Thursday, May 17, 2007

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.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

MIT's lineup can be found at
http://mitathletics.cstv.com/sports/w-crewlt/recaps/041107aaa.html

Anonymous said...

poor princeton... it is so hard to be a tiger

Anonymous said...

now that pitt can't seem to go, is there a chance that princeton will get the invite??

Anonymous said...

I think as far as speed goes Princeton would be the logical choice; however, based on what the spirit of the event seems to be, George Mason would be the next best choice. The do not regularly row at IRA and they were 3rd at Dad Vail and 2nd at A10. Two of the "qualifying" races.

Anonymous said...

I would agree that the two most logical choices for 6th boat to fill Pitt's spot in the race would be George Mason and Princeton. And given how the other boats have been chosen it is really a toss up, since the committee hasn't really set a precedent.

Anonymous said...

Or Stanford, considering they already beat the Gtown four this year.

Anonymous said...

Gtown four beat Stanford and Wisconsin 2 weeks ago in Indy

Anonymous said...

The field is offically set: Wisconsin, Radcliffe, Georgetown, Princeton, Lawrence and Duquense.

Anonymous said...

where did you hear/see that?

Anonymous said...

Big Congrats to Women's Lightweight Rowing- though it may be exhibition, we have beat the Lightweight Men to having our very own 4+.

JW Burk said...

I've also heard (rumor at this point) that the field consists of those boats listed above. It's a bit disappointing that there aren't more non-Sprints boats, in particular Pitt, but it doesn't seem to have been for lack of invitations. Here's the interesting part - Lawrence may be the favorite!

Anonymous said...

I'm the coach from the Lawrence boat and the boats above are what we've been told are racing.

Anonymous said...

good luck to all crews involved. close racing for 2000 meters would be a very good thing for ltwt rowing, regardless of where the crews come from.

Anonymous said...

Seeing the results of Dad Vail, and knowing how powerful schools like Princeton and Georgetown are, how would you rank the fours going into IRA?

Anonymous said...

Would the winner of this race be considered a "National Champion" even without Pitt being there??

Anonymous said...

it is an exhibition race, not a national championship race. the only national championship races at the ira are womens light 8, mens varsity 8, and mens frosh8 (I think). the rest are good races, but the winner of say the mens JV or open 4 is not a national champion. the winner of hte light 4 will be a fast light 4, but can't claim to be the nations fastest.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the men's light 8 a national champion race too?

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