Thursday, May 30, 2013

IRA National Championship Regatta, 2013: RR Picks and Predictions

111th IRA Regatta begins tomorrow (Photo: B. Kitch)
The 2013 IRA National Championship Regatta is set to kick off tomorrow morning, bright and early on the West Coast in Sacramento—temperatures (and anxiety levels) are high, with national titles and (perhaps even more importantly) bragging rights on the line. Here is our take on just what'll happen this weekend, when oars meet water.

Heavyweights
The 'Top Dawg' at this regatta is Washington, and for very good reason. So far this season, they haven't done anything to suggest that they've loosened their vise-grip on men's varsity rowing, with the possible exception of the varsity fours race at Pac-12s. So, we're taking the Washington Huskies to win the men's varsity eight again this year. Harvard is our pick for second place, and enter the regatta after an undefeated season and a convincing win at Sprints—the Crimson may be the only ones who can throw down a challenge to Washington this weekend. Rounding out the medals, we're looking for Brown to take third place. California, Stanford, and Northeastern will also be looking to break through and land themselves on the podium—we're giving Cal the edge here. Look for California to finish fourth, and they may give Brown a run for their money.

In the second varsity eight, again UW is the hot favorite, and has dominated this year. Cal at least made it somewhat interesting at Pac-12s, but were still five seconds off the pace when all was said and done. We're taking Cal and Brown to finish out the medals, with Harvard looking to overturn the result from Sprints and Princeton looking to make a run as well, with the Tigers having missed a Sprints title by roughly one length to Brown.

The frosh eights will be interesting to watch this weekend. Washington has been dominant, and given the depth of the Husky program and their commitment to the freshman rowing experience, we think they're likely to continue their undefeated season on Lake Natoma this weekend. Harvard is our pick for second, with Brown likely to take the bronze, again with the Golden Bears potentially making it interesting, much like the varsity eight event.

Lightweights
Harvard is coming off an undefeated season and a win at Sprints, and has an ever more talented lineup than last year's undefeated national champion varsity eight crew, with standouts Andrew Campbell and Austin Meyer back in the mix. We're looking for a repeat performance from Sprints, with a strong Yale squad taking second place, followed by Dartmouth—Big Green was characterized by a late season charge under Dan Roock, and it looks like first-year head coach Sean Healy has picked up right where Roock left off last season. Also worthy of note—Columbia has had its best season in years, and will be laying it all on the line for a chance at a medal on Lake Natoma.

Women's Lightweights
Based on the season to date, this looks like it may just be Radcliffe's time to shine. The Black and White posted a convincing victory over three-time defending IRA champion Stanford on the Charles earlier this year, and with the Cardinal having graduated three of their top athletes from the varsity eight following last year's campaign, Al Acosta's squad might not quite have the experience necessary to make it a four-peat. Then again, Stanford has entered the regatta as the underdog in each of the past three seasons—it's never safe to count them out. Third place is largely up for grabs, and will see Princeton, Georgetown, Wisconsin and Bucknell all looking to finish their seasons on the podium, but we don't see anyone catching the top two crews in this event.

Good luck to all crews! Here's to a successful 111th IRA National Championship this weekend! For live video coverage of the racing, beginning at 730am PDT tomorrow, follow this link.

-RR

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