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!)."


Anonymous said...

Looks like Princeton lights have a 4 entered into the openweight B 4 category...

Anonymous said...

How often do forgone conclusions become forlorn conclusions?

Upset of the event is likely to be the Unnamed novice eight winning the event on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

looks like wisco is rowing a bucket.

JW Burk said...

The Wisco novice eight entered late, after the rest of the Wisconsin boats entered.