Tuesday, May 3, 2016

College Rowing Regular Season Report: Who's on Top Heading into Championship Racing?

Our take on the rowing 2016 season, with championships looming

It's hard to believe, but we are already nearly through another season of rowing at the collegiate level here stateside, and the competition is well and truly heating up. Here's our take on the season so far, with a view toward championship racing, just around the corner.

While Yale have been the favorites on the men's side in many people's eyes since their dominant win at Henley last year, Washington looks poised to defend their standing. On the women's side, California's varsity has had a strong season, but the depth of the Bears on the East Coast may prove too much for the ones from the Golden State. And as for the lightweights—as usual, it has been anything but predictable. Let's take a look, shall we?

NCAA Division I 

1. California
2. Brown
3. Ohio State
4. Stanford
5. Virginia
6. Texas
7. Washington
8. Yale
9. Princeton
10. Wisconsin

The NCAA field this year has been anything but predictable. Yes, California has been fast and has generally executed when it has mattered most, but Stanford has been surprising people all season (maybe we shouldn't be surprised anymore?), and Brown's depth (not to mention their historical penchant for winning NCAA titles) makes them a clear contender to win the team title, if not the varsity eight. Ohio State's varsity and second varsity crews have performed well, as expected—this will likely out them in a position to be battling with Brown for the nation's top finish once again, an all-too-familiar feeling for the Buckeyes these days!

A video posted by Stanford Women's Crew (@stanfordwomenscrew) on


Meanwhile, Texas has continued to build momentum under Dave O'Neill's watchful eye, and Washington appears to have rallied behind newly appointed interim coach Conor Bullis after the difficult circumstances that prompted the firing of long-time coach Bob Ernst last fall (Nota Bene: The Huskies' second varsity and varsity four are undefeated thus far in 2016). As for the national title, we're expecting a battle for supremacy between the Big Ten, the ACC, and the Pac-12, but the Ivies will likely be well represented—and may be the favorites going into nationals—on account of the Brown Bears.

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IRA Men's Heavyweights

1. Yale
2. Princeton
3. Washington
4. California
5. Harvard
6. Brown
7. Northeastern
8. Cornell
9. Boston University
10. Syracuse

The men's heavyweight rowing rankings have been much more interesting this season than over the past several years (with the possible exception of last season), with defending champions Washington facing a deeper field and arguably a stronger challenge from the Ivies, as well as a Cal program that boasts one of the best, if not the best, athletes in college rowing in the form of Natan Szymczyk (winner of our RoRy Award for Collegiate Male Athlete of the Year in 2015). However, as we know from last year (when the seemingly invincible Yale suffered a misstep in the semifinals at IRAs—their only loss of the season), anything is possible, and Cal's chances at a medal may be affected by dealing with off the water issues, despite the Bears' recent victory over Washington in a course-record time. (Before you get too excited about that, though, remember that last year the Bears won their dual with Washington on the Montlake Cut by a larger margin, only to lose at Pac-12s in a seven-second reversal of fortune.)



The rest of the A-Final at IRAs looks like it will feature Harvard, Brown, and Northeastern battling it out for pride and overall placement, while teams like Cornell and Boston University will be likely at the top of the petites, or hoping to pull off an upset on the grandest stage to crack the grand. Of course, we'll get a preview of the IRA match-ups still to come at Eastern Sprints and Pac-12s, lest we get ahead of ourselves. In any case, that is the thinking behind our updated rankings—subject to change following the first weekend of championship racing.

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IRA Men's Lightweights

1. Yale
2. Columbia
3. Princeton

The IRA lightweight field in 2016 has enjoyed much greater parity than in recent memory, with Cornell's dominance of the the last two seasons beginning to fade, or so it seems, heading into the business end of the year. Like their counterparts on the heavyweight squad, the Elis of Yale have shown themselves to be the class of the field in the Ivy League so far this season, and you don't have to look back too far in the record books to see the last time Yale claimed an IRA title ahead of the defending champions (remember when Yale edged Harvard by roughly one foot in 2011? It also won our very prestigious, and first-ever, RoRy Award for College Race of the Year). Still, Princeton is, as usual, a talented squad, and Columbia has been knocking on the door for several years now—Sprints will be interesting, but even those results aren't always predictive of a results at IRAs in a closely contested field.

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IRA Women's Lightweights

1. Stanford
2. Boston University
3. Radcliffe



From our perspective, Derek Byrnes looks like he is going to do a lot of winning at Stanford, picking up where Al Acosta left off. While the East Coast rankings have been shaken up a little this year with the emergence of Boston University as an elite program (hats off to them for winning Eastern Sprints this past weekend!), coupled with Radcliffe's decline from dominance, the Cardinal appear to be the favorites once again this year heading into the national championships.

Wisconsin will also likely be in the conversation, after taking a solid third place at Eastern Sprints in the varsity eight, with their second varsity winning the title in their event.

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ACRA Men's Heavyweights 

1. Michigan
2. Virginia
3. Purdue
4. Grand Valley State
5. UCSB

The Wolverines are cruising so far this year, coming off a dominant performance at MACRAs, and it's tough to see anyone toppling them from the highest spot on the podium this year. However, the battle for second and third may be more intense that we have seen in some time, with greater parity evidenced by SIRA results that saw Purdue get the best of Virginia, and with UCSB continuing to build momentum as a program out West, coming off a strong second-place finish at WIRAs behind Santa Clara (a varsity program).

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We're looking forward to watching the drama unfold over the next several weeks, with medals and national rankings at stake as the season draws to an exciting close! As usual, keep an eye on all things social media for the latest updates, and check back tomorrow for our junior rowing rankings ahead of the regional championships.

As always, you can view full team rankings, as well as our rankings archives, via our very appropriately named Rankings page.

-RR

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