea of inviting the gold medalists from the A-10, WIRA, SIRA and Dad Vail. This provides an opportunity for boats who rarely, or never, race at the IRA to do so (perhaps the PCRC champs could be added). More importantly, however, it makes those championship regattas that much more meaningful. The boats that receive invitations because they are champions, earned their invitations on the water. Although a reader has posted that Pitt will not be racing, I desperately hope they can work out their conflicts because they deserve to race at the pinnacle of collegiate rowing. (BTW, see Pitt story here.) I'm also thrilled for Lawrence. I would argue that the Dad Vail fours silver should be invited before the WIRA eights silver, but Long Beach's entry in the eight mooted that concern. It can be hard to imagine what this kind of exposure can mean to a school like Lawrence if you've never worked your butt off for a club program that is all but unknown at your school (of course, this is true for most club programs, Pitt included). It's hard not to have a soft spot for this little school in Wisconsin that's coming to the big stage. As the winner of A-10s, Duquesne deserves an invite as well.

I find the IRA program invites a bit more curious. The theme for the other invites is that they earned it on the water this year. The IRA boats are invited based on what they did a year ago in an unrelated boat. Unrelated because the rowers in the four would come from the 2V eight, not the varsity eight. A look back at the past several years shows that rarely does the V8 winner also win the V4, suggesting that there is no correlation between the two.

It seems to me that there two more logical ways to choose the IRA program fours. The first, and best, is to pick the gold and silver medalists in the 2V at Sprints. The fours from these programs will be made up of athletes from the 2V and this is where those athletes proved themselves on the water. The speed of last year's 1V says little about the worthiness of this year's 2V athletes. The other option is to invite the gold and silver medalists from last year's Sprints fours final. Although it still relies on a performance from a year ago, at least it's in the right boat.

Now, let's compare. The IRA programs that are actually coming are Wisconsin and Georgetown (Radcliffe gets in through a loophole). If the preferred option were used it would be Princeton and Radcliffe. Given the Tigers' victory at Sprints, it's pretty hard, well, impossible, to argue that Princeton doesn't have the most deserving 2V athletes. I suppose it's possible that Wisconsin's and Georgetown's best four are as fast as Princeton's best four, and that the 20+ seconds was all due to the relative quality of the next four, but that stretches too far for me. If we used the second method the invitees would be Princeton and Radcliffe again. (Oh, and don't forget that Princeton was just after Pitt at the HOCR.) Because Radcliffe gets in through a loophole, it looks like Princeton is really the program that suffers here.

One is tempted to wonder about MIT. After all, they did beat a Princeton four during the season. The problem there is, with the Sprints programs concentrating on 2Vs instead of fours, we have no idea who was in either four. The boats weren't put together with an IRA invitation in mind, so we can't really look to that race. Nonetheless, it does seem as if MIT should be there, but I can't think of formula that puts them in the race.

The upshot of all this is that all of the right boats seem to be involved except for Princeton. It's difficult to get too exercised over an exhibition race, but it just misses being a race of this year's top fours.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

About the IRA Fours Race

Steve Kish was kind enough to explain how the lightweight four event at the IRA came into being and how the invitees were selected for this year's exhibition race:

CRCA Lightweight Committee met over the winter and one of the initiatives that came of its meeting was the goal of increasing participation in the lightweight eight at the IRA. In addition to encouraging the eights to attend (good to see LMU and Long Beach coming this year), the thought was to also encourage programs that are still developing and perhaps racing the lightweight four, in the hopes that the experience would lead those programs to put together an eight for the next year. It is not meant to be exclusive nor do we think it is the perfect system and I am sure there are plenty of ways to look at the idea and poke holes in it. Long of the short is that a number of programs who have never raced at the IRA will be there this year. We’ll see where it goes from there.

It took a while to get the idea off the ground and definitely on the program. Very happy that the IRA (Gary Caldwell) was supportive and the CRCA lwt committee is very happy that they agreed, as are all the coaches I have been in contact with. It is an exhibition and we’ll see how it goes. It is a six boat straight final on Friday afternoon.

The initial idea was to invite the gold medalists from the A-10, WIRA, SIRA and Dad Vail. The other two spots were to be filled by the top lwt eights programs based on their finish from the previous IRA. So, that is Wisconsin and Georgetown .

Duquesne accepted the invite. LMU is coming in the eight, not in the four. Georgia could not accept as a result of scheduling conflicts. And Pitt is still working on their scheduling conflicts but we hope they will be able to come. The scheduling conflicts are a result of me not getting the word out soon enough. Hopefully, if all runs well this year, it will be something that everyone will be aware of right from the start next year.

Without the WIRA champ available as they are coming in the eight, the next idea was to invite the WIRA silver, but that is Long Beach and they are also coming in an eight. The decision was then made to simply find the most competitive non-IRA program and invite it. So the next one on the list was from the Dad Vail, and that is Lawrence . They have accepted. Brock was considered but the IRA would like to keep the regatta as a US championship, as is the general IRA as well as the NCAA, etc.

So, the sixth spot has been filled by Radcliffe, as they were third at last year’s IRA.

Stanford made a case for their four which won the PCRC’s. But, again, based on the spirit of what we were trying to do, it didn’t make sense to bring a VL4 from Stanford, when Stanford is also rowing a lwt eight. Radcliffe on the other hand, is being invited based on last year’s finish, similar to Wisconsin and Georgetown .

So, currently it is Duquesne, Lawrence , Wisconsin , Georgetown , Radcliffe and hopefully Pitt.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

About Last Week

This blog is about lightweight women's rowing and therefore the growth of lightweight women's rowing. One of the things holding back that growth, is the commonly held idea that lightweight women rowers are more likely to have eating disorders than their college attending female peers. I have never seen any studies that support that notion and therefore I believe it to be a red herring. I could certainly be wrong, but I just have yet to see anything to suggest that.

This idea seems to be held most strongly by the NCAA and certain athletic directors and heavyweight coaches. As a counter, I like to point out the hypocrisy of thinking proportionately more lightweights have eating disorders, while not also worrying that proportionately more heavyweights have a BMI above 25. (Both of which, by the way, I suspect are false.) The Yale "Food" video was a perfect example of this. As I said, had this been done by lightweights, alarm bells would have been rung all over campus. I, however, thought it would have been as funny done by lightweights as it was done by heavyweights.

In this case, my target was the NCAA and all of those who believe that lightweights are destined to eating disorders. The heavyweights simply suffered collateral damage. As those who have read this blog for any length of time know, I'm not about to let worries about political correctness stop me from telling the emperor he has no clothes.

There is another point. I've known for some time that certain readers were using FITD to mock lightweight rowing. Although it was unintended, the "Food" post smoked those readers out. I could not ask for a more powerful statement of why lightweights cannot leave their fate in the hands of predominantly heavyweight organizations (i.e. CRCA and NCAA) than the kind of sentiments that were posted as comments. (This attitude is hardly new. We've come across it before.) It's hard to work to grow the category with people who don't even believe you should exist. I'll no doubt refer and link to those comments for some time. When you read them, you have to ask yourself if they're shared by those readers' coaches, the very CRCA coaches entrusted with ensuring the health and growth of women's lightweight rowing.

Monday, May 14, 2007

2007 Pacific Coast Rowing Championships

The West Coast did some racing last weekend too, as the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships were held on Lake Natoma. In the eight, it was no surprise as the number three ranked boat in the nation, Stanford, easily took care of Loyola Marymount. This may seem like a sideshow to the weekend, but I would suggest that the eastern crews take notice. While we saw Georgetown and Radcliffe close up on Princeton and Wisconsin, Stanford widened its margin over an improving LMU crew by over 10 seconds! Clearly the Cardinal hasn't been sitting still. Need I remind you that Stanford only lost to Wisconsin by 3.1 seconds, while Princeton just lost to them by 2.6 seconds. And Stanford raced the Badgers 2 weeks ago. One could make a good case that Stanford should be ranked second right now. This year's IRA is shaping up to be potentially the best ever (uh, wasn't that just last year?).

In the fours, Stanford also came away with gold, beating second place Humboldt State by 18 seconds. UCSD was third, followed by University of the Pacific and Cal.

Wingnuts and Washers From the Weekend

A presser about Dayton's silver in the JV eight at Dad Vail originally called the boat the "lightweight eight." Perhaps they did a Bucknell after all. This link, though, goes to the "2nd varsity" story.

The Stanford and LMU pressers about PCRCs are here and here.

Sprints stories are up for Wisconsin, Princeton, and Radcliffe.

Wisconsin also won the inaugural Konrad Ulbrich Team Trophy, another feather to put in the Badger cap. Also, a few people mentioned that one of the Wisco rowers was a bit wobbly on the awards dock after the race. Unbelievably (because I watched the medal presentation) I missed it all. You know, rowers always joke about passing out on the last stroke of the race, but few actually pull it off. This woman apparently came pretty close and nothing more can possibly be said about giving your all. What a testament not only to the intensity of the race, but to the spirit and heart of that athlete.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

2007 Eastern Sprints

Claws flashed and fur flew as the Badgers and Tigers met in battle on the Cooper River, but when the dust settled, the world looked pretty much as it had before.

In the varsity eight race, Princeton jumped out to a half length lead over Wisconsin heading into the 1000. Radcliffe had an advantage over Georgetown for third, but moving through the halfway point the Hoyas gained. As Georgetown moved on Radcliffe, Wisconsin began to slowly march on Princeton. Through the third 500, the Badgers pulled even and both crews began their sprints with Wisconsin taking a psychological edge.

Prior to this race, if anyone suspected that the Tigers had a weakness, this was it. Conversely, if the Badgers have an historical strength, the sprint is it. When weakness meets strength from an even start, the outcome is inevitable. Pulling ahead a bit through the beginning of the last 500, Wisconsin moved through Princeton in the last 250. Unable to maintain the length necessary for an effective run, Princeton faded as Wisconsin took the gold by just about half of a boat length. A full length back came Georgetown for third, followed 6.5 seconds later by Radcliffe, with MIT finishing 5th.

This was a great race to watch as the outcome was not certain until the last 200 meters or so, and the battle between Wisconsin and Princeton was so intense that it was almost a surprise when you noticed that Georgetown was within a length and a half of Wisco. In contrast to the Dad Vail medal presentations, there weren't a lot of happy faces at Sprints. Georgetown was no doubt happy to win a bronze, but after winning it last year this was a bit like kissing your brother. Princeton may as well have been receiving hot pokers in the eye at the awards dock, and Wisconsin looked surprisingly nonchalant. Such is life in the big leagues.

Rumors persisted about Radcliffe moving freshmen out of the novice boat and into one of the varsity boats. I suppose only Radcliffe knows for sure. Georgetown, let me remind you, is following their 2006 script, and have cut 4 seconds off their last loss to Wisco, and 2 seconds off their last loss to Princeton. Radcliffe came a whopping 10 seconds closer to Wisco and 1 second closer to Princeton. Clearly the field has tightened, but looking at these margin changes, one might believe that Princeton has actually been gaining more (or is that, losing less) speed than Wisconsin over the past few weeks.

The inaugural 2V race saw the most dominating win of the day as Princeton won by almost 20 seconds. By 500 meters into the race the Tigers had a length on Radcliffe and just settled in to row smoothly and powerfully down the course. This crew looked good, although that isn't hard to do when the next closest boat is, well, not nearby. Radcliffe and Wisconsin, though, had a tremendous battle for second place. After a bit of seesawing through the body, both crews put on churning sprints as the Black and White edged out the Badgers by something less than a boat length. Georgetown finished up 5th. In contrast to the varsity race, these crews were pretty happy to get their medals. Princeton was especially happy, as their name will forever be listed first among the winners of the lightweight 2V at Eastern Sprints. The Radcliffe crew, both those in the boat and watching from shore, seemed to take extra delight in the boat's second place finish, leading one to believe that something interesting was going on with that boat.

It's pretty unusual to find a crew with a 1V as fast as Princeton's to also have such a dominating 2V. There's no doubt the Tigers have depth this year, and one has to believe that Coach Rassam has a lot of options to explore over the next two weeks. It seems that in such a fast 2V must be two to four women who could move into the 1V without causing any loss of speed in that boat. The task then, is either to get the current lineup sprinting well and with length, or looking for a combination that does. Often it's not finding the best rowers, it's finding the best combination.

In the novice eight, Radcliffe accepted its crown as the country's top boat. Wisconsin's novices, who for some reason were not listed on early entry lists, made the race interesting, but still could get no closer than 8 seconds. Princeton finished third, avenging a loss to Georgetown who finished fourth, and MIT was fifth. If rowers were switched out of this boat, it didn't seem to hurt them. Then again, they had speed to burn. Whatever the case for Sprints, it seems certain that the freshmen will be in the seat racing mix over the next two weeks and there will be a different Radcliffe boat at IRAs.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

2007 Dad Vail - Eights

Coming to the final of the light eight through heats this year, must have made each boat hungrier for the ultimate win. It certainly made them race that way.

After a clean start, the the fates first turned against Buffalo. As the Bulls, who were in third place at the time, made the turn under Strawberry Mansion, they hit a buoy and fell immediately into fifth place. Right after the bridge Ohio State was up, Long Beach State was second, and Lehigh was now third. By the 1000 meter mark, Buffalo had begun a fierce comeback and was trying to move into fourth. At 750 Long Beach State had taken over the lead, followed by OSU, UMass, Lehigh, Buffalo, and Penn State.

By the start of the island Lehigh had moved into third and the hard charging Bulls followed through UMass and took over fourth. The race was now in its final throes. Ohio State and Long Beach State began trading the lead as each one willed itself to the finish line. By 250 to go, Ohio State had put on an incredible move to pull almost 3/4 of a length ahead of LBS. The Buckeyes walked away in such decisive fashion that you could almost hear the oars chunking the boat forward. Long Beach State fought valiantly but had no answer. OSU won the gold by 4 seconds over LBS, who was followed a little over 6 seconds later by hard charging Buffalo. Lehigh was fourth, followed by UMass and Penn State.

Ohio State's victory was something of a renaissance for this crew. Without a lot of lightweight races, other than facing murderers' row in Indianapolis, it was hard to know how fast the crew really was. Now we know. Long Beach State is one of the top crews on the West Coast and Buffalo had been surging lately. This was an exciting, hard fought race and the Buckeyes can be proud of their gold medals. Now, we can only hope, it's on to IRAs.

Long Beach State made a long trip east and almost came away with the win. This crew has had its share of tough losses this season, but they should pay off next year. LBS represented the West Coast admirably and the Dad Vail was lucky to have them. Short of the Sprints league crews, they beat the best the east has to offer, save one. Hopefully this is the start of a tradition. It would be nice to see LBS at IRAs, but I suspect two cross-country trips may be asking a bit too much.

Buffalo, meanwhile, proved itself to be one of the best crews in the east. They had a tough break hitting the buoy, but showed tremendous heart pulling themselves back through the field. The Bulls obviously would have been closer to the two leaders with a clean run. Buffalo too, has earned themselves a trip to Camden, and I hope we see them there.

The Dad Vail results have certainly mixed up the lower end of the national rankings. Buffalo was ranked far ahead of OSU, who was ranked ahead of unranked Long Beach State. This should break both OSU and LBS into the top ten, or very close to it.

It's always fun to watch happy crews on the awards dock, and Ohio State was no exception. Head Coach Hugh Dodd was on the dock enjoying the first of what he hopes will be many Dad Vail championships. It's nice to win one in your first season with the team! Former coach Peter Steenstra also made the scene, jumping down from the grandstands for quick congratulations just before the boat shoved off.

2007 Dad Vail - Fours

It was a perfect day for racing when five boats, the top three from their semis, pulled to the line to challenge Pittsburgh's domination of the light four. To their right, in lane 1, the Panthers saw Brock, with George Mason in lane 2. To the left of the Panthers was Lawrence, then Duquesne, and in lane 6 was CMU. Pittsburgh must have been confident, but couldn't have been certain.

By Strawberry Mansion, Pitt had the lead, but was followed closely by Brock and Lawrence. At 1000 meters, Pitt had a length on the field. Given most Pitt races, this lead cannot have felt comfortable. Then again, a championship race is rarely comfortable.

Coming out of the 1000 Brock was hanging on to second while George Mason took over third, followed by Lawrence, Duquesne, and CMU. At the start of the island Pitt had widened its lead, Brock clung to second, but Lawrence began to move through George Mason for third.

Racing through the island, Pitt, looking unbeatable in its usual position surveying the field, had front row seats to a donnybrook unfolding behind them. By the end of the island Lawrence had taken over second and George Mason was moving into third. Brock and George Mason were in the midst of a tremendous battle as Pittsburgh crossed the line first, just over 7 seconds ahead of an impressive Lawrence crew. By the time the finish line flag moved a third time, 3 seconds later, George Mason had moved 0.3 seconds ahead of Brock for the bronze.

Although now this victory for Pitt seemed inevitable, no victory is. Rarely has a boat so deserved to win a Dad Vail championship. The Panthers took on all comers through fall and spring, defeating every one, leaving little doubt who is the top light four in the nation today. The story would end here, except for the light four exhibition race expected to take place prior to IRAs. At the moment, we've only been told that Duquesne, Wisconsin, and Georgetown have been invited, but it's hard to believe that Pittsburgh will not be included. It would be nice to see MIT and Princeton round out the field, the only two EAWRC fours that haven't faced the Panthers this spring, which would settle the issue once and for all. In the meantime, however, Pitt should bask in some well deserved glory.

Lawrence, the little school in Appleton Wisconsin, turns out to be the home of one of the top light fours in the nation. With few races this spring, and no doubt completely unknown at school, a silver medal at Dad Vail should bring them a bit of notoriety and, who knows, maybe even a few more operating dollars.

George Mason avenged their loss to Duquesne at MACCC and substantially improved their performance since Knecht. As their coach said after they got their medals, "Medaling at Dad Vail is a BIG deal." With a senior stroke, the crew won't be intact next year, but with this kind of performance this boat should get some attention next season.

Each of the crews coming in to get their medals radiated happiness. A Mason father promised his daughter chocolate chip cookies, while at least one Lawrence rower credited her coxie with nailing every call perfectly. Even Pittsburgh, who might have been forgiven if they had expected it, seemed thrilled about winning the gold. Bow seat, by the way, who is no doubt routinely mistaken for a coxswain, must be one of the most efficient athletes in rowing.

Now we just need to see how the IRA race plays out.

[Update: See comments for a nice post from CMU.]

Friday, May 11, 2007

Quick Dad Vail Update

Light four boats moving on:
Heat 1 - Pitt, George Mason, Purdue
Heat 2 - CMU, Georgia, Toronto
Heat 3 - Lawrence, Duquesne, Northwestern
Heat 4 - Brock, UConn, Iona

The heats seemed to have been pretty fair, and the only mild surprises were Ohio State and Lafayette. OSU must be saving it all for the eight and Lafayette, while not necessarily one of the strongest boats entered, had been improving and no doubt had some hopes of making the final. This is a very fast field, however, so it wasn't going to be easy.

Light eight boats moving on:
Heat 1 - Long Beach State, Ohio State, Buffalo
Heat 2 - Lehigh, UMass, Penn State

Virginia Tech drew the short end of the stick here, as their heat 1 time would have won heat 2. This sort of thing happens every year here, but I'm not sure there is a solution for it. It's tough luck for the Hokies, who probably deserve to be in the final.

A final note here, in the preview I inexplicably noted the wrong margin for LBS vs LMU, which led me to view OSU as the favorite, rather than Long Beach State. LBS did have the fastest qualifying time, but in heats like this those times can mean very little. In this case, I suspect a lot of boats were able to do some cruising, so we'll see quite a bit more speed and intensity tomorrow.

Princeton Four at Sprints

A reader noted something I missed, which is that Princeton has entered a light four in the varsity four B race. The fact that Princeton has enough depth to enter a four is pretty promising. It will be interesting to see how they fare.

2007 Pacific Coast Rowing Championship Preview

A bit overshadowed by the huge East Coast regattas this weekend, the PCRCs take place in Sacramento. In the light eight, LMU takes on Stanford. (The LMU release also says that Cal will be in the race, but they aren't listed on the heat sheet.) Stanford has owned LMU recently, but the Lions are starting to come into their own. I don't think they're quite up to beating the number 3 crew in the nation, but the race will give them a good feel for where they stand heading to IRAs. For Stanford the race will serve to give them some racing action against a worthy opponent. The Cardinal will have to guard against overconfidence because I suspect that LMU will narrow past margins.

There's a five boat field in the four, consisting of Cal, UCSD, Stanford, Humboldt State, and the University of the Pacific. Stanford looks like the fastest of this group, having previously defeated Cal and Humboldt State. UCSD previously raced LBS, finishing 16 seconds back. This looks like Stanford's race to lose.

LMU lightweight Jill Austin is also racing in the open single, a little less than three hours before the eights. Austin sculled quite a bit over the summer and I wouldn't be surprised to see her pull off a win here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

2007 Eastern Sprints Preview

It was at the 2006 Sprints that the "Big 3" lightweight crews first received notice that the lightweight world was changing. Georgetown rode their third place finish to a silver medal at IRAs, breaking the Wisconsin-Radcliffe-Princeton hold on the top three places at both Sprints and IRAs. That trend seems set to continue this year.

Eastern Sprints are usually marked by re-matches, as crews have faced each other several times before. This year, however, the first and second ranked crews in the nation will meet for the first time this season. Through a scheduling quirk, Princeton was at Windermere during the Knecht Cup, and the Badgers only had the pleasure of defeating Georgetown and Radcliffe from the Sprints league (MIT was also racing elsewhere). This clash of Titans doesn't need much in the way of hype, so I'll just note that Wisconsin is given the number one seed by margins vs. common opponents, the coaches' poll, and cMax. Common sense tells you to agree, but races like this are too unpredictable to allow yourself to made a fool of by common sense. Besides, Georgetown, Radcliffe, and MIT might have something to say about the outcome as well. Each of these crews has been steadily improving, and it's an open question whether they can catch the two favorites. Don't forget, heading into this race, Georgetown is in a very similar position to last year, and MIT just might find the speed that allowed it to beat the Hoyas in Boston in the fall. You can hear Radcliffe Coach Cecile Tucker discuss her squad's chances here.

A further sign of the strengthening of the category is the addition this year of a 2V eight event. Princeton, Radcliffe, Georgetown, and Wisconsin will face off in this race. With the exception of Wisconsin, all of these boats have raced each other, with the Tigers rising to the top. With Wisconsin the unknown boat in this race, the outcome becomes less predictable. It's not clear who Wisconsin will use to crew this boat, so its speed is impossible to predict. If strength of program means anything, however, it should be fast.

If any race seems like a foregone conclusion, it's the five boat novice eight event. Radcliffe has shown itself to be head and shoulders above the rest of the field, as it cruised to open water victories in all of its races. Princeton and Georgetown have traded wins, while MIT's ability to boat a competitive novice eight speaks well of its future strength.

At this point I should note that there is a rumor that four Radcliffe novice rowers have been pulled into the varsity eight (or 2V?). I would be surprised if this were true because I think Radcliffe is more likely to let the novices take a well deserved run at the Sprints novice title, and worry about putting together a new varsity combination in the weeks between Sprints and IRAs. Nonetheless, these rumors often have some basis in fact.

The light four is casualty of this year's new 2V event, but I think it has given its life in a worthy cause. I suspect that MIT wouldn't agree with me, since they seem to have had the fastest Sprints league four throughout the season. Nonetheless, without the Title IX inspired, money driven quantity of rowers found elsewhere, few lightweight programs would have the 32 athletes needed to boat three eights and a four.

Also new at Sprints this year, is the Konrad Ulbrich Team Point Trophy for lightweight teams. The Radcliffe Web site notes that this trophy honors "Konrad Ulbrich, a dedicated father who never missed a race during the time that his daughters rowed for Radcliffe." Before anyone gets grumpy wondering why a Radcliffe father gets this honor, I'll remind you that it was Radcliffe who kept women's lightweight rowing alive through some very dark years. It only seems fitting that the trophy should have a Radcliffe connection. If you want another reason, spend a minute reading about this guy. As goofy as you know I think point trophies are, even I'd like to win this one! Read to the end to learn about his family, "none of whom has ever lived up to his expectations (yet!)."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

2007 Dad Vail Preview

This year's Dad Vail has more light eight and light four entries than in the past several years, with eight and twenty-two respectively. Maybe the early notice of no lightweight events at ECAC helped the entries, but it's nice to see the light eight growing this year.

Looking at the field by heats, the first race off the line is comprised of Ohio State, Buffalo, Long Beach State, and Virginia Tech. Long Beach State heads west as probably the third fastest crew on the West Coast, after Stanford and LMU. If we play the margin game, we see that in previous races LBS was 10 [0.1] seconds behind LMU, who was 18 seconds behind Stanford, giving us reason to say that LBS might be 28 [18] seconds from Stanford. Ohio State was 26 seconds back from Stanford. The makings of a good race? Buffalo, meanwhile, has raced within 30 seconds of Georgetown, while OSU has been within 19 seconds. Virginia Tech, coming off of a MACCC victory, hasn't seen common opponents, so may be able to take some crews by surprise. In this heat, likely the faster of the two, the margin game gives the edge to Ohio State [LBS], but it should be a good race. [Re-Update: I completely messed this one up. A reader pointed out that I picked up an incorrect margin for LBS-LMU, and the right one just didn't register even though I had written about the race. Sorry about that.] [Update: See comment for a comparison I missed here.]

In the second heat, Temple, Lehigh, UMass, and Penn State mix it up. With the addition of UMass, this is the Murphy Cup final. With Lehigh enjoying previous victories over both Temple and Penn State, and UMass with a win over MIT and a 12 second loss to Buffalo (this apparently will not be the crew that lost to Temple), these two crews would appear to be the favorites.

Noticeable by their absence are Duquesne and last year's champ, Dayton. Dayton does have a boat entered in the JV eight, and that may be the lightweights. Or, with a young light eight crew this year, the Flyers may have decided to split up the boat to see what speed they could lend to the heavies. In any case, I think they would have been quite competitive in this race. Duquesne would also have been competitive, but with a strong victory in the four at A-10s, appear to have decided to give local rival Pittsburgh a run for their money.

The light four event at Dad Vail, is perhaps the most significant light four race ever at the Vails. With no four at Sprints, and with Pittsburgh's victory at Knecht, we may essentially have the national championship race this weekend. I say may, because, as one reader noted, a light four event is rumored to be set for IRAs. I don't have much in the way of details about this (it's most likely an exhibition), but I should have more after this weekend.

With 22 entries, there will be boats we haven't seen much of before, so as always, there is a chance that a fast stealth boat emerges. The favorite, of course, must be Pitt, although they won't be without challenge. I'm anxious to see if Lawrence, Duquesne, (who meet each other in the heats) and Georgia, can give the Panthers a run. Both Buffalo and Ohio State, with fast eights, are likely to boat fast fours. Lafayette seems to have been gaining speed through the season, last defeating Lehigh, and they'll be tested right away in their heat. UConn showed speed at Knecht, while Carnegie Mellon is back for another swipe at their cross-town rivals.

So, who might challenge Pitt? Georgia has won SERCs, SIRAs, and John Hunter, and would have to be considered light four champs of the South. Duquesne has won A-10 and MACCC, and has to be seen as having the most momentum coming into the weekend. Of the boats competing in both events, UConn was the closest to Pitt at Knecht, although still 17 seconds back. Ultimately, though, I think Lawrence might be the boat to watch. Lawrence has beaten Georgia, although that was back in March and a lot has happened since then, and has recently defeated Ohio State. This boat hasn't done a whole lot of racing that I'm aware of, but when it has, it's been fast.

Just as likely, of course, is a fast unknown. Iona, Toronto, Albany? I know little about them. Purdue has raced a novice four, but that's all I remember. Brock should give some pause; although they didn't have a great HOCR, they are known for fast light fours and a crew that travels from Canada is likely to believe it has a shot.

This Dad Vail should be one of the best in quite a while. With nice fields for both the four and the eight, the category looks strong and the competition is growing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Since We Had So Much Fun With a Video Yesterday...

I thought I'd highlight a few more! At Windermere last month, Jamco interviewed a few of the participating coaches. The only lightweight coach interviewed was UCF's Andy Derrick. You can see his interview here (embedding has been disabled). Coach Derrick states that UCF is committed to building the lightweight program, and notes that this year's light eight crew is young, which holds promise for next year.

Also interviewed was Arizona State heavyweight head coach, Emily Cole. Mostly heavyweight stuff, but Coach Cole does mention the Princeton 2V when she expresses her uncertainty of what the outcome might be of her crew's race with the Tigers. (As you may recall, Princeton won, as ASU finished just ahead of the maneuvering Cal lightweights.)

Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Crew Championships Results

The MACCC results are finally out, and Duquesne and Virginia Tech won their events. In the eight, Virginia Tech defeated Penn State by 7 seconds. This is a nice win for VT as they head into a fairly wide open Dad Vail, where Penn State will get another shot at them.

Duquesne won the light four by 4 seconds over George Mason, who was followed 2 seconds later by CMU. Susquehanna trailed the field. This is a big win for the Dukes, who lost to George Mason at Knecht. Obviously the boat is getting faster, and it too will have some nice momentum heading into Dad Vail. For CMU and GMU, the loss was enough to cause some worry, but not enough to cause panic. Heading into one of the most significant Dad Vail light four events in memory, all boats know they have serious racing ahead, and no one can take anything for granted.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Difference Between Lightweights and Heavyweights

In honor of Sprints and Dad Vails, which for some lightweights are the only regattas at which they compete alongside their much larger sisters, I'd like to present a musical and videographic presentation of just some of the differences between heavyweights and lightweights. Actually, this is a self-portrayal by the Yale heavies, and although no lightweights appear, or are mentioned, I think you'll notice how these women differ from the lean, mean rowing machines we'll see this weekend.

Those of you at Ivy League schools have no doubt seen this video already, since it found it's way to IvyGate. Nonetheless, it's definitely worth showing here. By the way, imagine if lightweights made a video like this. The NCAA (which does/doesn't govern lightweight rowing) would be beating it's collective breast, interventions would be scheduled for the obviously sick filmakers, and the crew would no doubt be disbanded. Psychologists, sociologists, bingeologists, and perhaps some mixologists would descend upon the campus to offer counseling. Dr. Phil would have a police escort to the boathouse.

Food seems to be a fixation for heavyweight women as we often see that it plays a central role in their lives. To quote one of my all time favorite heavyweights, "I love that we’re big women and proud of it and proud that we’re strong and we love to eat." Despite this food issue, I still hope the NCAA keeps the heavyweight championship, because I'm sure with conscientious coaches and dedicated health and training staff, good heavyweight programs can ensure that their rowers aren't doomed to a life of beer and Twinkies after college athletics end. Remember lightweights, as you hear your heavyweight sisters clip-clopping around the boathouse, be considerate of their moods and feelings, because they're near the precipice, and one wrong word could push them over the edge.

Anyway, back to the video. There is only one thing to say about this thing - scary. Very, very, very SCARY. I always thought Yale was an obvious place for lightweights to take hold. Perhaps I'm wrong. (Warning: Naughty words ahead.)

How long do you think it took them to grow those mustaches?

LMU IS Headed to IRAs

After I passed along some bum scoop I thought I picked up from the LMU web site, a member of the Lions light eight wrote (and a reader commented) to tell me that they are going to IRAs. It's no small commitment to travel across the country for a race, and athletic departments, rowers, coaches, and parents only put out the money for deserving crews. LMU deserves to go. This won't be an easy final to make, but with a strong, fearless row I think LMU has a good shot at it. Although the Lions lost to UCF by 10 seconds at Windermere, the Golden Knights have had the misfortune of going without a race since then, while LMU will have WIRAs and the upcoming PCRCs under their belt. (Let's stop a moment for some empathy for UCF - imagine training all this time without a race!)

While WIRAs, PCRCs, and Windermere are big time regattas, they aren't necessarily big time lightweight regattas. As the only women at IRAs, you know you are there to compete for a championship. I'm happy to see Loyola Marymount compete in New Jersey, although I suspect there will be a few crews there who won't be.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

ECAC and MACRA Results

At the ECAC Metro Buffalo showed why it's ranked 8th as the Bulls defeated UMass by 12 seconds. This is a good result for Buffalo and also suggests that they probably got slighted in the readers' poll. Buffalo flies a bit under the radar because they don't always put out lightweight boats. They often do, however, and those boats are often fast. Buffalo plans to race at Dad Vail and I hope to see the light eight race intact. If they do, they have to be considered one of the favorites. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that a reader has commented that this Buffalo boat has three novice walk-ons in it. If Buffalo goes to IRAs they may be headed for the grand final, a result that should make the program consider putting even more focus on the lights.

At MACRAs, OSU defeated Eastern Michigan by just over a second in the eight. I'm not positive that either of these boats were lightweights, since the race is now just listed as "2V."

In the fours, we have an ominous result. Ominous if you're headed to Dad Vail and your starting point isn't Appleton, WI. Lawrence won the light four event by 19 seconds over Ohio State. Mercyhurst followed OSU by 8 seconds, and then came Chicago and Northwestern. Places 2 through 5 were separated by 28 seconds, not a huge amount, so this wasn't simply a case of a group of boats of wildly differing quality; Lawrence just took charge of this race and put it to bed. Could this Lawrence boat be the stealth boat laying in wait for Pittsburgh? I pray they're headed to Dad Vail and, if they are, I'll talk about them again in the Dad Vail preview. [Update: They are going. See comments for more.]

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Radcliffe Frosh Get Their Due; UCF, Not So Much

The Harvard Crimson published an article on the Radcliffe freshman light eight. It's a nice story with a couple of interesting points - the boat is comprised of all [six] recruits [a reader notes the article got this wrong], keeping the boat together is part of the Radcliffe way, and only one rower from the varsity eight graduates this year.

I think it's pretty significant that Radcliffe was able to bring in eight recruits this year. It obviously bodes well for the future of the program. When these freshmen mix in with the varsity next year, most of whom return, a pretty fast boat should result.

UCF, meanwhile, published a presser on the women's rowing team. In this case, however, it's really the heavyweight women's rowing team. It's a nice story about the recognition they're getting this year, but never mentions the lightweights. Not a problem if it wasn't for the fact that the heavies are treated as the whole team.

This story leads to the dark underside of the NCAA's involvement with rowing - the distorted boat priorities. Several of last year's fast lightweights have been brought into the heavyweight group. I haven't followed the heavies, but I believe one or two lights have been in the 1V. One might think that the others, who are spending time in the 2V or lower, would get released back to the lights to make a run at a national championship at IRAs. Thanks to the NCAA championship format, however, the program is forced to prioritize the heavy 2V above the light 1V, keeping the lightweight rowers out of the lightweight boat. Maybe you're thinking that it won't be a problem for IRAs since the heavies' season will be over by then? Sorry, if UCF heavies go to NCAAs, as it looks like they will, by NCAA rules those rowers who attend will not be allowed to race in another championship. It's sad to see a boat that had a real chance at challenging for a medal at IRAs torn apart simply to fill out a 2V so UCF can bring an entire team to NCAAs.

Just another example of how the NCAA works for the good of all female college athletes.

Readers' Polls - Results

The readers' poll results are in, and the rankings are in the right sidebar and below, with point totals. The results pretty much track conventional wisdom, with one or two exceptions.


1. Wisconsin 1,242
2. Princeton 1,149
3. Stanford 967
4. Georgetown 912
5. Radcliffe 874
6. UCF 519
7. Bucknell 511
8. MIT 393
9. California 146
9. Ohio State 146


1. Pittsburgh 221
2. Georgetown 154
3. Princeton 147
4. Wisconsin 111
5. MIT 83

In the eights, Wisconsin is seen as the top boat by a fairly wide margin over Princeton, although the Tigers are solidly in second place. Stanford, Radcliffe, and Georgetown make up the core of the top tier. UCF and Bucknell make up the next group, followed by MIT and then everyone else. This voting is a pretty good reflection of the current state of the lightweight world. Last year at this time, however, that top tier would probably have only been four boats, since Stanford was off. This year we could still have a Bucknell or UCF (or who knows?) close the gap substantially, much as they did in 2006.

One glaring omission from this top ten is LMU. I don't see how LMU can be left off when Cal and OSU are on, tied for 9th. LMU beat Cal by 19 seconds just last weekend. I think it's pretty clear that the Lions should be ranked somewhere around 8, 9, or 10. One could also make an argument for UMass to be higher since they beat MIT, but the idea was to vote for standings at the end of the season so it may be that voters think MIT will recover some speed. In LMU and Cal's case, however, they'll race at PCRC and then they're done. I guess it's possible that Cal could go faster, but I think LMU is pretty locked on.

Among the fours, Pitt is the clear leader, as you would expect. Wisconsin and MIT are a bit puzzling, however, since Wisconsin's only real race was at Knecht, where they failed to qualify for the final, losing to CMU as well as Pitt in the heat, while MIT has beaten Princeton. Again, however, the vote is for standings at year-end, so it's possible voters expect Wisco and Princeton to show up with strong fours at Sprints.

In the end, I think the gravest injustice was done to the LMU eight. No doubt most voters are from the east, which results in a bit of an East Coast bias. With the Easties rarely seeing a West Coast boat like LMU, I suppose it's somewhat predictable that the Lions might be missed in the voting.

Some poll statistics: 145 people voted in the V8 poll and 70 voted in the V4 poll. In each poll there were three votes that voted for one boat more than once, and those votes were removed. A few of the votes were clearly gags, or cast by incredibly misinformed people, but most votes seemed to be thoughtfully cast.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Upcoming Races

It's easy to write off this weekend before Sprints and Dad Vails as down time, but a look at the schedule says otherwise.

Let's start with the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Crew Championships. The Virginia Tech light eight, which has been looking for a fight for the past couple of weeks, finally gets one in the form of the Penn State lights. I can't remember Virginia Tech racing a light eight yet this year so I'll be anxious to see how they do against the Nittany Lions, a crew that took second at the Murphy Cup.

The light four has a four boat field with entries from Carnegie Mellon, Susquehanna, Duquesne, and Virginia Commonwealth. Duquesne and CMU were headed for a showdown (Duquesne beat CMU by 0.2 seconds at Knecht) at the WV Governor's Cup, but weather forced a cancellation. They'll get another chance here with the Dukes coming off that record setting performance at A-10s. George Mason sponsors this event so I'm surprised that their four isn't entered. [A reader notes that George Mason has entered their light four, which was just over a second ahead of CMU and Duquesne at Knecht. This will be a great race!]

In Michigan, MACRAs will run light eight and light four events. In the eight, Ohio State takes on Eastern Michigan (this event is listed as JV/Light, so EMU may be a heavy boat), while there's a full six boat light four event. The fours entered are Cleveland State, Lawrence, Mercyhurst, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Chicago. OSU should be strong while Lawrence defeated Northwestern earlier in the year at the Clemson Sprints. This is a race for Dad Vail fours to watch since I suspect Lawrence may be a sleeper entry while Northwestern won the regatta two years ago.

The ECAC Metro regatta only has a two boat light eight race, but it should be a doozy. UMass, presumably in its non-novice incarnation, takes on Buffalo. Buffalo is on the verge of breaking into the top five while UMass was able to upend MIT. This is an important race for both of these crews as they (hopefully) head into Dad Vails. If UMass has its top boat on the water, I see this as the best race of the weekend, with the CMU vs Duquesne four showdown coming in a close second.

Coaches' Poll and cMax

I'm late on the latest rankings too, although the coaches' poll didn't show much movement. cMax is a different story however, as UCF jumped a spot to #4 and LMU jumped one to #7. My guess is that LMU brought this on with their WIRA victory. UCF moved without racing, but they beat LMU earlier in the season so no doubt benefited from the Lions' excellent WIRA performance.

It sure is interesting to see a ranking in which the Easties "don't get no respect." Unfortunately this is another argument (like the fours) that we won't see settled this year.

Another interesting observation comes from the cMax rankings. Through the top five positions, the lightweight category is the second most competitive women's category (after the heavyweight women). By tenth place, however, it's fourth out of five. This illustrates both how far you've come and how far you have to go. In all cases, however, the lights have more crews and are more competitive than a NCAA championship category - DII. So let's see, they get the most desirable thing on God's earth, a NCAA championship, while lightweights don't?


Lightweight Pocock All-America Award

Nominations for the first Lightweight Pocock All-America Awards are due by noon on May 15th. I noted earlier in the year that the CRCA Lightweight committee was able to get this honor instituted on a trial basis, with the first awards coming this year. Perhaps this seems like a small thing, but I think it's a much overdue step forward for the category.

A friendly reminder never hurts, and it would sure be a shame to miss the deadline in the first year.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Remember to Vote - FITD Reader Polls

Please remember to vote in the varsity eight and varsity four polls in the sidebar. Read the "honor code" here. A few readers wrote in with some crews that I should've included in the list, in particular some from the Pacific Northwest. Since I was without a computer for a while, I was unable to make any immediate changes and with the poll running for several days now, we'll keep the choices we have.

As for the Pacific Northwest, I agree I should've included some of those crews. I didn't really get them in there initially because it seems they tended to just race amongst themselves so far this season, leaving us without a good way to compare against the rest of the world. With PCRCs coming up, maybe that will change. I'll get them in next time.

Some readers have also noted the difficulty in ranking fours because they don't all race each other. This is very true and I noted that, but just try your best. At the end of the season we'll do it again and we'll probably end up with the best (only) final fours ranking available.

Thanks for taking the time to vote. We have quite a few votes in already, so please don't vote twice (the honor code and all that).

LMU Wins the Eight and the Four at WIRAs

Well, a lot's been happening! I'm late on this, of course, but we need to give LMU their due. The Lions won both the light eight and light four at WIRAs last weekend. The light eight was decided by a whisker, otherwise known as 0.1 seconds! Here's how LMU saw it:

In the eight, LMU and Cal State Long Beach took an early lead over the field of six, which included Cal Lightweights, Arizona State, UC San Diego, and Chapman University. Long Beach held a four seat lead over the LMU lightweights until about 1600 meters in when LMU began to make a move. Coming into the last 30 strokes, LMU had managed to bring the deficit down to 2 seats, and just before the finish line, edged their bow-ball in front to a win, with a .1 second margin over Long Beach. In third place was UC San Diego, 12 seconds back.
Cal, Chapman, and ASU were fourth, fifth, and sixth.

The four was a bit more comfortable as LMU took an early lead and won by 8 seconds over Long Beach State, who was followed by UCSD, USD, PLU, and Mills.

This is truly lightweight racing at its best. A race like that in the eight is so exhilarating for the winners and so devastating for the losers, that it approaches the perfect athletic experience. It certainly doesn't feel like that to Long Beach State, but to fully know victory, you must taste bitter defeat. The fact is that Long Beach State turned in an incredible performance, of which they should be proud. Back in March, LBS was 3.5 seconds back from LMU. Since then, we've watched the Lions race, and we know that they've raced high level competition and have only become faster. For Long Beach to sneak up on a high quality crew like that is quite an achievement.

As for the Lions, rowing from behind for 3/4 of the race, yet keeping enough confidence to push through a move in the last 400 meters, finally pulling out the victory by a bowball in the last 30 strokes - that's guts. While Stanford, a strong dedicated varsity lightweight program, has been bringing West Coast class to the lightweight league for several years, Loyola Marymount is beginning to epitomize the new face of western lightweight rowing. With Stanford as a target, programs like LMU are consistently rowing fast lightweight boats and creating a true competitive league west of the Rockies. The Pacific Northwest is a bit behind in development, but will ultimately come on faster. While some of the hoary old eastern crews abandon lightweights to focus on the NCAA's one-way pot of gold, open minded western programs are beginning to realize that their minds, and their programs, are their own, to do with as they please. Imagine, you can have fast heavyweights AND fast lightweights! Who would've thunk it (well, other than Princeton, Wisconsin, Radcliffe, ...)?

Stepping off my soap box, let's get back to LMU. The Lions will finish their season with another shot at Stanford at the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships on the 12th. I so wish they could go to IRAs, but I understand the cost can be prohibitive. They deserve to be there though (as do some other western crews). There'll be no excuse when the regatta moves west.

More good news for LMU is the fact that lightweight rower Jill Austin has been named to the All WIRA second team. Austin spent some time in heavyweight boats too, but it's great to see a lightweight get some recognition.

Another nugget of news is the fact that LMU will not lose one rower to graduation next year, and has four recruited rowers joining the squad. This is a lightweight program with focus and, if they can just avoid raids by the heavyweights, will begin to see real speed increases. Drawing LMU at Windermere is no longer a rowover.

(Thanks to Coach Conway for the pictures.)

More Individual Honors

The A10 announced its Academic All Conference team, and two lightweights made the list. Jeanna Heink from Dayton and Abbey Lively from UMass both earned the honor. Heink, who rows in Dayton's light eight has a 4.0 in engineering, and Lively, who races in the light four, has a 3.94 in kinesiology (yes, I did cut and paste that so I could spell it correctly). Those GPAs and varsity athletes? C'mon, that's just not right. What about spreading some of that around to the rest of us?

These kinds of awards are very impressive, but are just anecdotal evidence of the fact that rowers are the smartest athletes. A reader challenged me on that assertion a while ago, and I owe her or him some facts on it. I suspect it will be too busy to get to until the season is over so maybe in the summer. In the meantime, trust me on this - athletic directors love crew programs because they increase the department's average GPA. We are the smartest!

WV Governor's Cup Canceled

A reader comments:

Races were cancelled before the Light 4+ at the WV Governor's cup. Not before the heavy 4+ though and I swear that the water was the worst I have ever rowed in. A 4 flipped and at least 2 4's and an 8 sank before races were called.