|The Coast frosh head to the line at Redwood Shores (Photo: B. Kitch)|
The 2012 SIRAs showcased the increasing depth of the club field as a very strong Virginia program continues to improve under head coach Frank Biller. Biller's boys fought a varsity program in George Washington all the way to the line in the varsity eight, with the Colonials eventually edging the Cavaliers by just 0.3 seconds to win the event. Both crews were significantly out in front of the field (roughly six seconds), which was tightly packed and included Crew Classic winner Grand Valley State–a crew that just defeated Michigan at the Lubber's Cup Regatta. All this will make for a very interesting grand final in the varsity eight at the ACRA Championship Regatta coming up next month, with some hints to come from Dad Vails as well. Not only did the Virginia Cavaliers take a close second in the varsity eight, they also won the second varsity eight, took a bronze behind Marietta and GWU in the novice eight, and had another podium finish in the men's lightweight four. While Michigan has a great deal of returning talent, as we discussed on RR at the outset of the 2012 season, the pressure is on for Gregg Hartsuff to step up his top-end speed to keep up with the ever-increasing standard of the men's club field since the inception of the ACRA.
On the women's side, Grand Valley State took top honors in the varsity eight, and, in our opinion, they look poised to finish out the rest of the 2012 season undefeated, having already bested ACRA rivals Purdue (last year's Dad Vail and ACRA winners in the varsity eight) last weekend by more than six seconds. The GVSU program is having a banner year on both sides, and the Laker women will no doubt look to continue that trend throughout the championship circuit next month. Also worthy of mention are the Division II Nova Southeastern Sharks and Mercyhurst Lakers, who did well to make the A Final in both the varsity eight and varsity four at SIRAs (with Nova SE winning the V4 event).
The WIRA Regatta has gone to a different format this year, splitting the racing into two categories in the men's varsity eight (the varsity programs have been separated from the clubs) in order better align itself with the IRA (as far as we understand). The problem with that is, it takes down the level of competition overall, as some of the most competitive teams, including Orange Coast College, will be excluded from the varsity event. Also, it seems a little strange, given the standard of the varsity events, that there are two qualification spots from WIRAs for the 2012 IRA. While it makes some sense to try to streamline varsity competition as a means to mirror the NCAA model with its emerging conference championships, it doesn't make sense to reduce the number of at-large bids at the IRA when there is such a disparity between middle-level varsity programs.
SIRAs, Dad Vails, and ECACs have only one qualification spot per regatta. The Temple Owls defeated both UCSD and Gonzaga at Crew Classic by seven and eight seconds, respectively, but are in danger of not going to the IRA given the level of competition and the scarcity of qualifying spots at Dad Vails and SIRAs. Also, fewer varsity programs typically attend WIRAs than SIRAs or Dad Vails. Why is it, then, that WIRAs have been given two spots?
In the men's varsity club race, Paul Prioleau's Orange Coast College Pirates will be the favorite. The UCLA varsity eight will be the number one challenger in this race, led by standout junior Jeff Latham. With it being a seven-lane final only affair, UCSB led by Luke Wilhelm and UC Davis will also being looking to get onto the podium. In the men's varsity eight event, Gonzaga and UCSD will be getting into a tussle hoping to qualify their boats for the IRA. We are picking Zach Johnson and UCSD to win this round after having some bumps in the road earlier in the season.
In the men's novice eight, we expect Orange Coast College, UCSD and Gonzaga to provide a nice three way battle, though we expect the freshmen from Orange Coast College coached by Pat Gleason to take the WIRA crown over Gonzaga and then UCSD. UCI also has a very strong group of novice men that will be looking to upset someone from this group to get onto the podium.
In the men's JV race, we are picking UCSD to showcase their depth by take the victory over Gonzaga, UCSB, UC Davis and OCC.
The Division I women's varsity eight will be Glenn Putyrae's Gonzaga women and Stanford lightweight eight battling it out for the top spot while Sacramento State, LMU, and St. Mary's fight for the 3rd spot.
Western Washington will try to reverse recent results in the Division II race, having recently been tumbled from the top of the podium at the Northwestern Conference Rowing Championships by Humboldt State in the varsity eight. Look for WWU to win the second varsity eight event, having posted a four-second victory over the Jacks last weekend.
-The RR Editorial Staff