Monday, April 29, 2013

Video Of The Week: Yale Women Edge Harvard-Radcliffe in Boston

For the third straight week, our video focuses on the Charles River, but this time it's all about the visiting team. Yale entered as No. 12 to Harvard-Radcliffe's No. 7, but the Bulldog women's eight jumped out to an early lead that they refused to relinquish in tailwind conditions in Boston, with Northeastern trailing in third. The following day, Yale backed up their victory over the Black and White with a defeat of No. 9 Brown on the Housatonic—by nearly 10 seconds. It appears some reshuffling of the rankings is in order, as Will Porter's Yale squad is showing some familiar midseason speed and seems to be in great shape with the conference championships looming—but they weren't the only ones looking in top form.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rowing Banter: New College Season Podcast with Sean Wolf of Rowing Illustrated

IRAs 2012 (Photo: B. Kitch)
Earlier this week, Sean Wolf was kind enough to have me on for a look at the U.S. intercollegiate rowing scene as we approach the midpoint of the 2013 spring racing season, as well as the upcoming USRowing National Selection Regatta. While we've touched on the great performance of the Northeastern men's squad so far (following their defeat of Brown in the varsity eight), the NU Huskies will face another tremendous challenge this weekend taking on Harvard. Out west, the Washington Huskies will likely face their toughest challenge thus far as well this weekend, with the Cal Dual set to take place on the Montlake Cut. On the women's side, USC has continued to look impressive after their great showing at the Lake Natoma Invite, though we're still confident in Cal's depth and talent. The Clemson invite also showed that Ohio State is a force to be reckoned with this season, while UVa and UCLA also posted some very impressive results.

All that and more in this week's Rowing Illustrated College Rowing and NSR I podcast.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Video Of The Week: Not Just the 'Other' Huskies Anymore

Once again, the focus of our Video Of The Week is on Boston—this time for completely different reasons. The above video comes from roughly a year ago, shot during winter training for the Northeastern Huskies. But, as the video shows, the seeds of change were already planted.

While Washington was in Redwood Shores taking on the Stanford men on the West Coast, The 'Other' Huskies made a statement in the East this weekend. Coming off a major win over Boston University, the men from Northeastern traveled to Providence, where they took on the 2012 Sprints champs & 2012 IRA silver medalists from Brown, and returned to Boston with the Dreissigacker Cup for the first time since 2005. No small feat, and one that confirms once and for all that this program is on the rise—something we discussed with head coach John Pojednic immediately after IRAs last year.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Weekend Overflowing with College Rowing

Attention, Go! (Photo: B. Kitch)
All of intercollegiate rowing's No. 1 teams are set to be in action this weekend*, with the top-ranked Washington men at Redwood Shores to take on Stanford (details here), NCAA No. 1 USC taking on No. 2 Cal and No. 9 Stanford at the Lake Natoma Invitational (follow @NatomaInvite on Twitter for updates throughout the weekend), SIRAs taking over Oak Ridge, TN (follow @oakridgerowing for live results) and pitting ACRA men's No. 1 Virginia against rivals The George Washington University (last year's SIRAs champ), Jacksonville, FIT, Temple, Delaware, and others, while women's ACRA no. 1 Purdue will take on Crew Classic champions Central Oklahoma, Jacksonville, FIT & more. Last, but certainly not least, the No. 1 Stanford women's lightweights will take on Harvard-Radcliffe, while the No. 1 Harvard men's lightweights are set to do do battle with Navy (though these events may be postponed due to ongoing police activity in Boston—if not, however, you can view free streaming video of the events here).

Monday, April 15, 2013

Video Of The Week: Harvard on the Charles

It has been a very tough day in the U.S. The events at the Boston Marathon were shocking to the whole community, and were particularly sensitive for the running and rowing world stateside—so much of rowing's history in the United States is tied to the city of Boston, and so many rowers were involved in one way or another in the marathon today, as they have always been. While the awful events of the day are not to be forgotten, so too must the examples of heroism and camaraderie be remembered—all you need to do is take a closer look at the videos and images from today, and see the number of people running into the devastation, risking their own safety to help others.

So, today we're celebrating Boston. The above video, featuring the 2012 Harvard men's varsity eight, is not fancy. It has no soundtrack other than that of the wind whipping past the camera's microphone, and the occasional guidance of legendary coach Harry Parker. It is, quite simply, beautiful rowing on the Charles River—the closest thing to the Tideway that we have, in a gem of a city home to the 'Cradle of Liberty.'

Sicut Patribus, Sit Deus Nobis.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Edition Video Of The Week: CRC's Original Take on Crew Classic

California Rowing Club's Bernhard Stomporowski has done it again—this recap of the CRC experience of Crew Classic has some nice camerawork, interviews with all of the crew members, and one of the most off-the-wall soundtracks you'll find accompanying any rowing video. (Frankly, we'll be happy to celebrate (almost) anything that includes the stellar vocals of the late, great Eduard Khil.) As in 2012, CRC dominated the men's open eight event in San Diego, though Cal's entry in the event proved stronger than in previous years, nearly hanging onto a bow-to-stern deficit, with the Little Knights rounding out the top three (also for the second straight year since winning the event in 2011).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

[Photos] San Diego Crew Classic, 2013: Editors' Picks

As usual, the weather was one of the main attractions at the Crew Classic this year, with some of the flattest racing conditions to be seen on Mission Bay just in time for Sunday morning's finals. As several of the top junior & college coaches noted, one thing you're not likely to deal with in San Diego is having your races cancelled. The racing was of a high quality, and the atmosphere around the course was great—here are a few of our favorite photos from the weekend to give you a glimpse of the 40th running of the San Diego Crew Classic.

For mobile users, here's a direct link to the gallery on Flickr.

Thanks to all those involved in putting the regatta together, and congrats to all those who competed this year. The countdown to #crewclassic2014 has already begun!


Monday, April 8, 2013

San Diego Crew Classic, 2013: Recap and Review

Dramatic skies over Mission Bay (Photo: B. Kitch) 
The 40th edition of the Crew Classic in San Diego was all about depth. There was no clearer example of this than the performance of the USC Trojans, who swept the women's NCAA DI events and set a new standard for performance on Mission Bay. Cal and Virginia also posted very strong results, and we'll be expecting their speed to continue to increase as we draw closer to championship racing season. Also as expected, Washington and UCLA were also very much part of the conversation—this looks to be another very strong year in the Pac-12 (perhaps the best ever depth in the conference, from top to bottom).

On the men's side, Cal was dominant—another very deep team with a ton of upside coming from strong sophomore and junior classes, including 2013 Crash-B winner Christian Kader and emerging talent Carter Crowe. The Cal men's second varsity posted the second third fastest time of the day on Sunday (behind only the Copley Cup-winning Golden Bear varsity eight and the Stanford varsity crew*), while their B entry in the men's 2V final took second place in the event. In the collegiate club events, USCB had a great regatta, winning both the men's Cal Cup and the Secretary of the Navy Cup (men's lightweight eight) events within 20 minutes, while the UCSB varsity women took second in the women's collegiate DII/DIII /Club event, and won the novice eight at the DII/DIII/Club level as well—a testament to the increasing depth and competitiveness of the Gauchos' program.

Miami took top honors in the women's Cal Cup, ahead of local favorites USD and British Columbia, respectively.**

At the junior level, there were a number of closely contested finals, setting up grudge matches at the regional and national level in the coming weeks and months. Marin's junior men reasserted themselves after being beaten in the varsity eight for the first time in roughly three years by Long Beach Juniors at the Faultline Faceoff in Oakland last month. In San Diego, however, Marin once again looked like the team to beat, posting an impressive 6:01.56 to win the event, with LBJC taking second place just under six seconds back, and Oakland Strokes a length back in third. The Marin junior women enjoyed similar success in the varsity eight, edging defending national champs Oakland into second place by just over a length to take the title. Marina Aquatic Center also posted an impressive result, finishing just 0.26 seconds back of Oakland.

As usual, the masters events at the regatta were a lot of fun, with a number of Olympians in action battling it out for bragging rights in the beer garden.

Notes: Our Video Of The Week is forthcoming, and you can view full results from the massive weekend of racing in San Diego on the official website of the Crew Classic.

*Update: The times posted to the Crew Classic website for the Copley Cup are currently incorrect—here are the "more correct" times thanks to row2k:

**Updated & corrected 4/9/2013


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

RR Interview: 2012 Crew Classic Champ Justin Wegner of the Grand Valley State Lakers

Head coach John Bancheri's program at Grand Valley State has become a perennial contender in the ACRA league on both the men's and women's sides, thanks in no small part to the contributions of athletes like our most recent RR interviewee, Justin Wegner. Justin began rowing in high school, and brought some experience to the Laker program when he arrived on campus in 2009. Since then, Justin and the GVSU squad have continued to post better and better results—not least of which was winning the Cal Cup at the 2012 San Diego Crew Classic. Here, Justin shares a little about his rowing background, the program at GVSU, and his thoughts on the rising tide of ACRA rowing.

RR: In the rowing world, we hear a lot about high school athletes who 'burn out' when it comes to rowing in college, but you are the complete opposite, with better and better results to show for it. What motivates you as an athlete and keeps the flame burning so bright?

Justin Wegner: Rowing was the first sport in which I would consider myself successful. When I started rowing my sophomore year of high school it was the first time that I truly felt like I was a contributing member of the team and the first time I found myself in contention for the “first line,” so to speak. I quickly fell in love with the sport, and soon found rowing a central part of my college search—something I had never imagined would be a factor.

Rowing at the collegiate level is a different world than high school. The intensity of training and level of competition greatly exceeded my expectations. My novice year opened my eyes to what it takes to be competitive at the collegiate level and I became obsessed with pushing my level of fitness and improving my technique as much as I could.

I would say that my biggest motivator over the years is the aspect of teamwork in rowing that is not found in any other sport. I truly feel like I am just a small part of the boat, and since I am the only part that I am able to control, I want to do everything in my power to make the boat go faster.

RR: John Bancheri runs a very solid program, and it seems like GVSU is on the up swing—including winning Crew Classic last season. What is your favorite aspect of rowing for Grand Valley? How does Coach Bancheri go about creating a culture of achievement & success?

JW: My favorite aspect of rowing for Grand Valley is that we are a relatively small program at a relatively small school that gets the opportunity to compete, and be competitive, with many schools that are much bigger and better known.

Coach Bancheri is successful because he is able to make the rowers he has fast. He is able to mold the members of the team into good rowers physically and technically through an effective physical training regimen coupled with an unrivaled proficiency at teaching good rowing technique.

We have a few members that have rowed in high school, but none of them, myself included, were high school "stars," so to speak, and the rest of the team are true-novice walk-ons. Coach B fosters a culture where there are no “heroes” on the team. Everyone is important whether you are “pulling from the top, or pushing from the bottom.” There is no reason that someone who works hard and pushes himself cannot be in contention for the eight.

RR: Having spent your first year at Grand Valley in the frosh eight, and your second season in the bow pair of the varsity crew, you made the move up to stroke seat of the varsity eight prior to Crew Classic last year—a big jump and a big stage. How did you find the change from frosh to varsity rowing? Can you walk me through the Crew Classic final a little bit?

JW: The learning curve between frosh and varsity rowing is definitely steep. The importance of every aspect of the sport from fitness to technique is amplified and the margin for error is so much smaller on varsity. For me this made the sport that much more exciting—I loved the challenge. I learned a lot my first year on varsity both from Coach B and from the junior and senior members on the team. I came away from that season determined to improve upon it and get faster.

San Diego was my first major collegiate race at stroke seat, so it was obviously nerve racking, but at the same time it was very exciting to be one of the nine guys who were representing Grand Valley at such a big regatta. That boat had great chemistry and we rowed well together, even with two freshmen, one of who was a true-novice. We had a pretty good race in our heat, very controlled (the way you want a heat to go), and that gave us some confidence going into the final.

The final was one of the greatest races I have ever been in, it was close right from the start, just as we expected, so it really came down to execution. We were down off the start to Drexel who was in lane 5 and they really pushed hard that whole race. Our coxie did a great job of keeping the intensity up but keeping us collected and focused during the start and body of the race, we took the moves we had planned and really committed to them and they got us right where we wanted to be so we were in a good position coming into the last 500.

In the video you can really see how close it was when they go to the aerial shot—it was anyone’s race at this point. Drexel and Purdue were not far back from us and Notre Dame had made a push into the last 500 and was even with us in lane 2. This really turned the intensity up for us. I remember waiting for Chris to call us up for our sprint, he stuck to the race plan right down to the line so we were all ready for it. When he called the sprint we really laid it on. I remember shifting up for the last twenty, and that is where we sealed the deal. We walked away from Notre Dame to finish with a five-seat lead. It was a very exciting race.

RR: How has the team grown and changed since you began with GVSU? What do you hope to leave as your legacy with the Lakers?

JW: Over the past four years I think there has been an increase in the intensity of training and the standards we hold ourselves to as a team. There are more and more guys who are stepping up and the selection for the top boat has shown that. Each year I have been here the selection has gotten more intense. I hope this continues in the years to come and the team will continue to get faster as they push their limits and raise their standards to meet the rapidly increasing levels of competition the sport is experiencing. If my class can leave behind a culture of commitment to improvement and the team continues to get faster next year and in years to come I will be thrilled.

RR: Last year, we saw a nine-boat grand final at the ACRA championships, with roughly 11 seconds separating first through last place. In your view, how much has the level risen in ACRA rowing since you first began at Grand Valley?

JW: I think the level of rowing in ACRA has increased a lot over the past four years. There are more and more teams that are consistently raising their levels to meet teams that have been historically successful and those teams that have dominated in the past are rising to the challenge and producing faster crews year after year. I think this trend, coupled with a consistent increase in the number of entries at this and other regattas, is one of the most exciting aspects about club rowing right now. Last year's ACRA grand final clearly illustrated that the level of competition we are seeing today is unrivaled by the competition in past years at the event.

Thanks very much to Justin for taking the time! You can learn more about the Laker Navy on their official website, and follow Justin on Twitter: @wegnerjustin.