Wednesday, May 02, 2007

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.)

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