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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

NCAA Rowing Championships, 2013: RR Picks and Predictions

Jessop Whittier Cup final

The 2013 NCAA Championships are set to take over Eagle Creek Park, Indiana, and it just wouldn't be us if we didn't express an opinion or two regarding what we're expecting to see out there on the water. Here's our analysis going into the racing this weekend:

Division I
California was our preseason No. 1, and California is our favorite to win the NCAA team championship. The Golden Bears' varsity four and second varsity eight have been very quick all year, and in our opinion Cal's varsity four may be the best in the country. The only question this weekend in Indianapolis will be, can the varsity eight get the job done? The Golden Bears will likely have a new lineup this weekend following a surprise third place finish at the Pac-12 Championships behind No. 1 USC and then No. 5 Washington—while we feel it's unlikely that Cal will win the varsity eight event, we're confident that they'll be enough in contention with the top crews to earn the Bears the team title this year after a narrow miss last year (behind Virginia and Michigan).

USC also has a great chance to win the team title, if their four can make the A Final—after all, they're the No. 2 team in the country according to the latest CRCA Coaches' Poll (behind Ohio State), and will enter an as-yet undefeated varsity eight into the fray in Indianapolis. Further teams to watch: Princeton and Ohio State will also be in contention and are likely to place all three boats in A Finals; Brown's second varsity and four just won at the Ivy League Championships, but as has been the case all year, it's hard to know what to do with the Bears—the Brown varsity & 2V have had erratic results, while the varsity four has been strong all year (will the Murphys shake up the lineups after a tough outing for the varsity eight at the Ivy League Championships?).*

Varsity Eights:
Our pick to win the varsity eight is USC. The Trojans are undefeated this season, and won the Pac-12 Championship by roughly five seconds—a tremendous feat considering the depth and competitiveness of the conference. Our other podium picks for the varsity eight title are Princeton (coming off a commanding win at the Ivy League Championships roughly seven seconds ahead of Yale), and last year's NCAA team and varsity eight champions, Virginia

Second Varsity Eights:
Ohio State is our top pick to win the second varsity eight event. The Buckeye crew is stroked by B1G co-freshman of the year Catherine Shields—a Kiwi with a great deal of international racing experience under her belt already in her young career—and hasn't been touched all year. However, look for California to be very strong in this event as well—the Bears may give the Buckeyes a serious run for their money.

Varsity Fours:
Undefeated California is the fastest crew in this event. Brown's all-freshmen four including former junior national teamer Logan Harris (formerly of Marin RA, who posted a 7:10 at Crash-Bs earlier this year) and Signe Henderson (formerly of Berkeley High School, 7:15 at Crash-Bs), may be their top challenger, based on the results so far this year.

Division II
Barry are our favorite to win, Nova Southeastern and Western Washington will likely be in contention. Barry has emerged as a force to be reckoned with at the DII level, proving that point emphatically with a victory over Nova Southeastern at the 2013 Dad Vail Regatta by roughly one length. Nova has had a solid season, including a fourth-place finish at SIRAs and a silver in Philadelphia.

Division III
Williams, Williams, Williams—another great season from the Ephs, who'll be looking to make it eight-straight NCAA DIII titles in Indianapolis this weekend, but have seen Bates continue to emerge as a tough challenger this season, remaining in contact with the Ephs in the varsity eight at both NERCs and ECACs this year—can Bates pull off the ultimate upset? 

Of note: You never know what's going to happen with the conditions in 'Windy Indy.' The conditions may play a role, and there is always the chance that they could affect the outcome (there were whitecaps on the course on Tuesday afternoon, with thunderstorms predicted during the racing this weekend). We'll be keeping a close eye on the forecast as the racing gets underway!

-RR

*[Updated 9:37pm PDT] Before the racing gets started, we wanted to add that Washington is also likely to be among those teams placing all three boats in A Finals this weekend—the Huskies have had a tremendous season to date, and have shown that they can perform in tight racing on a big stage, with a silver medal at the Pac-12 Championships just two weeks ago. (Also, Washington was our preseason No. 2—they may just prove us right in Indianapolis.) 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Evening Edition Video Of The Week: Washington versus Cal on the Montlake Cut



This week's video showcases the No. 1 University of Washington Huskies in their annual dual with then No. 2 California—a dogfight of a race that featured a significant lead change through the final 500m, and which further solidified the Huskies' early season ranking. (NB: you'll have to forgive the Rihanna club remix music—we're pretty sure it's thrown in to cover the voice of the coxswain.) Now, we've reached the business end of the racing season, with ACRAs already in the books for collegiate club programs, NCAAs set to take over Eagle Creek Park, Indiana, and the IRA national championships this weekend on Lake Natoma, outside Sacramento, California. And, you know what that means...yes, it's time for another round of prognostication on our parts! More to come...

In the meantime, here are the most recent coaches' polls:
NCAA women's rowing
IRA men's & lightweight women's rowing

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-RR

Friday, May 24, 2013

ACRA National Championships, 2013: RR Picks and Predicitions

Better late than never! The 2013 ACRA National Championships are nearly underway on Lake Lanier, Georgia, with expanded, eight-lane finals sure to make for exciting racing once again this year. Here are our thoughts on what'll happen this weekend:

Men's Varsity Eight

Virginia
Michigan State
Michigan

Cavalier seniors Scott Stuard and Jonathan Furlong will be looking to set the record straight after a sixth place finish at Dad Vails, while Michigan State's Mike Slopsema and the Spartans are hoping to back up their excellent performance in Philadelphia with more hardware in Gainesville. Wolverine junior Louis Schaljo and the Michigan men's varsity eight are coming off a win at ECACs, and Grand Valley, led by RR interviewee Justin Wegner, has a tough squad, and more experience than last year's campaign—the Lakers will be battling for a podium finish this year after just missing at ACRAs in 2012.

Women's Varsity Eight

Grand Valley
Purdue
UCSB

Senior Carey Mankins is on a mission to lead her Lakers to the promised land, while 2012 Under-23 World Champion Amanda Elmore and the Boilermakers will be looking to upset a GVSU crew that won Dad Vails by roughly 9 seconds over the field. The Gauchos from Santa Barbara will be looking for the first-ever podium appearance in the varsity eight at ACRAs, and we think this is the year. New Hampshire may also be in contention for a spot on the podium.

Men's Second Varsity Eight

Michigan
Virginia
Purdue (LWT)

The Wolverine second varsity eight has had an outstanding season, including wins at both Dad Vails and ECACs—we see that trend continuing in Georgia this weekend. North Carolina placed third at SIRAs this year, and they're not hurting for horsepower—Ryan Searcy has been racing in the second varsity eight this season despite going sub 6mins for 2,000m on the erg. However, it's more than likely that Searcy will be racing in the varsity crew on Lake Lanier, so we're taking the Boilermaker lightweights to place third in this event. Bucknell will also likely be in contention for a medal.

There are only four entries this year in the women's second varsity eight, so we've not included full picks for that event; however, we are taking GVSU to win the event convincingly.

Men's Frosh Eight

Virginia
Orange Coast College
Michigan

Pat Gleason's OCC Pirates have had a very strong season, including finishing ahead of Oregon State at Crew Classic in April. Virginia is our favorite to top the podium, after a solid second place finish in Philadelphia, roughly 7 seconds ahead of Michigan.

Click here for a look at the ACRA coaches' poll. Best of luck to all crews racing this weekend!

-RR

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Championship Weekend: Recap and Review

Washington takes the MV8 at Pac12s (Photo: © Madeline Davis)
Conference championship weekend has come and gone, and the invitees for the 2013 collegiate national championships have been announced. Before the racing last weekend, we feel back into our old habit of shooting our mouths off about who might be taking top honors across many of the major conferences—and now, it's time to see just how those picks and predictions turned out.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Video Of The Week: The 2013 Ivy League Rowing Championships



This week's (slightly delayed) video comes to us from the Ivy League Championship Regatta, where the Princeton Tigers won a dominant victory in the varsity eight to claim the automatic bid for the NCAA Championships, coming up later this month in Indianapolis. The Tigers cracked the podium in every event this year, claiming bronze in the second varsity eight behind Brown and Radcliffe, and bronze once again in the varsity four—Lori Dauphiny's squad is always competitive (they were our early season No. 4 overall in February), and may just have juice to be in contention for a national title at Eagle Creek Park.

Heaps more to come tomorrow from championship weekend, on both coasts, taking a look at how our picks and predictions played out on the water. (In the meantime I've been writing a piece on Sprints for ROWING Magazine, as well as a men's lightweight preview for IRAs.)

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (twitter.com/rowingrelated), or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

-Bryan

Thursday, May 16, 2013

College Championship Weekend: RR Picks and Predictions, Coast to Coast



The coming weekend marks one of the most important dates in U.S. collegiate rowing, with a tremendous number of championship titles on the line all over the country. Here are our thoughts, opinions, and educated guesses as to just what will transpire when oars meet water at the Pac-12, Ivy League, Eastern Sprints, Conference USA, Big East, and Big Ten Championships—let's take a look, shall we?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Evening Edition Video Of The Week: 'Train, Guide, Win,' with Marlow Rowing Club



It's getting to be that time of year—that point in the rowing season where all the winter workouts, all the hours in the gym, all the dark morning sessions and extra weights after practice are distant memories, and championship race day is approaching. This video, which was published earlier this year by Marlow Rowing Club, gets at just what it means to put in the hours that no one sees in order to be at your best when it matters most. From the training, to the coaching, to the experience of racing, this one has it all. (And, it certainly doesn't hurt that it's arguably the most cinematic rowing film on the internet.)

There have already been a number of surprises this season at both the junior and collegiate levels, with the Stanford men making their intentions clear in their annual dual with Cal, Marin and Oakland duking it out for supremacy at USRowing Southwest Junior Regionals, and Drexel defending home waters against all comers, including two-time defending champs Michigan, in the men's varsity eight at Dad Vails (and where did Michigan State come from? Hats off to the Spartans, backing up their silver from MACRAs in a big way). ECACs are also in the books, where Michigan bounced back from a tough day in the varsity eight on the Schuylkill, sweeping the men's eight events, while Williams continued their remarkable run of success on the women's side, matching the Wolverines' feat in the varsity and second varsity eights as they build toward the upcoming NCAA Championships later this month. Meanwhile, the Virginia women were busy winning their fourth straight ACC title, sweeping all four events.

The coming weekend promises to be just as exciting, with the Pac-12 Championships out west, as well as further conference championships for the Ivy League, Big Ten, Conference USA, WCC, and Big East titles (among others), and Eastern Sprints set to take over Worcester, Mass. on Sunday.

And did we mention that NSR II begins on Wednesday? Lots to look forward to in May!

-RR

Friday, May 10, 2013

Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, 2013: RR Picks and Predictions

The Schuylkill Course (Photo: B. Kitch)
The 75th Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta kicks off today, with a ton of teams and a host of races taking over the historic Schuylkill course through Saturday afternoon. There are a number of familiar names that will likely be among the top programs once again this year on both the men's and women's sides, though there are a few upstarts that may just get your attention this weekend as well. And so, without further ado, here are our picks and predictions for the podium (warning—opinions follow):

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Weekend Interviews: Craig Amerkhanian and Al Acosta of Stanford

Head coach Craig Amerkhanian addresses his team after the race (Photo: B. Kitch)
For the Stanford men's rowing team, it was a (wait for it) 'red letter day' at Redwood Shores last Saturday, as the varsity eight, stroked by former junior world champion Austin Hack, showed tremendous speed against their rival Cal, nearly setting a new course record on the way to victory. The Stanford crew was just 0.7 seconds off the 5:30.5 set by Washington's IRA champion varsity eight last year, and Cal also posted their fastest time in recent memory at Redwood Shores, breaking 5:33 in a losing effort.



The Stanford lightweight women's varsity crossing 1250m (Photo: B. Kitch)
Earlier in the morning, Al Acosta's Stanford lightweight women's varsity eight took on a heavyweight third varsity eight from Cal, winning convincingly in a time of 6:37.9 to Cal's 6:48.2. The Cardinal have won three straight IRA titles, and are looking to be in contention for yet another podium finish this year. The team also recently returned from a trip to Boston, which was affected by the events surrounding the Boston Marathon—though initially it looked as though racing might be canceled, order was restored in time for the Cardinal to take on  No. 1 Radcliffe. The Black and White crew took the race by roughly six seconds, with Stanford finishing second ahead of Princeton and Boston University. One interesting note: Stanford, currently ranked No. 2, has never entered the IRA as the top seed during their three year streak of championship titles.



-RR

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Weekend Interviews: Mike Teti and Dave O'Neill After the 2013 Big Row

Stanford and Cal W2Vs coming through the bridge (Photo: B. Kitch) 
Having returned from a difficult trip up to Seattle the previous weekend, California took to the water at Redwood Shores with a chip on their shoulder, taking on their traditional rivals on their home course. While the Cal women posted convincing victories in the NCAA events following some lineup switches—perhaps most notably moving 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Kara Kohler into the five seat—the Cal men were unable to match the speed of a resurgent Stanford varsity eight. Here are reflections on the racing from Cal head coaches Mike Teti and Dave O'Neill, following the racing on Saturday.





-RR

Monday, May 6, 2013

Video Of The Week: Cal Takes on Stanford in Honor of Jill Costello



This week's video comes from Redwood Shores, where California took on Stanford in the annual dual in honor of Jill Costello. The rowing was, as usual, of a very high quality, and there were several very closely contested races and very fast times posted over the course of the day. The upset of the event came in the men's varsity eight, where No. 7 Stanford went toe-to-toe with No. 3 Cal. This time, the Cardinal got the better of their Bay Area rival, and came very close to setting a new course record in the process, crossing the line in 5:31.2 (just 0.7 seconds off the mark set by Washington last year). On the women's side, No. 2 Cal proved the faster squad, coming from behind to win the second varsity eight race, and taking the varsity eight contest in record time (6:14.7—you can watch them come across the finish line here). The Stanford lightweight women were also in action, taking on a heavyweight crew from Cal, and Stanford showed that they will once again be in contention for the top spot in women's lightweight rowing come IRAs, winning their race convincingly.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

RR Interview: NSR I Winner John Graves

John Graves training in the single (Photo via J. Graves) 
The Graves family knows rowing. While older brothers Pete and Tom have raced together in the men's double representing the United States at the world championships in the past, and Pete earned a trip to London with the U.S. men's quad last summer, they're not the only ones in the family that know how to move a boat. Though John has primarily raced as a lightweight at the elite level in the past, he showed that he's got plenty of juice to step up to heavyweight at the first National Selection Regatta of 2013, posting the fastest time in the time trial, and carrying that momentum through the regatta for a victory over an excellent field, which included Olympians Sam Stitt (Beijing) and Glenn Ochal (London). Here, John catches us up on his personal athletic background, his family's rowing legacy, and his plans for the summer.



RR: How did growing up in a family of rowers shape your athletics goals?

John Graves: Growing up, rowing was always a part of life—I don't think I understood just how strange that actually was until I was in high school. I was always pretty sure I didn't want to do it—I always wanted to do other sports, and try to not be just another rower, so I pretty much did everything I possibly could to make that happen. And it worked, for about 14 years—and then I fell into it, and here I am.