Wednesday, March 28, 2012

RR Picks and Predictions: The 2012 San Diego Crew Classic

Spring racing season is upon us, and it's high time for some predictions. The field at Crew Classic is slated to be the largest to date, and there are a number of very talented teams gearing up to duke it out on Mission Bay this weekend. What follows are our thoughts on who, we think, are the top teams [Warning: opinionated content below].

Men's Events

The Men's Varsity Eight, Copley Cup:
1. Harvard
2. Cal
3. Stanford

The guys who make up the Crimson varsity eight are all (or nearly all) experienced at the international level, so flying across the country to race is not something that will rattle this crew, nor will the characteristically rough conditions on Mission Bay. The Golden Bears have a great deal of talent, with senior leadership from 2011 U23 world champ Chris Yeager, and several of last year's fantastic frosh eight moving up into the varsity eight. Stanford typically performs very well in the early season, and will be in familiar territory, while Cornell will be racing in SD for the first time in recent memory. Still, look for Big Red, Navy, and Michigan to round out the final.

The Men's Varsity Eight, Cal Cup:
1. Grand Valley State
2. Drexel
3. Orange Coast College/OCU

Grand Valley State is looking very strong this year, but the Lakers will have a real battle on their hands with Drexel. Coast and Oklahoma City University are in the same heat as GVSU, which is a tough draw–whichever makes it through the heat will likely battle for third place. Look for Notre Dame to be in the final as well, as that program continues to build momentum despite graduating Greg Flood at the end of last season.

Men's Collegiate Junior Varsity Eight:
1. Harvard
2. Cal
3. Cornell

Harvard's program is arguably the deepest in the country on the men's side this year, though Washington will likely put that to the test later this season. Cal and Cornell will be duking it out for the second spot, but they will be unlikely to catch the Crimson in San Diego.

Men's Junior Eight (High School):
1. Marin
2. Everett
3. Los Gatos

Marin has been on a tear ever since they set a new course record to win the Head Of The Charles in 2010, and they are not showing any signs of slowing down so far this season, having won the HOCR for the second straight year in the fall, and having posted impressive victories thus far in the early racing season. Everett will be another solid team, having placed third at the 2011 HOCR, and Los Gatos had some strong results in Oakland earlier this month at the Fault Line Face Off. LBJC is a wild card, but could turn in a strong performance, and NAC and MAC are probables for the final.

Women's Events

The Women's Varsity Eight, Jessop-Whittier Cup:
1. USC
2. Virginia
3. Cal

The Trojans will enter the fray to defend their titles from last season in both the varsity eight and varsity four events. Virginia has a very deep squad, and as a result may still be a ways from finding the top combination in the varsity eight. Cal will be down some big guns, with Kara Kohler and Mary Jeghers having moved on from last year's crew, but the Bears will likely be in the hunt, with Stanford and Washington in the mix.

The Women's Varsity Eight, Cal Cup:
1. Oklahoma
2. Duke
3. Iowa

This event is likely to be dominated by the Division I teams. The Sooner varsity eight is coming off a great start to the season, having defeated rival Texas for the first time earlier this month, while Duke has some U23-level talent in Emily Theys, and Iowa's program has been growing in stature over the past few seasons. Other teams to watch will be perennial NCAA DII championship contender Western Washington, and Grand Valley State.

Women's Collegiate Junior Varsity Eight: 
1. Washington
2. USC
3. Cal

There is a great deal of parity in women's rowing at the DI level, so things will be very close near the top, making picking this year's JV event quite difficult. Washington and USC are underrated coming into this event, and top seeds Cal, Stanford and Virginia are all likely to be in the hunt. We are expecting to see the Huskies and Trojans battling for the top of the podium, with Cal and Virginia out-dueling Stanford. However, it will be a very tight field.

Women's Varsity Four:
1. Virginia
2. Washington
3. USC

Washington's program will be deep this season, but no one has the depth of UVA this year. USC will be very strong–having won this event last season the Trojan women will be looking to defend their title.

Women's Junior Eight (High School):
1. Oakland
2. Marin
3. Connecticut Boat Club

The Oakland Strokes have looked excellent throughout the 2011-2012 campaign, and will look to continue that trend this weekend in San Diego. Marin are strong, but fell to Oakland at the Fault Line Face Off, and CBC will be in the mix as usual. Look also for a strong performance from Upper Natoma RC, a program that is building quickly and that will be aiming to topple some top contenders on Mission Bay.

That's it for the picks–now it's time to taper, rig, and race! Here's to a great weekend in San Diego for the  39th Crew Classic!

-RR

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