Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The 2015 IRA National Championship Regatta: RR Recap and Review

The view from Conibear Shellhouse (Photo: B. Kitch)

In large part, the 2015 IRA confirmed our suspicions. That is to say, when all was said and done, our preseason picks didn't look all that bad. But how they got there is a whole different story.

Heavyweight Rowing
For several of the teams in action on Mercer Lake over the weekend, the 2015 spring season was one that presented new challenges, and without exception, the familiar dynasties that have been built over the past few years rose to the occasion. There was perhaps no better example of this than our preseason no. 1 pick, Washington, who suffered a setback at home against arch rival Cal at the Dual, and then a second straight loss at the Windermere Cup a week later—a Husky fan on the scene at Opening Day commented that "they're breaking our hearts" so far this year. But the close loss to the Kiwis on the Cut was a moral victory for the Dawgs, and they rode that wave of momentum right into Pac-12s, where they reversed the margin on California but roughly seven seconds (the Bears had won the Dual by roughly 3 seconds, while the Huskies took Pac-12s by over a length).


Still, even that doesn't do justice to what the modern-era Huskies have accomplished. By now, it's certainly well known that Washington accomplished something unprecedented in the history of the IRA on Saturday (that is, winning five straight titles), but it's even more impressive when you look at it in the context of their own program: This is, by far, the most successful era in the history of Washington Husky Rowing at IRAs.


Before the Huskies won in 2007, their last IRA title had come in 1997. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1970, and then 1950 to see the Huskies winning it all. Yes, men's head coach Mike Callahan took over a successful program when he returned to Conibear Shellhouse, but what he has done with it since then is truly remarkable. Hats off, Huskies.

While they couldn't quite topple the Huskies this year, California did have another solid performance across the board, missing the podium in just one event (the second varsity eight, where the Bears finished fourth), and gave the proceedings a distinctly West Coast feel. The Bears varsity eight fought very well to hold on to the front runners, and held off a great charge by the Princeton Tigers in the final 250 meters to take silver, also earning the second-highest point total as a team at the regatta. And, they'll be back—the Golden Bears varsity eight featured two freshmen and just one senior this year, so 2016 should be very interesting, to say the least.



Other notes: Princeton had another strong season and finished very well at IRAs—Greg Hughes' program seems to be on the cusp of something great; the reversal of the results for Yale and Harvard from Eastern Sprints will certainly add interest to this year's Harvard-Yale Regatta, coming up shortly; the Brown Bears had a tough year in terms of raw results—they battled well, landing all three of their varsity eights in the finals, but were unable to quite find the same top-end speed they've enjoyed in the past.

Lightweight Rowing
What can we say? It looks like Cornell is ready to relive the late aughts, as they set themselves up for what could be a second three-peat of IRA victories next year with a second-consecutive undefeated season in the varsity eight. The Columbia Lions certainly made things as tough as possible for Big Red, but just couldn't quite get over the hump, while the Crimson once again showed up when it counted, and confirmed our early season suspicions.



Meanwhile, on the women's side, the Stanford Lightweights are beginning to look a bit like UW: the Cardinal won their fifth title in six seasons, the first in what could be many under the guidance of new head coach Derek Byrnes. And, not only did Stanford take the eight, but also the four en route to a team victory in West Windsor.



You can find complete 2015 IRA Regatta results here.

Coming up tomorrow: A look back at the most impressive performances at the NCAA Rowing Championships, where a dynasty prevailed in Division I, while new champions were crowned in DII and DIII.

-RR

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