Friday, May 30, 2014

NCAA and IRA Championships in Full Swing: Crews to Watch this Weekend

The trophy table at IRAs (Photo: B. Kitch)
It's another championship weekend of racing at the collegiate level in the U.S., with the best of the best in NCAA Rowing gathered in Indianapolis, and the top varsity men's crews on the water at Lake Mercer. With national titles on the line, and incumbents with very strong squads once again, the challengers will have their hands full trying to wrest the titles from the holders' grasp. But, when the wakes settle, we may see new champions crowned in the east and (Mid)west.

IRA Crews to Watch
The heats are in the books, and this year's top IRA crews will be very familiar from 2013—the strongest men's heavyweight varsity eights are Washington, California, Harvard, Brown, Northeastern, Princeton, and Yale (the top seven at last year's championships). This time, however, we may see some reshuffling of the order. California has been threatening all season, and so far the Huskies have fought them off in impressive fashion. Still, just as we said in November, our pick to win the men's varsity eight is Cal—the Golden Bears have been putting the pieces together better and better all season, and nearly toppled UW at Pac-12s. (Washington did post the fastest time of the day, however, and looked very smooth doing it, by all accounts.) We're also looking for a very impressive Harvard crew to make the podium once again after an inspiring showing at Sprints, but expect Princeton and Brown to make things very interesting for the podium. Also, if Cal could pull off a victory in the varsity eight, things might get interesting for the Ten Eyck—the Golden Bears won the second varsity eight race in Sacramento, and have a very strong frosh crew, which won its heat earlier today.

It'll be a tough ask, though...

In the lightweight events, while the Stanford women are coming in as the No. 2-ranked varsity eight, they've got a streak of four-straight IRA titles (and they've never gotten the No. 1 seed entering the championship regatta). It's going to be a battle between the Cardinal and the Black and White, as Radcliffe hasn't missed a beat since new head coach Lou Berl took the helm at the beginning of the 2013-2014 campaign (which included a record-setting performance at EAWRC Sprints). Our call: Stanford.

The men's lightweight field has been shaken up since last year with a number of coaching changes, and varying results. Cornell is having its best season since its last IRA victory in 2008, winning Sprints (and the Jope Cup), and Princeton is looking like a resurgent program with the influx of new coaching and a great deal of horsepower. Yale is always in the mix, and this year is no exception—look for these three to be battling it out for the podium once again in Princeton just as they did two weeks ago in Worcester. Keep an eye on Columbia as well, as the Lions will be looking to finish off their season strong with a second-straight IRA podium appearance, having just missed at Sprints.

NCAA Crews to Watch
Division I: The Golden Bears have had, in some ways, a tough season to date—at least by their own standards. Cal had won six-straight Pac-12 titles before seeing their Bay Area rivals topple them earlier this month in Sacramento. But they're still an extremely talented team, and they know how to finish strong—just look at last year's varsity eight's performance in Indy. Hence, they're our pick to win the varsity eight (and maybe even the varsity four) this weekend, placing them strongly in contention for an NCAA team title.

Stanford had a great morning in Indianapolis, and has been gaining speed throughout the season—though they flew under the radar for much of the year, the Cardinal exploded onto the scene with an impressive sweep of Cal (in the NCAA events) in their annual dual, and haven't looked back since.

No. 1-ranked Ohio State is coming off another Big 10 sweep of the NCAA events, and is looking strong, though their varsity four encountered some trouble in this morning's heat—the Buckeyes had a mechanical issue that saw them finish sixth, so they'll be headed to this afternoon's reps. Washington is another very strong team out of the Pac-12, and has a chance to take home the team trophy, while Princeton and Brown (the incredible John and Phoebe Murphy might just do it again!) are the favorites from the east. As usual, we expect Virginia to be in the mix as well—it's going to be a very interesting weekend at Eagle Creek Park, to say the least!

As for Division II level, last year's winner, Nova Southeastern, enters as the No. 1 seed, and we don't see any reason to challenge that ranking, while No. 2 Humboldt State returns after a year's absence, having won the 2012 title. Division III is likely going to be the toughest battle that Williams has seen in years, with Bates entering as No. 1—will the eight-time national champion Ephs be able to extend their winning streak?

Keep an eye on the RR Twitter feed for live results and commentary from the race course, and follow the links for live results from IRAs (streaming video here) and NCAAs.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Video Of The Week: Washington Huskies Prep for the 2014 IRA Regatta

This week's video comes to us from the Montlake Cut, where the Washington Huskies have been putting the final touches on their preparation for the 2014 IRA National Championship Regatta, set for this weekend in Princeton. The Huskies, who (inexplicably) started the season as the No. 6-ranked men's varsity eight, are looking to cap off another Pac-12 win with a fourth-straight IRA title (and fifth in the last six years)—but they will have their work cut out for them. The Huskies came through Pac-12s strong, but faced their toughest challenge since the 2013 Cal-Washington Dual, coming back from a four-seat deficit with 500m to go to take the victory by roughly one seat over Cal.

Cal and UW race to the line at Lake Natoma (Photo: B. Kitch)

While ACRAs are now in the rearview, the varsity-level national championships give us plenty to look forward to, with IRAs taking over Mercer Lake, and the 2014 NCAA Rowing Championships returning to Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis this weekend. First, however, let's take a look back at the action in Gainesville.

As promised on RR, it was Michigan who reigned supreme once again this season in the men's varsity eight and second varsity eight. The Wolverines are looking very deep for next year as well, with a host of rising juniors from this year's team ready to continue the momentum for Michigan into the 2015 campaign. Also as predicted, it was a fight between Virginia and Grand Valley State for the remaining podium spots in the men's varsity eight, with UVA holding off a hard-charging Laker crew in the final strokes to take the silver. While our top six teams did indeed race the medal round in the men's frosh eight, it was Orange Coast College leading the way in the end, ahead of a strong UCSB crew, with UVA, Michigan, and Notre Dame (a crew that did, indeed, turn some heads on Lake Lanier) chasing. While the focus will remain primarily on those programs that have, in some ways, become 'The Big Three' in men's club rowing—Michigan, Virginia, and Grand Valley—both Bucknell and UCSB have been building momentum over the last several years, and shouldn't be ignored going into the 2014-2015 racing season.

As for the women, John Bancheri's Grand Valley crew successfully defended their title, this time by roughly eight seconds ahead of UCSB, with Purdue taking third place overall. As predicted, Wichita State was in the final as well, but it was New Hampshire who held them off for a fourth-place finish. It should be noted as well that GVSU and UCSB took first and second in the women's second varsity eight, with Grand Valley making it a trifecta with a gold in the women's varsity four, while UCSB took first in the women's novice eight category—further evidence of good things to come in Santa Barbara next season.

Coming up tomorrow on RR: NCAA and IRA Previews—from 'Windy Indy' to Mercer Lake, the crews to watch at the varsity level


Friday, May 23, 2014

Video Of The Week: Boston College Men's Crew, Plus ACRA Picks and Predictions

This week's video comes to us from the Boston College men's rowing team, and features a look back at the 2014 campaign for the Eagles, which included a trip out west to San Diego for Crew Classic (where they finished seventh overall, winning the Petite Final), and most recently a seventh place finish at ECACs. In addition to some nice on-the-water shots, there's a healthy bit of boathouse banter thrown in ("boatspeed") from what was a solid season for the men in maroon and gold.

Next up for BC men's crew? ACRAs, which kick off tomorrow in Gainesville, Georgia, pitting the top collegiate club teams in the country against one another to crown this year's national champion. The 2014 edition of the American Collegiate Rowing Association Championships will be live-streamed and feature very strong crews from Michigan, Virginia, Grand Valley State, and Bucknell renewing their rivalries on Lake Lanier. And so, without further ado, let's take a look at how these proud collegiate club rowing programs stack up, shall we?

Michigan is having one of those seasons. Speaking with head coach Gregg Hartsuff for a ROWING Magazine season preview early in the 2014 campaign, it was clear that this would be a good group, and they've lived up to their potential so far, winning Dad Vails and taking second in the varsity eight at ECACs (less than 0.5 seconds behind Hobart)—the Wolverines also won the second and third varsity eights, finished second in the novice eight, and won the open four in Worcester. For the above reasons, Michigan is our pick to win the ACRA title once again in Gainesville, defending their championship from last season. We're looking for UVA to take second, though it will likely be a tough battle with a very strong GVSU crew that won the Cal Cup in San Diego last April. Also, look for Bucknell to make things interesting for the podium (just as we predicted in March). The race for the medals in the men's second varsity eight will look very familiar, this time with Michigan, UVA, and Bucknell leading the way (in that order).

While the popular favorite to win the men's frosh eight going in will likely be Michigan, we think that Notre Dame will surprise some people in Gainesville this weekend. Battling the Irish for the top spot will be Michigan, GVSU, and UVA, with UCSB and Orang Coast College also probables for the grand final—it could be a tightly packed frosh field in Georgia this year!

On the women's side, Grand Valley is having another great season after walking away with the ACRA title last year. After a close third at Dad Vails, the Lakers are looking like heavy favorites to defend their 2013 championship, likely with UCSB, Purdue, and Wichita State battling it out for the lesser medals.

Keep an eye on the RR Twitter feed for race updates throughout the weekend, and good luck all crews!

Have a submission for 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestions via Twitter, or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.

Coming up next week: NCAA and IRA Previews—from 'Windy Indy' to Mercer Lake, the crews to watch at the varsity level


Friday, May 16, 2014

Video(s) Of The Week: Cornell Trains for Sprints; the Pac-12 Women's Coaches Sound Off

This week's first video comes to us from Big Red, who are prepping for this weekend's showdown in Worcester to determine the fastest crews in the East. Cornell enters the racing as the fifth-ranked varsity eight in a field that has seen some changes over the last 12 months, with Charley Butt taking the helm at Harvard (No. 2) following the loss of Harry Parker, and Yale making good on early-season potential to claim a No. 1 seed. The top of the field is likely to be very tightly packed, with Brown and Princeton not far off the top two crews—will we see a new heavyweight champion crowned on Lake Quinsigamond?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Video Of The Week: Spring Break with the Wolverines

This week's video comes from spring break training camp with our frontrunners for the 2014 ACRA national title, the University of Michigan Wolverines. From the above, it looks as though the Michigan men's squad enjoyed some unfamiliar conditions (sun, warmth), and took full advantage of their camp, on and off the water. The Wolverines are in action this weekend in Philadelphia at the 76th Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, and having won their heat are well positioned to take a run at the title again this year—their last heavyweight varsity eight victory came in 2012, when they edged FIT by roughly three tenths of a second to claim the crown on the Schuylkill. Other contenders for the men's varsity eight title this year look to be FIT, Bucknell, Grand Valley, Virginia, and defending champions Drexel—these are probables for tomorrow's final, though there is a tough round of semis coming up on Saturday morning.

For live, streaming coverage of Dad Vails, check out ESPN's feed here, and keep and eye on our Twitter feed for more updates throughout the racing.

Have a submission for 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestions via Twitter, or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Interview: Mary Whipple and Pete Cipollone on USRowing's Coxswain Appreciation Week

Cal coxswain Zach Vlahos (third from right) throws out the first pitch at a San Francisco Giants game in 2011, after being honored for Cal's 2010 national title (Photo: B.Kitch)
Last week, USRowing celebrated the role of the coxswain in our sport, with the support of two home-grown Olympic champions in the form of Mary Whipple and Pete Cipollone. In the audio interview below, the dynamic duo outline their current projects—including Whipple's upcoming summer rowing camp at the University of Washington (featuring fellow Olympians Anna Goodale, Lindsay Shoop, Erin Cafaro, and Anna Cummins helping out in the coaches' launch), and Cipollone's new coaching website, (which also involves a few familiar names, not least of which is Adam Kreek)—and reflect on their most significant lessons learned from their time at the highest level of rowing.

While at the time of the interview, the winners of USRowing's #coxieappreciation contest weren't yet known, they have since been announced on the USRowing website. Congrats all!

Coming up next on RR: Our weekly video pick—this one a look inside spring break 2014 with the University of Michigan men's rowing team.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Video Of The Week: Flashback Friday to the 2010 Windermere Cup

This week's video anticipates tomorrow's 2014 Opening Day Regatta with a look back at the Windermere Cup from four years ago, when Oxford came across to take on the Huskies and the Syracuse Orange on the Montlake Cut. The Oxford crew included a number of standout Blues, among them Ante Kusurin and Sjeord Hamburger, while the Husky lineup counted Conlin McCabe, Ty Otto, Mathis Jessen, and Tom Lehmann among their crew. The video gives a thorough, behind-the-scenes perspective on the event, including interviews with the athletes and Washington men's head coach Mike Callahan.

The 2014 Windermere Cup will again see a challenger from across the pond take on the Huskies—this time, however, it's a crew made up of GB squad members who bring a great deal of international racing experience to Seattle. The most experienced and decorated member of the rower among them is Dan Ritchie, who was bow seat of the 2013 world champion GB men's eight, and there are a number of development athletes in the mix as well. On the women's side, a very strong Washington crew (that suffered a close loss to arch rival California last weekend at Redwood Shores) stroked by Canadian Olympian Patricia Obee will tackle another talented GB lineup coxed by Zoe de Toledo. The GB crew includes four rowers with senior-level international experience (Zoe Lee, Caragh McMurtry, Olivia Carnegie-Brown, and Rosamund Bradbury). For a thorough look at the athletes and crews getting ready to battle it out on the Cut this weekend, check out Daniel Spring's preview article here. (Spring is predicting a double-victory for Great Britain—do you agree?)

For more information on the 2014 Opening Day Regatta and Windermere Cup, please visit the official website of the University of Washington Athletics Department.

Have a submission for 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestions via Twitter, or get in touch via our Facebook or Google+ pages.