Friday, September 25, 2015

The 2015 RoRy Awards, Part Two: Celebrating the Best in College Rowing


Rowing fans, it's time for Part Two of the 2015 RoRy Awards, celebrating the best athletes, coaches, and performances in intercollegiate rowing this year. And, there was no shortage of material for the RoRy Voting Committee to consider, not least of which were two unprecedented performances at IRAs and NCAAs last spring.

So, without further ado, here are your 2015 RoRy Award winners for excellence at the college level.

RoRy Award for Women's Program of the Year:
Ohio State University
Okay, you might have seen this one coming, but let's face it, no one has ever won three straight NCAA Division I Rowing titles before, and this year was arguably the best of the three. Why? Because the Buckeyes put an exclamation point on their championship run with a victory over a previously undefeated California varsity eight en route to the promised land. Congratulations to Andy Teitelbaum and his whole staff for having built a perennial contender—don't sleep on the Buckeyes in 2016, either.

RoRy Award Men's Program of the Year:
University of Washington
Yes, again, it's predictable, we admit. But you just can't really argue with this pick. Like the Buckeyes, the Huskies accomplished something that had never been done. In the Huskies' case, however, the history goes all the way back to the 19th century—no team had ever won five straight IRA varsity eight titles since the inception of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association. As we said in a Video Of The Week post earlier this year, featuring the Huskies:
"...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."
Hats off, Huskies.

Honorable Mention: 
Cornell Lightweights
Big Red had a second straight undefeated season under head coach Chris Kerber, and, with the victory, Cornell now say that they have won five of the last 10 lightweight national championships, going back to when they won three straight from 2006-2008. Kerber and Big Red will be looking to duplicate that run this season to complete the trifecta, but you never know in lightweight rowing—and that's just what makes Big Red's current run so impressive.

RoRy Award for Women's Coach of the Year:
Andy Teitelbaum, Ohio State University
There were a ton of impressive coaching performances in NCAA rowing this year, not least of which was that of Dave O'Neill deep in the heart of Texas (of that, more later). But again, doing something that has never been done before at this level, given the closeness of competition, and pressure of expectations in an athletic department like that of Ohio State, and the depth and development that it takes to create a, dare we say, dynasty, has to be honored and appreciated. Also, before his Buckeyes went on their streak of winning NCAA titles, Teitelbaum's crews had a series of near misses, and have never been far off the pace. We're seeing the fruits of years of painstaking and careful labor, here, people. Congrats once again to Coach Teitelbaum and the whole Buckeye squad!

RoRy Award for Men's Coach of the Year:
Mike Callahan, University of Washington
Continuing the repetition, but the job that Mike Callahan did this year, guiding his crew through some tough early season losses on the Montlake Cut to California and New Zealand's U23 men's eight, to a breakthrough against the Golden Bears at Pac-12s, and then a fifth-straight title in Princeton was just unbelievable. And, when you take a closer look, there's still more reason why Callahan deserves this award.

Everyone takes for granted that Washington is a machine and is always a contender. But look at the history of IRA victories for Washington, and you'll see a different picture—Callahan is by far the most successful Washington men's coach in the history of the program, in terms of IRA victories. As we wrote earlier this year:
"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."

RoRy for Club Coach of the Year:
Gregg Hartsuff, University of Michigan
Not only did Hartsuff's Michigan Wolverines win yet another ACRA title in 2015, but also Hartsuff selected and guided the U.S. men's rowing team for the World University Games, winning the men's eight by roughly a length over the field in Chungju, South Korea.

RoRy for Breakthrough Performance of the Year:
University of Texas at Austin
Most people expected the Longhorns to evolve into a competitor over the coming seasons, with the arrival of one of the best coaches in the country, Dave O'Neill, from California just prior to the 2014-2015 campaign. But the Longhorns were ahead of schedule. O'Neill and his staff took a crew that had never been invited to the NCAA Championships before, and not only performed brilliantly, but also made the final in the varsity eight. Looking forward, the message is clear: Don't mess with Texas. Congrats, Longhorns!



Honorable Mention: 
Yale University Men's Varsity Eight
As we're sure will prove no shortage of motivation throughout the 2015-2016 season, the Bulldogs were one race away this year—their only loss of the season coming in the semifinals at the IRA championships, preventing them from having a chance at a national title. However, coach Steve Gladstone's crew had an outstanding season nonetheless, winning Eastern Sprints, and responded to their IRA disappoint almost immediately with an emphatic win over the Washington Huskies at Henley Royal Regatta. Will that momentum carry forward this year? We're betting it will.

RoRy for Race of the Year:
Women's Division I Varsity Four Grand Final, NCAA Rowing Championships
This was a barnburner if we've ever seen one. The difference between a national championship title and a bronze medal performance was just over three tenths of a second, as the Cavaliers from Virginia (7:12.76) edged both Yale (7:12.92) and Brown (7:13.07), respectively for the victory. Congratulations to coach Kevin Sauer, as well as the crew of Julia Roithmayr, Maggie Bowman-Jones, Janey Brennan, Hannah Solis-Cohen, and Ellen Pate on the win!

RoRy for College Female Athlete of the Year: 
Kendall Chase, University of California, Berkeley
It was a remarkable year for Golden Bear Kendall Chase this season, as she stroked a nearly undefeated California varsity eight to a second-place finish at NCAAs—the crew's only loss of the year. Then, Chase joined the USRowing U23 team in taking Plovdiv by storm—Chase stroked the U23 world champion women's eight, and then changed her view to win the BW4- over Canada from the bow seat. Suffice it to say, that's a lot of hardware to bring home in one season.

Honorable Mention/Rising Star: 
Georgia Ratcliff, University of Virginia
Like her counterpart from California, this season was and outstanding one for Ratcliff. She and the Cavaliers took third place in the women's varsity eight at NCAAs this season, after which Ratcliff, too, enjoyed considerable success overseas, winning the women's pair and women's eight for USRowing at the World Rowing U23 Championships. The rising junior and former ACC Freshman of the Year might just be one to keep and eye on in the elite ranks in the future.

RoRy for College Male Athlete of the Year: 
Natan Wegrzycki-Szyzmcyk, University of California, Berkeley
The California men's program has been ever-so-close over the past two seasons, under the guidance of Olympian and longtime USRowing national team coach, Mike Teti. And this year, the Bears got over the top at the Cal-Washington Dual in Seattle, where freshman Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczykof Poland stroked the Bears' varsity eight to victory. After finishing a close second to Washington at IRAs in team points, as well as in the varsity eight final, Natan then traded in his sweep oar for a set of sculls, and earned a qualifying spot for the 2016 Olympic Games in the men's single at the World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France. Did we mention that this guy just got finished with his freshman year at Cal? In the words of Charlie Brown, "Good grief!"

Honorable Mention: 
Tim Masters, Princeton University
Like Yale, Princeton, too, had their strongest season in years, and Aussie Tim Masters was certainly among the team leaders helping to make that happen. Like Goodman, Masters is well suited to the stroke seat, where he rowed as the Tigers won a bronze medal at Eastern Sprints, as well as their first medal in the varsity eight at IRAs since 2006. Masters and the Tigers also claimed the Compton Cup over Harvard for the first time since 2006.

And there we have it! Congratulations to all the winners from Day Two of the 2015 RoRy Awards! Coming up tomorrow, we celebrate the best athletes, coaches, and performances of the 2014-2015 season at the elite level—you won't want to miss it!

Stay tuned.

-RR

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