The men's varsity eight event this year will be a barn burner, with more heat coming from teams out West than in previous seasons. As evidenced by San Diego Crew Classic and later Newport Regatta (see video below), both UCSB and the UC Irvine Anteaters are looking strong—the Anteaters got the better of the Gauchos at WIRAs, as did Washington State, and UC Irvine followed up that performance with a victory in Newport Harbor (a first for the program in 29 years, as reported in an Orange County Register piece about this year's Anteaters).
Still, the 'beasts from the East' (er, and Midwest—less rhyme-y that way, though) look to be the teams to beat, with Michigan firing on all cylinders after an oh-so-close to Dad Vail and NICR double-victory (the Wolverines were narrowly edged by an epic sprint by the FIT Panthers in Philadelphia, and then took first place the following day in Worcester). And, while Virginia was off the pace in the Dad Vail varsity eight final, the Cavaliers have had their sights set on the long game since the early season—the 10-second margin could be partly explained by academic-year timing as well as the depths of a brutal training slog in anticipation of ACRAs and Henley Royal Regatta.
Also not to be ignored will be Grand Valley State, who had a strong performance at Crew Classic, and a decent showing at Dad Vails—their experience and pedigree will be assets going into the racing in Georgia. Adding an unknown element to the mix will be a very strong Delaware men's lightweight eight, coming into ACRAs after a historically good season thus far—not only did the Blue Hens defeat the Harvard lightweight varsity eight in a dual meet earlier this year, but also they backed that up with a Dad Vail win, and will certainly be looking to hunt down some of the top heavyweight competition in Atlanta. And, our early season no. 5 Boston College will likely be in the mix for the grand final, as will Bucknell. Suffice it to say, this could be the tastiest ACRA men's varsity eight final to date.
Right now, we're giving Michigan the edge to win it all, but the fight for the lesser medals will be a fierce one, with many of the above crews coming in with a legit shot to make the podium.
On the women's side, the heavy favorite has to be Grand Valley State, who will come in as the no. 1 seed, after s strong finish (if just off the podium) at Dad Vails. Their toughest competition will come, as usual, from Purdue and UC Santa Barbara—the UCSB program has really grown and shown depth on both the men's and women's side under Desmond Stahl and Mike Holmes, and will be competitive across the board.
Follow the above link to find heat sheets for tomorrow's racing, and for official results, please visit the American Collegiate Rowing Association website. Also, keep an eye on our Twitter feed for more updates throughout the weekend of racing.
Here's what the Gainesville Times is saying about ACRAs so far.