|Crews to keep an eye on this spring at the junior level|
The following is our look at the best junior sweep teams across the country, with a view toward who will be gunning for the top of the podium at the national level in June.
Like we said last year, it's not a perfect system—the junior level features a lot of sculling-focused programs that also deserve attention (perhaps we will expand our ranking system to include those in the near future), but we've chosen for now to mirror our college rankings as best we can by highlighting the top sweep crews across the country.
Junior Men's Rankings
1. Oakland Strokes
2. Marin Rowing Association
3. Community Rowing, Inc.
4. Newport Aquatic Center
5. Gonzaga College High School
The defending champions from Oakland haven't done anything this year to indicate that they shouldn't be considered front runners in 2016, but Marin is typically strong (and did get the better of Oakland last fall in Boston), and CRI had an outstanding regatta at Youth Nationals last year that they will be looking to build upon at this year's championships (and they have the depth to do it, having brought two eights to Youth Nationals last season, still managing to win the pair). Still, with rumors (based on RegattaCentral) circulating that Oakland head coach Brian de Regt has been considering entering two varsity eights at the ultra-competitive Southwest Regional Championships*, it's clear that Oakland has something going again this spring. Gonzaga College High School impressed us with erg scores in the winter (just take a look at the Crash-B results from Christian Tabash and Joseph Johnson—both sub-6:02 in February), but the comparison between scholastic and junior programs is always tenuous. Still, based on the horsepower available, we think they belong among the top crews, and heads up to Henley competitors in the PE—these guys are strong.
Also in the conversation will likely be Kent School and Sarasota (recent FSRA winners in the varsity eight, not short on horsepower, either, with three athletes under 6:10, one of whom—Andy LeRoux—is sub-6) as well as Cincinnati Juniors—all three perennial competitors nationally and, in the case of Kent, internationally—NB: Kent raced the Temple Challenge Cup (collegiate event) last year at Henley.
Junior Women's Rankings
1. Saugatuck Rowing Club
2. Marin Rowing Association
3. Connecticut Boat Club
4. Cincinnati Junior Rowing Club
5. Marina Aquatic Center
Like Oakland on the men's side, the Saugatuck women are coming off a dominant season, and a great fall that saw them crush at the Head Of The Charles. So far this spring, they're showing no signs of slowing down—it seems that new head coach Gordon Getsinger has had no trouble picking up where Chase Graham left off. If there's any coach that knows how to get her athletes to perform on the biggest stage, however, it's Sandy Armstrong at Marin—MRA is looking stronger than last season, and based on Crew Classic an early season results, Marin should be in the conversation for the podium at nationals.
While Zohar Abramovitz's varsity crew from Marina Aquatic Center got the best of Connecticut at Crew Classic, Liz Trond's CBC will be a very tough competitor this spring, with the likes of Kaitlyn Kynast—stroke of the junior national team women's four, and sub-7 (6:51) erg at Crash-Bs this year—on board (though Marina will enjoy the benefits of competing with Marin and Oakland to sharpen their racing skills at Southwest Regionals this weekend). Meanwhile, Cincinnati Juniors have looked strong so far in 2016 and we're also looking for PNRA/Mercer to be in the mix once again this year, following a strong 2015 campaign (and a solid start to the year in Boston, placing third overall). Finally, Winter Park just won their region at the FSRA Sweep Championships (defending their title from last season), and could be a crew to keep an eye on this spring.
In our minds, everyone will be chasing Saugatuck, led by Grace McGinley (6:46 at Crash-Bs), but the battle for the lesser medals will be very interesting to watch come June in West Windsor, New Jersey.
As always, more #hottakes to come as championship racing draws nearer—keep an eye on our Rankings page for further updates, as well as our social channels for more news and views from around the regatta venue.
*Update: Our sources have confirmed that the second Oakland entry has been scratched.