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.


Anonymous said...

The Sprints' lightweight V8 was extremely exciting and intense. While I enjoyed your recap, I take exception to your comment about the "nonchalance" of the Wisconsin rowers. I was standing directly in front of the dock. What I saw was concern for their rower who was down on her knees as coaches, trainers and others hovered to help. There was a flurry of mixed emotions as they wanted to celebrate but waited to be sure she was OK. Believe me, this team was anything but nonchalant. They were excited, proud and delighted. They worked very hard for the win; it is unfair to describe them as you did.

JW Burk said...

Really? I didn't see that at all! There were some heads in front of me so I guess I just missed it.

In any case, I wasn't trying to suggest that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears hadn't gone into the victory, just giving a spectator's view. Perhaps a "professional" or "business-like" attitude would've been more accurate?

Anonymous said...

Wisco also won the first ever points trophy. Congratualtions to them, this is a good representation of the strength of their program!

Anonymous said...

It looked to me like Princeton had a full boat length at the half way point and that Wisco didn't pull even until about 300m to go.