Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Intercollegiate Rowing Association Preview: RowingRelated Preseason Rankings

Washington hoists the Pac-12 varsity eight trophy, 2014 (Photo: B. Kitch)
The 2015 IRA field looks very familiar, though the power struggle at the top may just yield different results this time around. The margins were slimmer last season for the Washington Huskies, but the Ten Eyck results were just the same. Can anyone stop the Huskies this spring?

Heavyweight Men

1. University of Washington
As we said in a recent Video Of The Week post featuring the Huskies, 2015 could be a record-setting year for the Dawgs. Why's that? The Huskies have the chance to do something that has never been done in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association era: to win five-straight varsity eight titles. To find the only instance of a team winning more than four-straight national championships, you have to go back to the days of the RAAC (that's the Rowing Association of American Colleges), when Cornell won six straight from 1889-1894.

And they've got the talent to get it done. The Huskies' roster boasts British JNT and U23 veteran Marcus Bowyer, Guglielmo Carcano and Grega Domanjko from Slovenia, Aussie Henry Meek, and American Alex Perkins (JNT and U23 experience), among a host of others. Look for Washington to get their season started with a bang visiting Brown on the Bears' home course in Providence.

2. California
Mike Teti's Golden Bears weren't far off the pace last year, and nearly upset the Huskies in the points standings. How close was it? Washington retained the trophy for a record eighth straight time, but the margin was 192 points to Cal's 188 overall. This year, Cal, led by seniors Jovan Jovanovic (two-time U23 world champion in the BM4+ with Serbia) and former junior world champion Louis Snelson of Australia, as well as high-performing American sophomores Justin Murphy and Kyle Flagg. After placing every crew in the program on the podium last season, the Golden Bears will be hungry to topple their arch rivals on the national stage.

3. Yale University
Steve Gladstone, as usual, has been recruiting well—just take a look up and down the roster and you'll notice that there's a reason why the Bulldogs have elevated their game recently, cracking the A Final in the varsity eight at IRAs last year for the first time since 2006. This year, American Nate Goodman, French freshman and U23 national teamer Paul Jacquot, Simon Keenan (2014 U23 silver medalist in the Aussie BM8+), Tom Pagel (Henley winner with Abingdon and British U23 veteran), 6'8" phenom Hubert Trzybinski of Germany (former junior and U23 world champion), and Radley alum Ollie Wynne-Griffith of Great Britain (JNT and U23 experience with Team GB) will be looking to lead Yale's heavyweights to the promised land—if they pull it off, it would mean the first podium finish for the Bulldogs at IRAs since...ever?

4. Princeton University
The Tigers had to wait longer than expected for Lake Carnegie to open this year, but Princeton had a breakthrough season last year at the IRA Regatta, and is poised to build on that foundation in 2015. Also, in speaking with head coach Greg Hughes for the upcoming issue of ROWING Magazine, Hughes said he felt that the long winter indoors has proven beneficial in the past—citing last year's improved fitness as an example. Leading the way for the Tigers will be former Canadian junior internationals Martin Barasko and Dan de Groot, Jamie Hamp (American U23 experience), freshman Jan Bernhard (German JNT and U23 veteran), and Australian Tim Masters.

5. Brown University
Bruno always produces a deep squad of racers, and, as evidenced by Crash-Bs—where they swept the collegiate/U23 podium thanks to Whiting Tennis (5:54.9), Brooks Reavill (5:59.7), and freshman Grant Bitler (6:00.9)—the Bears will bring some serious horsepower to the table in 2015. Head coach Paul Cooke always builds a tough regular season schedule for his crews, and this year is no exception, kicking off with tests against Yale and Washington. In recent years, that strategy seems to have paid big dividends down the line when it comes time for championship racing, but the Ivy field may be even more densely packed this year than last.

6. Harvard
7. BU
8. Northeastern
9. Navy
10. Wisconsin


Lightweight Men

1. Cornell
2014 IRA Coach of the Year Chris Kerber has Big Red firing on all cylinders again. Cornell won its first IRA lightweight title since Big Red rattled off three straight from 2006-2008 last season, and they’ve started the 2014-2015 season well, too—Cornell finished in third place overall at the Head Of The Charles in a tightly packed field (just five seconds separating first through third), and backed up that effort with a five-second victory at the Princeton Chase the following weekend. Recently, Big Red saw junior Cameron Schultz take second in the U23/collegiate lightweight category at Crash-Bs.

2. Harvard
The Crimson had an up and down (and eventually up) year last season—the first year under new head coach Michiel Bartman. However, they seem to have carried the momentum from a strong IRA finish last season into the 2014-2015 campaign, as evidenced by their Head Of The Charles results. They'll benefit from some solid senior leadership from Marin alum Zander Bonorris and experienced Norwegian U23 international Nicolai Astrup Wiik.

3. Columbia
The Columbia Lions will have some serious firepower on board this spring in the form of Norwegian international Fredrik Aasaaren (6:18.3 at Crash-B Sprints in 2014) and Matthew Bellesheim (winner of the U23/collegiate lightweight event at Crash-Bs this year). The Columbia program is building on several years of increased success—the Lions will be looking to firmly establish themselves among the league's elite this year with a third-consecutive podium finish in the varsity eight.

Yale and Princeton also had strong fall seasons, and are also teams to watch going forward—with lightweight racing, anything can happen, and perhaps nobody knows that better than Andy Card.


Lightweight Women

1. Radcliffe
The Black and White ended Stanford's streak with a killer sprint last season, the first under head coach Lou Berl, and this year the Cardinal are going through a coaching change of their own. Radcliffe have the experience and talent to make it a repeat run this year, with standout seniors Adelaide Backer (has rowed in the varsity eight since her frosh year, daughter of two Canadian international rowers), and Claire Harmange (three-sport varsity athlete in high school, rowed in last year's varsity eight) leading the way.

2. Stanford
The Cardinal welcomed new head coach Derek Byrnes across the San Francisco Bay from his old home at Oakland Strokes, where Byrnes enjoyed phenomenal success. While the early season results showed that Stanford was in the midst of transition, the team has great potential—and it's a long season. Byrnes knows how to get his athletes ready for the most important race, and will be looking to match Berl's first-year magic from last year with his new squad. Also, given the West Coast's mild winter, the Cardinal will have had a chance to make up for lost time on the water, unlike their Eastern counterparts.

3. Boston University
The B.U. lightweight women made a strong statement on home water at the Head Of The Charles last fall, and will be looking to improve on last year's fourth place finish with a podium performance this spring. However, also in the mix will be usual suspects Wisconsin, and Bucknell is coming off a bronze medal at IRAs in 2014. The third and final podium position could be a very closely contested result this May.

Let the games begin! We will update our rankings throughout the season. Check the new RR Rankings page to see current and historical rankings, updated as they become available.

-RR

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