Monday, May 30, 2011

Championship Weekend: NCAAs and ACRAs for 2011

UVa Wins Men's Varsity Eight at the 2011 ACRA Championship Regatta

The Virginia men came roaring back from Dad Vails, where they fell to fourth in a tight field racing out of lane five, to begin their run against the Michigan Wolverines with a win in the semifinal. Having set the stage, the UVa men closed the deal yesterday in dramatic fashion taking the men's varsity eight title, and handing the Wolverines their first ever loss in that event at ACRAs. The thing is, we're not surprised.

In February, we published this article, discussing the great work that RR Interviewee Frank Biller had been doing with the UVa team – the Mid-Atlantic Erg Sprints displayed the physiological results to prove it. Matt Miller and others were getting the work done that it would take to win this Spring, and yesterday, Miller and the UVa men, with John Furlong back at stroke, capitalized on that work.

The Michigan Wolverines also had an outstanding regatta, taking the silver in the varsity eight, gold in the second varsity eight (with UVa taking silver), gold in the varsity lightweight four, men's pair and men's novice lightweight four, as well as bronze in the men's novice eight (behind a strong Purdue crew and second place UVa). Hats off to Gregg Hartsuff and Michigan for yet another strong year.

Again, we picked 5 of 6 varsity eights in the grand finals, with the exception being a strong performance from UC Irvine to take fourth place. While we based our pick for first place on Dad Vails (Michigan rather than UVa), we'd selected UVa to win Dad Vails – evidently they'd rather be underdogs. Also, Notre Dame, led by captain and RR Interviewee Greg Flood, performed very well, with the Irish varsity and second varsity eights taking the bronze medal in their respective events.

Princeton Tigers Win Women's Varsity Eight at NCAAs

As we predicted in our RR Top 20 article in March, the Princeton Tigers took home the gold medal in the varsity eight at the 2011 NCAA Rowing Championships yesterday, in an extremely close race with Cal, Stanford, and Brown all in the mix all the way across the line. Princeton took an early lead, but faced a strong challenge from Cal as they crossed the 1000m – this is where Princeton answered the question that we'd asked last week on RR: as the Tigers had lead every race all season without being pushed, how would they react when the field was upon them? Well, they answered, and took the event. Check out full coverage of the event on rowingnews.com, which features pictures and video interviews with Lauri Dauphiny of Princeton, Yaz Farooq of Stanford, and John Murphy of Brown, as well as athletes from Stanford (Susan Bryukhanov and Michelle Vezie), and Cal (Kara Kohler and Elise Etem).

Here, too, we picked 5 of 6 grand finalists. We also picked the winner and correctly took Stanford over Cal, but did not anticipate (nor did many) the excellent performance of Brown – the Bears were absolute racers all weekend, and took home their seventh NCAA team title.

Congrats to all crews, and stay tuned for our upcoming interview with UVa's Matt Miller on his season, winning UVa's first National Title, and preparing for Henley Royal Regatta this summer.

-RR

Friday, May 27, 2011

NCAA Semis and Finals Coverage via Rowing News

Check out the Rowing News Twitter feed (@RowingNews) this weekend for live updates and coverage of the NCAA Championships, as Bryan teams up with RowingNews.com to bring you coverage from the event. Also, check out the RR Facebook page for updates from Munich and other articles covering the World Cup, which began earlier today with time trials and heats in several events. The team to watch is Great Britain, with a total of 23 entries (all of which are still in contention following today's racing) – gearing up in earnest for this summer's World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia (August 28 through September 4, 2011). The GB squad will look to make a statement about London, 2012 this summer in the final cycle before the Olympic year begins.

In light of the success of the GB squad at the previous World Championship Regatta in Karapiro, as well as their solid outlook for the rowing season in 2011, we caught up with Olympic Champion Mark Hunter of the GB Lightweight men's double sculls – interview upcoming here on RowingRelated.

Also on tap – ACRAs in Gainesville, GA, featuring the top teams in US men's collegiate club rowing. The race for the top spot in the men's varsity eight will be a close one, with favorites Michigan – a determined, young group with a great deal of talent, led by Gregg Hartsuff – taking on a very strong squad from UVa under head coach Frank Biller. In the 2V, UVa will enter as the favorite, having just bested Michigan at Aberdeen Dad Vails in Philadelphia. Virginia has been making steady improvements all season, and we expect a solid performance from them in their final race prior to Henley Royal Regatta, which they will attend later this summer. Following ACRAs, look for an RR interview with UVa's Matt Miller, who won the Mid-Atlantic Erg Sprints with a 5:54 performance in January of this year.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Championship Weekend: NCAAs and ACRAs 2011, RR Picks and Predictions

The championship regattas keep on rolling, and this weekend we celebrate the top teams in women's NCAA rowing, as well as men's and women's collegiate club rowing. In keeping with tradition here on RR, we've got some ideas about what is going to transpire, and some insight to back them up – let's get started.

The men's ACRA field will be deeper than ever in the brief history of the event, with very strong teams from Michigan (ECAC and Aberdeen Dad Vail Champions) and Virginia (bronze medalists at SIRAs, fourth place at Dad Vails roughly four seconds behind Michigan), as well as Bucknell, GVSU, and Notre Dame. Washington State also showed that they have gained speed, defeating the Bruins at Pac-10s just over a week ago (after losing to UCLA at WIRAs). While there are a number of teams that could break into the Grand Final in the varsity eight, at this point, in our opinion, Michigan and UVa are locks for medals at the event. With no Delaware at ACRAs, the bronze medal will be up for grabs, with several teams vying for it. Here's our predicted Grand Final, in order of finish:

Michigan
Virginia
Bucknell
GVSU
Notre Dame
Washington State

Virginia has been our pick for gold all year, but Michigan impressed everyone in Philly, and UVa, while not far off, will enter the ACRA Championship regatta as the underdog (though we still expect them to contend with the Wolverines for the top spot). Bucknell, Grand Valley State, and Notre Dame will battle for the bronze. Bucknell has shown that their program is growing with a successful season in the varsity and frosh eights, so we are taking them to finish third. The Irish had a solid start to their season, and have had plenty of time to focus on this race alone, but will face a tough challenge in GVSU. Washington State, coached by RR interviewee Arthur Ericsson, has made a habit of finishing well over the past two seasons, and we expect them to make the Grand Final in Gainesville, GA this weekend.

The NCAA Championship Regatta also takes place this weekend, and will feature some truly world-class talent from a number of very competitive and deep women's programs. From the East, Princeton has been unmatched thus far, with solid wins over last year's No. 1 UVa, and at EAWRC Sprints. Out West, it has been a showdown between Cal, Stanford and USC in the varsity eight all season, with Cal taking top honors at the Pac-10 Championships (arguably the most talented conference in all of women's collegiate rowing). Stanford was right on their heels, as Cal took the gold medal by roughly a canvas (see the RR coverage of the event). In light of all this, here are our picks for the D1 women's varsity eight Grand Final in Sacramento this weekend:

Princeton
Stanford
California
USC
Brown
Virginia

The Tigers (our top pick from the beginning of the season) will enter the racing as favorites, but they have not had to battle the way that Cal has, and their competition so far this season has not posed as much of a challenge as have Stanford and USC for Cal (though Brown pushed them well at Sprints). However, they too are stacked, have a deep program, and will be very hungry – much of the focus this year has been on the West Coast, and Princeton will look to change all that.

Stanford has the building blocks to win the event, and there will be some desperation to do so on their part, as they will likely lose five of their varsity eight following this season (with four set to graduate and another who will likely take the year off next season to train for London). Also, the Cardinal lost by just five feet to Cal at Pac-10s, with GB U23 World Champion Michelle Vezie out of the lineup (she was stroking the 2V, which won by a considerable margin). Assuming Vezie is back in the varsity eight, the Cardinal could easily make a case for a No. 1 seed.

The Golden Bears have, once again, made the most of their talent, racing like seasoned veterans despite the overall youth of their squad, and winning at Pac-10s while battling near gale-force winds as well as a Stanford crew stroked by an Olympic champion. The bottom line is, they're strong, tough, and have a ton of upside.
 
The 'Women of Troy' are loaded with international talent, and USC head coach Zenon Babraj has been gunning for NCAAs all season (they were off the pace at Pac-10s, likely because they were training through with a focus on the national title).

The truth is, between those four teams (Cal, USC, Stanford, Princeton), anyone could win, and the team points trophy will likely come down to the varsity eight, with Virginia in the mix as well for the team championship.

So far our picks have been fairly accurate, as we picked 5 of 6 Grand Final teams at Dad Vails, 5 of 6 at EARC Sprints (while correctly picking Harvard to win, and Princeton to finish ahead of Wisconsin), 5 of 6 at EAWRC Sprints (picking the winner), and medalists at Pac-10s on the men's and women's sides. Bring on the weekend!

-RR

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

RR Review: Andy Baxter's 'Racing Yesterday'

There is no denying that Andy Baxter is passionate about rowing. A professional trainer, with a lengthy background in athletics and an ever-increasing desire to excel, Baxter's narrative is very much that of the happy warrior. In Racing Yesterday, Baxter not only communicates his love for the sport and competitive spirit, but also his grasp of what is ultimately the most important thing in both training and life – it is the journey that defines the experience, not the destination.

While the decision to train seriously for the Olympics at age 41 (or 49, in Stephen Kiesling's case) is certainly outlandish, both Baxter and Kiesling enter into their adventure with thoughtfulness and determination. From the outset, Baxter communicates frequently with well-known exercise physiologist and USRowing affiliated Dr. Fritz Hagerman of Ohio University, who has been involved in rowing since the 1960s, and who has worked with collegiate and national team athletes across several different sports. The challenge that Baxter and Kiesling undertake in Racing Yesterday is one of particular interest for Hagerman, who worked with Kiesling when Steve was training for the 1980 Olympics. This dialogue with Hagerman is not only beneficial to the two rowers, but also to the reader, and well worth noticing as the narrative progresses and their training cycle builds toward the main event. While some aspects of their training do not seem logical (they attempt to prepare for two different kinds of racing – 1,000 meter masters events and the 2,000 meter Olympic distance), their dedication to what is unquestionably an intense training regimen is unwavering, despite a host of challenges and against all odds.

The other aspect of the book that is not often mentioned, but which should not go unnoticed, is Baxter's pride in and care for his family. The son of experienced climbers in Al and Gail Baxter, Andy comes from hardy stock, and is no slouch himself. In the course of the narrative, Andy shares a number of anecdotes about his upbringing, and the values that he learned from his parents, who, without a doubt, instilled in him the work ethic that it takes not only to dream big, but also to reach for those dreams with every ounce of strength available.

For more on Andy Baxter's journey to the 2008 Olympic Trials, and to pick up a copy for yourself, visit www.racingyesterday.com.

Bryan Kitch for RR

Monday, May 23, 2011

VOTW: Husky Men Race 2011 Windermere Cup Final



This week's video comes to us from Seattle, and features the Washington varsity eight taking on Stanford and CUBC at the 2011 Windermere Cup on the Montlake Cut. The video contains clips from the officials' launch, and allows the viewer to hear the coxswains' calls, as well as to get a sense for how it feels as you race down the UW home course. This year's Huskies squad is very deep, even by their own standards (we're talking about a program that nearly swept IRAs in 2009), and will be extra hungry this June as Cal pulled off an incredible upset in the varsity eight last season. The Bears can't be counted out, however, as they closed the gap in the varsity right from the Cal v. Washington dual to the Pac-10 Championships. Also, Harvard has been extremely strong in the East, dominating the Eastern Sprints. The IRA final will be one to watch – now just two weeks away!

Note for FeedBurner subscribers: Click the title of the article to view the video on our website.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Longhorns Get the Hook in NCAA 2011 Selection

The NCAA model is upon us, and while there are many things to discuss on that front, those items are for another article. The crux of today's discussion has to do with selection. Tuesday, the NCAA rowing selection committee decided that CRCA No. 16 ranked Texas was not worthy of a bid to attend the national championships this year, despite having defeated two of the teams that were selected (Wisconsin, Clemson), and having won two straight conference titles (Big 12, Conference USA) over the past three weeks, with their only loss of the year coming to Michigan State (invited). The fact is, Texas should have been a shoo-in to make NCAAs this year.

The Washington women were invited, as they have been for the last 15 years. But did anyone look at the schedule? While UW is certainly a talented team, the ranking system seems to take into account non-NCAA events. Below are the NCAA guidelines for selection:
In accordance with Bylaw 31.3, the following criteria will be used in selecting teams and individual boats:

• Eligibility and availability of student-athletes.
• End of Season championship results.
• Regional ranking.
• Late-season performance (defined as competition taking place within the three weekends prior to the selection date for the NCAA Championships).
• Head-to-head results.
• Results versus team [sic] already selected.
• Results versus common opponents.
• Results versus regionally ranked teams in own region.
• Results versus regionally ranked teams out of region. 
The selection committee can make use of any of the above in determining the list of invitees. This season, Texas covered all the bullet points. Outside of not losing a single race, the Longhorns did everything they could to earn a bid this year. UW, on the other hand, did very little in the way of covering the above points. The only ranked non-conference team that Washington raced all season was Wisconsin, to whom the Huskies lost in the Varsity 8 at San Diego Crew Classic. Washington won the 2V event in San Diego, but neglected to race their V4, instead opting to bring a Frosh 8. The UW Frosh won – good on them – but the Frosh 8 is not an NCAA event. The Huskies never traveled again until Pac-10s, where their Varsity 8 lost to Washington State, placing fifth in the final, and their 2V lost to Cal, Stanford and USC en route to a fourth place finish. So how are they ranked at No. 9 overall?

Looking at their season, two things become clear – first, the Huskies were banking on doing well at Pac-10s (which they did not), and second, that their ranking seems to have more to do with tradition than actual speed this season. Dartmouth did the same thing this year – limited schedule, with much of their prospects riding on EAWRC Sprints. The difference is, Dartmouth performed very well at Sprints, and allowed the strength-of-schedule of their opponents to stand for their own. 

During the selection show on Tuesday, the selection committee cited the UW win at Windermere Regatta as a reason for inviting the Huskies to NCAAs. This year the UW women invited Oklahoma (not ranked) and a composite crew (both 'varsity' and '2V' athletes – terms not used in the UK, but that's the idea) from Cambridge University to Windermere this year. Taking nothing away from those programs, is that really a win that should be included in NCAA selection?

Despite all this, the Huskies are likely one of the top 16 teams, and I'm not going to argue that they shouldn't be in Sacramento this year. UW has, and has always had, a great program, on both the men's and women's sides, and Bob Ernst is, without a doubt, a great coach. The point is, a tradition of success alone shouldn't guarantee them a top 10 ranking and an NCAA bid. Texas did everything right, and the selection committee would have done well to reward the Longhorns for making every effort to play by the rules in hopes of gaining an invite this season.

The 2011 NCAA Rowing Championships will feature some outstanding teams, and great match-ups this year, and we are looking forward to seeing the racing and results in just under two weeks' time.

Upcoming articles: NCAA and Rowing – Format and Function? and Championship Regattas: How Many is Too Many? as well as IRA v. Dad Vail Model – Exclusion v. Inclusion

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Evening Edition VOTW: EARC Sprints Heavyweight Varsity Eight Grand Final



Just uploaded today, this week's VOTW comes to us from Worcester, and features all the heavy hitters in the varsity eight from the East. Again, the Tigers have provided excellent video coverage, as they did live via their website over the weekend. The video is shot from the launch, and follows the crews all the way down the course, with Harvard in the near lane, Princeton to their left, and Wisconsin in lane 3. Great racing across the board, and, as we predicted last week, Princeton managed to pip Wisco at the line for the silver medal, as Wisco likely trained through this regatta with their eyes on the IRA, now just over two weeks away. Brown also had a great race, crossing the line just over a second behind Wisconsin. Syracuse and BU were just slightly off the pace, finishing roughly 7 and 8 seconds behind Harvard, respectively. With such strong crews from Harvard, Princeton, Wisconsin, Cal, Washington, and Brown, this year's IRA regatta will be well worth watching. Picks and predictions upcoming as the regatta date approaches.

Note for FeedBurner subscribers: Click the title of the article to view the video on our website.

Thanks again to Princeton for providing such great coverage of the regatta!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pac-10 Championships, 2011: Thunder, Lightning Make for 'Epic' Racing on Lake Natoma

Husky Men, Cal Women Shine through on Rainy Day in Sacramento (Photo: B. Kitch)
The Pac-10 Championships on Lake Natoma typically feature 75-80 degree weather, with shorts and flip-flops everywhere, as the Central Valley edges toward Summer. This year – not so much. The weather was changeable and violent, with the height of the drama coming in the women's Grand Final, both on and off the water.

On the men's side, the regatta has become a dual of sorts between Cal and Washington. The Huskies looked dominant in the 2V and V4, with huge, open water victories on the field (Cal taking second place in each case). The Cal Frosh 8 continued their undefeated season, expanding the margin over the Huskies in the first final of the morning, and setting the stage for what was a very closely contested Varsity 8 Grand Final at 11:00am. Two weeks ago, the 'Dawgs' defeated the Bears on the Cut by nearly four seconds. On Sunday, Cal battled the Huskies all the way down the course, taking an early lead, though Washington edged out to a five to six seat advantage by the 1,000 meter mark – a margin that they were able to maintain through the second half of the race, crossing the line in 5:38.20 to Cal's 5:39.90 (see the first half of the video below). IRAs are starting to look very interesting.



On the women's side, there was a great deal of very close racing, with California rising to the occasion and capping off the day in impressive fashion. The Cal Frosh were not going to be outdone by their counterparts on the men's squad, and took the race by open water over the field. A very strong showing from Oregon State saw their Frosh 8 take second in the event, pushing Washington into third place. In the 2V event, the Cardinal entry was dominant, as Stanford shot out to an early lead, and expanded on that lead throughout, crossing the line some eight seconds ahead of the Bears, with USC in the third position.

Then, just before the start of the women's Varsity 8 Grand Final, a storm swept over the course, announcing its arrival with rolling thunder and hail whistling through the air. Within minutes, a powerful headwind kicked up, gusting upwards of 30 mph, and creating a virtual wall of wind and water into which the crews crashed at full force as they crossed into the final 1,000m of the race. The Bears battled through it all to win the Varsity 8 by roughly five feet over a very talented Stanford crew, with the top seed (and our pick to win the WV8) USC trailing (see the second half of the above video).

As a very happy Dave O'Neill alludes to in a video interview with the Pac-10 media team from the course, the Cal women showed a great deal of poise in winning their fourth straight Pac-10 Championship (and seventh in the last eight years). Looking ahead to NCAAs, we are expecting to see a very strong showing from the Pac-10, with Cal, Stanford, and USC all very deep, well-coached, and mentally tough. Princeton has been strong all year, and took top honors at EAWRC Sprints on Sunday as well, and if we know Kevin Sauer at all, UVA will be in the mix in two weeks' time. The Brown Bears will also bring a strong squad to Sacramento.

For videos of all the races from the finish line, as well as further interviews with coaches, check out the coverage of the event from the official website of the Pac-10.

Note for FeedBurner subscribers: Click the title of the article to view the video on our website.

Thanks very much to the Pac-10, as well as to Jamco for doing a great job with the timing and results at the regatta once again.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, 2011: Results, Recap and Review

This year's running of the Aberdeen Dad Vails was, without question, one of the biggest and best rowing events on the circuit, featuring live coverage via ESPN 3, commentary from Keith Russel of ABC (along with Liz Santaniello and Jason Read, who did a great job – even hitting us with a "they were all over that like spiders on a birthday cake" line at one point), interviews – the list goes on. Everyone involved deserves to be commended for their great work – the regatta has done a great deal for the sport in terms of exposure, city-wide involvement, and recognition of all that it takes to make collegiate rowing work. Watching the streaming webcast of the event on ESPN 3, I couldn't help but feel proud of all those competing, and thankful to all those who made the event possible. It's a massive step forward for rowing in the US.

Now, let's turn our head to the results. On Thursday, we released our picks for the Grand Final of the Men's Varsity 8 (The Aberdeen Trophy), with a slight contingency based on whether or not Brock could return some members of their winning 8 from last year, as well as our pick to win. Let's see how we did:

RR Picks:
1. Virginia
2. Michigan
3. Temple
4. FIT
5. Delaware
6. Brock/Williams

Results from May 14:
1. Michigan
2. FIT
3. Delaware
4. Virginia
5. Williams
6. Jacksonville

So, we picked five out of six finalists, though our order of finish wasn't quite right. The racing over the weekend was tough, and the Wolverines (our pick for the silver) proved that they had the speed to get the job done, winning by roughly a length over the field. Greg Hartsuff has done it again, and deserves all the credit and recognition he's gotten for building what is truly a perennially strong program – Michigan is still the team to beat in US collegiate club rowing. The race for second was intense between FIT and Delaware, with FIT just holding off Delaware as they charged to the line. Frank Biller's Virginia, our predicted winner, ended up in fourth place, but was just 4 seconds off first place Michigan. The two top club teams in the US were on display, as Michigan took home the prize in the Varsity 8 (as well as medals in the 2V, LWT8, Frosh LWT8, and the Frosh 4+), while Virginia won the 2V, and earned a bronze in the Frosh 8, behind strong entries from Purdue and Drexel. It will be very interesting to see how UVA and Michigan match up again at ACRAs later this month, as we've discussed.

Surprisingly, Temple didn't make the Grand (congrats on a strong performance to Jacksonville), but the field was quite deep, and both Drexel and Temple had the potential to be in the top six. Very tight racing all the way around, and very exciting to see men's club rowing continue to improve and excel on a grand stage.

The results of the men's Gold Cup were also somewhat surprising, with Iztok Cop taking home the $10,000 prize for first place, USA's own Ken Jurkowski taking second, and defending world champion Ondrej Synek crossing the line in the third position. In the first ever women's Gold Cup race, Mirka Knapkova took first place, in what was truly an elite, international field.

Congrats to all involved!

-RR

Friday, May 13, 2011

RR Update: Google Blogger Maintenance Issues, Aberdeen Dad Vails Underway

Apologies for the inconvenience, but Google Blogger is undergoing maintenance and has temporarily removed articles post-dating May 11, 2011. These should be restored shortly, but, in the meantime, Aberdeen Dad Vails are underway, and our picks and predictions (posted Thursday, May 12) look solid so far. In brief, here are our picks once again below, in order of predicted finish:

RR Picks for Aberdeen Dad Vails, Men's Varsity 8 Grand Final:

Virginia
Michigan
Temple
FIT
Delaware
Brock/Williams

Update from Friday Morning –
Two top contenders, Delaware and RR top pick Virginia, were placed in the same heat, with Delaware (a combination lineup of their top heavies and lights) posting the fastest time of the day in the MV8 (roughly 5:52), Virginia a close second at 5:54. The two squads look very strong and there will be some intense racing in the semis. Drexel also posted a solid result, winning their heat in 5:57, while Michigan, Williams, FIT, and Temple won their respective heats. Brock placed second in their heat behind FIT. For live coverage of the event, visit the official site of the 2011 Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta. 

Eastern Sprints, MV8 GF Picks:
Harvard
Princeton
Wisconsin
Boston U
Cornell
Brown

Eastern Sprints, WV8 GF Predictions:
Princeton
Brown
Radcliffe
Yale
Columbia
Cornell

RR Picks for the Pac-10 Championships, MV8 GF:
Washington
Cal
Stanford
Oregon State
UCLA
Washington State
USC

RR Picks for the Pac-10 Championships, WV8 GF:
USC
Cal
Stanford
Washington
Washington State
UCLA
Oregon State

Big 10 Championships, RR Picks for WV8 GF:
Michigan State
Ohio State
Wisconsin
Michigan
Indiana
Minnesota
Iowa

Again, our apologies, but not a whole lot to be done, as Blogger hosts our site. The original post should appear once again at some time today, according to Google's Blogger Status page. More analysis and race coverage to follow.

-RR

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Championship Weekend: RR Picks and Predictions for Aberdeen Dad Vails, Sprints, Pac-10s, and the Big Ten

It's a huge weekend in US intercollegiate racing this Saturday and Sunday, with Eastern Sprints, Pac-10s, Dad Vails, and the Big 10 Championships all going on at once. Here at RowingRelated, we like knowledge. And, because of our regard for knowledge, we also like to play with that knowledge a little bit. Warning: opinions and predictions to follow.

The 2011 Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta boasts a field on the men's side that is more competitive than it has been in years, with many of the teams already having matched up on more than one occasion (often with differing results). Based on all the information that we can compile, here are our picks for the Varsity 8 Grand Final, in order of predicted finish:

Virginia
Michigan
Temple
FIT
Delaware
Brock/Williams

We are picking the Virginia men to take the top spot in the Varsity 8. Michigan is certainly very strong, as they proved last weekend at ECACs, defeating a strong crew from Williams for the gold medal. However, Virginia, led by Head Coach Frank Biller, will be better rested and are fully prepared for this weekend – in the excitement over the Michigan win in Worcester, most people have once again overlooked what will be a very strong Hoos squad. Brock has the potential to be very quick as well, depending on whether their international oarsmen are in the lineup this weekend (according to an interview with Brock Head Coach Steffan Wagner, six of the eight rowers in Brock's Dad Vail champion crew last year have spent most of the current season trialling for the Canadian National Team, and as of the time of the interview, he was unsure which of his best rowers would be able to return to Philly this year). FIT and Temple have had very strong results, and cannot be counted out, while Delaware is rumored to be combining their top heavies and lights for the regatta. The bottom line is, anyone in the final could win the race this year. It's going to be a great race!

Eastern Sprints will also feature some very close racing this year on both the men's and women's sides, though there appear to be some clear front runners based on duals this season. This year, the regatta is split, with the men racing in Worcester, MA, and the women in Cherry Hill, NJ. Here are our picks for the men's Grand Final:

Harvard
Princeton
Wisconsin
Boston University
Cornell
Brown

The Crimson have had a very strong season, beginning with an excellent performance at the Head of the Charles, and we are taking them to win this weekend. Wisconsin is a tempting pick, but based on the recent interview with Head Coach Chris Clark (in which he says the Badgers did a 10 x 2k workout at rate 30, 95% speed, with 2 minutes rest on Monday – not exactly a taper), it seems like Wisco has decided to train through Sprints and make a run at the IRA title once again. For this reason, we are picking Princeton edge out Wisco for the silver. The Wisco run at IRAs seems to be real, though unexpected, as Clark indicated at the beginning of the season that the Badgers would not have "anywhere near" the kind of speed it would take to beat Cal and Washington this year. Yale, Navy, Dartmouth and Brown have the potential to make it – a great deal will come down to tight racing in the heats.

The EAWRC Sprints will take place in Cherry Hill this year, and will also feature some quality match-ups. Here are our picks for the women's Grand Final, in order of predicted finish:

Princeton
Brown
Radcliffe
Yale
Columbia
Cornell

The Tigers have just been too dominant all season for us to pick anyone else, so we are taking Princeton to win. Brown will be strong, while Yale hasn't been able to match the speed it could boast over the past couple seasons. Seeing the way the Tigers performed against a very strong squad in Virginia a little over a week ago, it's going to be tough for anyone to come close this year in New Jersey.

The Pac-10 Championships will take place on Lake Natoma this Sunday, and feature elite-level talent on both the men's and women's sides. The Pac-10s will be straight finals this year, so below are our picks for finish order, with the first place finisher at the top:

Men's Varsity 8:
Washington
Cal
Stanford
Oregon State
UCLA
Washington State
USC

Women's Varsity 8:
USC
Cal
Stanford
Washington
Washington State
UCLA
Oregon State

The Washington men will be very hungry after last year's defeat at the IRA to prove themselves against arch-rival California, while Stanford will be trying to chase down the two front runners. The UCLA v. WSU match-up will be an interesting one, as the race between the two crews at WIRAs came down to less than a second.

The USC women's Varsity 8 (all of them internationals) are underrated at No. 4, and have a ton of experience on which to draw against what is a younger California squad. Stanford has all the pieces, but has been unable to put together consistent top-end speed (though they have dealt with injuries in a number of cases). One key for the Cardinal will be if NZ standout Anna Dawson is able to compete (she missed the Cal v. Stanford Dual due to injury).

The Big Ten Championships will also be held this weekend, in 'Windy Indy' – conditions could have an effect on the outcome. We are picking Michigan State to win it, despite having lost to Ohio State earlier in the season. The Spartans have been shuffling their lineups all season trying to find the right mix and we think they will have the right recipe this weekend. Wisconsin has had quite a mixed Spring with several disappointing early season losses. After losing a lot of veteran talent in last year's graduating class they are relying on a lot of young former walk-on talent in all of their boats. They also have yet to put a freshman in any of the three NCAA boats this season, a bold move made presumably in attempt to keep the freshman class together and force the older athletes to step up and get the job done. Ohio State has bounced back nicely from a relatively disappointing 2010 season and look to be on the right track as they have had a solid season thus far and will look to firmly place themselves in the NCAA field of 16 when selections come out next Tuesday. The Michigan team will be super fired up this weekend as they look to try to find a way to sneak into the NCAA field despite not having any significant victories in the Varsity 8 all season.

Women's Varsity 8:
Michigan State
Ohio State
Wisconsin
Michigan
Indiana
Minnesota
Iowa

These are our humble opinions, based on the knowledge that we can put together. Feel free to agree or disagree, and enjoy the weekend's racing, as we'll be doing.

Coming up later this week: NSR II Recap and Review. Reviews of the above regattas to follow as well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weekend Racing Reports: The 25th Windermere Cup, ECACs, and SW and Central Junior Regionals

The Windermere Cup, 2011

Despite choppy conditions and gusting winds in Seattle last Saturday, the 25th Windermere Cup went off without a hitch, and saw both the Husky men's and women's squads score solid wins against talented opponents in Cambridge, Stanford, and Oklahoma. The Husky men are looking to be clear favorites for this year's edition of the IRA, as they defeated a very strong Stanford crew (featuring several U23 medalists as well as a 2010 junior world champion) by roughly 12.5 seconds, with the composite crew from Cambridge trailing. CUBC had a good showing, however, considering the circumstances, as they came together as a crew for the first time at the regatta (a combination lineup mixing Blue Boat and Goldie oarsmen), and evidently enjoyed themselves (click here for Peter Marsland's take on the event).

The margin over Stanford is consistent with the results from the Cal v. Stanford Dual at Redwood Shores just over a week ago. While it's never safe to play the margins game, so far it looks like Washington has been consistently 3 seconds up on Cal, with Cal roughly 9 seconds up on Stanford. We'll see this weekend at Lake Natoma whether Cal can gain ground on the Huskies, and whether the Cardinal will continue to gain speed now that they have their Head Coach back (Craig Amerkhanian having missed three months of the season earlier this year).

The UW women won in convincing fashion, having invited an up and coming Sooners squad, following Oklahoma's second place finish at the Big 12 Championships – an event dominated by current No. 15 Texas. The CUWBC entry, which featured a similar mixture of athletes to that of the CUBC lineup, fought well, but found the competition quite tough, finishing in third place. According to the Associated Press, there were some 40,000 spectators lining the course.

ECACs/NIRCs in Worcester, MA

On the men's side, Michigan showed that they have both speed and depth once again this year, taking first place in the Varsity 8, and edging out last year's champion, Williams, in the process. Michigan also medaled in the Frosh 8, 2V, 3V, and Open 4, taking home the points trophy. Clearly, Head Coach Greg Hartsuff had his team well prepared, as the Wolverine V8 executed their race plan over the weekend and placed themselves firmly in contention for the top spot at Dad Vails. In the Second Varsity 8, Williams edged out Michigan for first place, capping off an undefeated season and marking the first win for the Ephs in that event at ECACs in the program's history. Bucknell's Frosh 8 out-dueled the Wolverines for the gold medal, and will also look to be a top contender at Dad Vails this weekend. Boston College faded after their triumph in the Frosh 8 a week ago at NERCs (though it's difficult to tell what happened, as they again posted the fastest time in the heats), while Ithaca came out of nowhere to upset Trinity and Williams for the bronze.

The Williams women yet again dominated, winning the Varsity 8, 2V, 3V, and Frosh 8s, and taking home the points trophy on the women's side. The win caps off another strong season, with women from Williams having taken home the points trophy at NERCs a week earlier. Brad Hemmerly has done well, continuing right where Justin Moore (now at Syracuse) left off – the Ephs are looking to win their sixth NCAA DIII Championship title in a row (seventh overall, with their first coming in 2002), and appear to be on pace to do just that in Sacramento later this month. Bates had a strong showing as well, taking second behind Williams in both the V8 and 2V events, while Trinity took second in the Frosh 8 category.

USRowing SW Junior Regionals (CA) and Central Youth Championships (OK)

The Marin juniors showed that they are the class of the West this season, with Graham Willoughby's men's squad taking home top honors in the Varsity 8, 2V, 3V, Lightweight 8, Novice 8, 2N8, Varsity 4+, and Lightweight 4+. The Marin women, coached by Sandy Armstrong, took first in the Varsity 8, 2V, Varsity 4, and 2- (where MRA entries finished first and second). On the sculling side, the Long Beach junior men's squad, under new Head Coach Nick D'Antoni, had a strong showing, winning the 1x, 2x, and 4x events. Marina AC also had strong performances in the men's Lightweight 8 and Lightweight 4+ categories taking home the silver in each event, while the Oakland women's novice squad took first in both the 8 and the 4+.

In Oklahoma, the Chesapeake Junior team (OKC) had a very strong showing, winning the men's and women's Varsity 8 events, qualifying seven boats for USRowing Youth Nationals (June 10-12 in Oak Ridge, TN), and taking home the points trophies on both the men's and women's sides. Our thanks to Sherry Andrusiak for keeping us posted as OKC's Riversport programs continue to develop. For the full press release on RowingNews.com, click here.

Congrats to all who raced so well over the weekend!

Also coming this week to RR – Aberdeen Dad Vails, 2011: Preview and Predictions. It's a very tight field this year, but there are a few crews that we think might just have what it takes to come out on top this weekend in Philly. We'll also have some thoughts on Sprints and Pac-10s, coming up this weekend as well. Don't touch that dial.

-RR

Monday, May 9, 2011

VOTWs: Inside Princeton Training Session - Tigers Rage on Carnegie



This week's double-feature comes to us from Lake Carnegie, and gives us an inside look at a Princeton training session on the water. Here we have two all-out pieces, with what appears to be eight boats taking part, for 500m (above) and 1250m (below), as Princeton prepares for Eastern Sprints, coming up this weekend. Again, it's rare that you get an inside look at an elite collegiate practice, and we appreciate all that Princeton has done this year to help promote the sport via video coverage of racing and training.



Also coming this week on RR -

Weekend review, with great match-ups at ECACs, Huskies dominating Windermere Cup, John Parker out as the chief coach in Oklahoma City (Volpenhein named interim coach), and our previews for Aberdeen Dad Vails, Pac-10s, and Sprints. It's going to be a busy week - time for some Championship racing!

Note for FeedBurner Subscribers: Click the title of the article to view the video on our website.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

UW to Host Cambridge for 25th Windermere Cup This Weekend on Montlake Cut



The No. 1 ranked Husky men and No. 7 UW women will host Cambridge this weekend, at this year's edition of the Windermere Cup in Seattle. The UW varsity men are scheduled to face No. 11 Stanford, as well as a crew from Cambridge University Boat Club for their cup race on Saturday, while the Husky women will tackle the Sooners (fresh from their second place finish at the Big 12 Championships) and CUBC. In recent racing, the UW men defeated Cal in the Varsity 8, 2V, and V4 events, while the Bears took an open water victory in the Frosh 8. The UW women found the racing a little hot against Cal, as the now No. 1 ranked Bears (tied with Princeton atop the most recent CRCA/USRowing Coaches' Poll) swept the Huskies.

The international crews, while they will row to a high standard and certainly contain talented athletes, will not be on par with UW, as the CUBC men peaked for their 4.5 mile race against Oxford roughly six weeks ago, and are just now putting the lineup together in Washington after some seat racing amongst those who could make the trip (a mixture of Goldie and Blue Boat oarsmen). The Cambridge academic year is in the middle of Easter Term, which may prevent some of the top athletes from attending. The CUWBC will likely be a similar mixture, though they have the advantage of having prepared to race (close) to the right distance, as the Women's Boat Race takes place on the Henley Royal Regatta course. However, they too peaked in late March for their event. UW, on the other hand, is building once again for the height of Spring season, with Pac-10s just around the corner.  While the Sooners will throw down everything they've got in their first-ever invite to the event, look for both UW crews to dominate this weekend, particularly on the men's side.

For more information on the event, visit the official site of the Huskies. Also, in case you missed it, here's the transcript from the live chat with UW Coaches Michael Callahan and Bob Ernst that took place yesterday (Wednesday, May 4th), via The Seattle Times.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Photos from WIRAs, 2011: Frosh and Varsity 8s - Grand Finals, Thanks to Nick D'Antoni

Frosh 8 Grand Final in the last 250 (Photo: N. D'Antoni)

Frosh 8 Grand Final last 100m (Photo: N. D'Antoni)

Coast Frosh lead Gonzaga and UCSD (Photo: N. D'Antoni)

Coast margin in Frosh 8 GF (Photo: N. D'Antoni)

Varsity 8 GF - UCSD and Gonzaga (Photo: N. D'Antoni)

UCSD maintains lead over Gonzaga (Photo: N. D'Antoni)

UCSD and Gonzaga approach the finish (Photo: N. D'Antoni)

Big thanks to Nick for the photos!

WIRAs 2011: Recap and Review

This year's WIRA Championship Regatta featured some great racing, close finishes, and a few surprising performances. Last week on RR, we made our predictions for the event, with UCSD entering as a heavy favorite coming off strong performances at Crew Classic and SIRAs. Let's see how we, and they, did over the weekend.

In the Varsity 8, UCSD took top honors, as we predicted, in a time of 5:52.6. However, they did so with an emergent and rejuvenated Gonzaga crew pressing them from start to finish, rather than by open water. The Zags have evidently found 10 seconds over the past two weeks, as their most recent performance prior to WIRAs saw them lose to Washington State's Varsity 8 by over five seconds at the Fawley Cup on April 16th. This time, it was the Zags finishing some five seconds ahead of WSU, and crossing the line just 1.2 seconds behind the Tritons, to take second place overall. UCLA took third in their first ever appearance at WIRAs, and was the top club team in the V8 this year -- quite an achievement, especially given where the program was only a year ago. The Bruins claimed the bronze in 5:58.3 -- just 0.4 seconds ahead of WSU, with UCD and USD rounding out the final in that order.

In the 2V, we had predicted a finish order of UCSD A, Gonzaga/UCSD B, followed by the field. However, a newly reshuffled Orange Coast lineup (which included five new members from their Second Novice 8) put UCSD under a great deal of pressure, leading for much of the race. The Tritons made a big move as they crossed the 1250m mark, and Coast was unable to get back on terms as the crews approached the finish. UCSD took first in a time of 6:04.3, with the Coast entry taking the silver in 6:05.8. Gonzaga's 2V beat out the UCSD 3V to take the bronze.

In the Frosh category, it was OCC's turn. The Pirates jumped out to an early lead over Gonzaga (another solid performance from the Bulldogs) and UCSD (whom we picked to win), holding 6 seats over the field at the 1000m mark. It was enough, as Coast held the advantage through the finish, crossing in 6:06.8, with the Zags taking second in 6:08.9, and UCSD third in 6:11.7.

On the women's side, USD won the V8, following up on their second straight WCC Championship title on Friday, while the Vikings from Western Washington swept all of their events.

Congrats to everyone who participated, and we'll be keeping an eye on UCSD and Gonzaga as they prepare for IRAs this June. Also, thanks to Coast Crew for posting results via Twitter (@giantkillers) and Facebook.

-RR

Monday, May 2, 2011

VOTWs: The Big Row, and The Tiger Men and Women in Action v. Brown and UVa



The above video comes from the Content Cup between the Princeton and Brown heavyweight men's varsity 8s. The racing was quite close, with the Tigers eventually taking the race by a little less than a length. This is yet another great video, shot from the launch and posted by Princeton -- the Tigers have been leading the way in video race coverage this year. The same is true of the video below, which features the No. 1 Tiger Open Women taking on No. 5 Virginia, whom Princeton defeated by roughly 12 seconds in the 1V over the weekend. UVa fought well and battled back to win the V4 competition over entries from Princeton, Columbia and Tennessee.



The last video I've included here (recorded and produced by the RR Editorial Staff) comes from 'The Big Row' between Cal and Stanford over the weekend, which featured an upset with the No. 3 Cal women defeating No. 2 Stanford in the varsity eight. The video shows a clip of the 2V race as the crews come underneath the bridge just past the 1000m mark, as well as a clip of the 1V race for the Lambert Cup as the two eights emerge from beneath the bridge.



For more great videos on the web, from this weekend and past events, check out the RR YouTube Channel, where we've listed a number of our favorites.

Note for FeedBurner Subscribers: Click the title of the article to view the videos on our website.

Coming tomorrow: WIRAs 2011 - Recap and Review. We made our picks -- time to see how they played out over the weekend.

-RR

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cal v. Stanford: The Jill Row, 2011

The Cal Frosh launch at Redwood Shores (Photo: B. Kitch)
The Cal women entered the racing on Saturday for this year's Big Row against Stanford as underdogs, with the Stanford women coming in at No. 2 according to the most recent coaches' poll, and with the Cardinal having won the most recent match-up between the two schools at the Lake Natoma Invite just two weeks earlier in the Varsity and 2V8s. The first NCAA race of the morning was the Varsity 4+, which saw Cal and Stanford locked in a stroke-for-stroke battle throughout the first 500m. The Cal crew (a lineup featuring Jenn Helssen and Charlotte Palmer, who took second in the V4+ at the 2010 NCAA Championships) settled into their mid-race rhythm, making a big push again as they crossed 750m. In so doing, they pulled out to a length lead as they crossed underneath the bridge (just past the 1000m mark) eventually taking the race in a time of 7:29.6 to continue their undefeated season.

The Frosh 8s saw Cal continue their solid Spring, as they defeated the Cardinal by nearly 20 seconds and built further on their momentum following their great win in Washington a week ago.

Stanford showed their depth, however, in the 2V8 -- a race that saw Stanford built a lead just before the mid-point of the race, which they pushed out to a length as they crossed 1200m. The Bears pushed back, but Stanford held on, and took the race by just under three seconds (Stanford crossed in 6:35.0, with Cal crossing the line in 6:37.6).

In the Varsity 8, Cal entered the race as underdogs, but Stanford was without one of their star rowers in Anna Dawson of New Zealand (the Cardinal 7 seat), who was unable to race on Saturday. This meant that the Cardinal V8 had to be reshuffled, as Coach Yaz Farooq moved Michelle Vezie back into the 1V, along with Sarah Bolmer, while Annie Osborne was moved into the Frosh 8, and Julianna Kapjian-Pitt was shifted into the 2V. The Cardinal did have both of their Beijing Olympians in action, however, with Elle Logan at stroke and Lindsay Meyer in the 5 seat.

The race proved a very exciting one, as Stanford took an early lead, which they maintained through the 500m mark. Cal then pulled even, and the two boats were level as they crossed through 750m. Again, at the 1000m mark, Cal moved on Stanford, and the Cardinal were unable to respond. Cal broke the race open, and lead by roughly two lengths as they entered the final 500m. When all was said and done, California retained the Lambert Cup, taking the Varsity 8 race in a time of 6:20 to Stanford's 6:24.

On the men's side, Cal entered as the heavy favorite, and didn't disappoint. The first of the intercollegiate races of the morning was the Cal Frosh v. a combination lineup from Stanford (who have had to pull their most talented freshmen up into the Varsity 8 for most of the season). As predicted, Cal, in their wing Empacher, won going away in a time of 5:51.4. The men's 2V race was more competitive, but still saw the Bears build an early advantage over the Cardinal, which they maintained through the end of the piece, crossing the line in 5:47.7 to Stanford's 5:58.6.

The Varsity 8 race was again competitive through the first 500m, after which Cal, coming off a very strong performance last weekend in Seattle, walked away from the Cardinal through the middle 1000m, and successfully defended the Schwabacher Cup in a time of 5:39.2, with Stanford (with a lineup stroked by freshman recruit and 2010 Junior World Champion Austin Hack) clocking in at 5:48.1.

Dave O'Neill addresses the crowd (Photo: B. Kitch)
Athletes and spectators gathered for the awards ceremony (Photo: B. Kitch)
Following the racing, the athletes, coaches and spectators came together for the awards ceremony. As Cal was hosting this year, Head Coach Dave O'Neill thanked everyone for coming, congratulated all crews on a great day of racing, and said a few words about the late Jill Costello, in whose honor the races were held this year. Each of the coaches expressed their admiration for Costello. Stanford Head Coach Yaz Farooq then explained that last year, when she returned the Lambert Cup to California following the Varsity race, she had placed one of the specially printed Stanford tanks (with a pink block 'S' and a seafoam green ribbon printed on the left chest) inside the cup for Jill, who was away at the time of the regatta receiving treatment for lung cancer. "It was my hope," Farooq said, "that Jill would be here to pick it up this year." The Costello family was present, and representatives of the regatta presented Jill's mother with flowers.

Farooq addresses the crowd (Photo: B. Kitch)
Cal presents Mrs. Costello (left) with flowers (Photo: B. Kitch)
Thanks to everyone from Cal and Stanford for all their efforts in putting together a well-run regatta, as well as a truly heart-felt tribute to a wonderful person who is terribly missed, and who continues to have a strong, positive influence on all of her teammates, as well as all those who competed against her. For more information on upcoming events in honor of Jill Costello, or if you'd like to contribute to the Lung Cancer Foundation, please click here.

-RR