|Washington Huskies training in Seattle (Photo: B. Kitch)|
It's time for the 2016 Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship Regatta. Here's what we think is going to happen.
In our minds, there are four teams who have separated themselves from the pack and shown that they have what it takes to win a championship this year. Rather than kill you with suspense, we'll lay it out right here:
Those teams are Yale, Washington, California, and Princeton. Now, here's the tricky part—we think it goes in that order, too.
While the coaches polls and season results to date have gone the way of Cal, and many favor Princeton over their West Coast rivals, the fact is that Washington are coming in as the five-time defending champions, and frankly, they know how to get it done when it matters most. The margins with California haven't been enormous all season (at the Dual it was nearly nil), and while they've lost both meetings with the Bears, it has never been by more than two-thirds of a length. And, the Husky propaganda machine is in full effect (see below)—all signs point to them firing on all cylinders coming into the most meaningful race of the year.
However, all that being said, Cal, too, has the talent to get it done (with RR Collegiate Male Athlete of the Year in 2015, Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk leading the way) if everything comes together in New Jersey.
Which brings us to Yale and Princeton. This season, Yale has looked like the team to beat, and deservedly so. They've got a chip on their shoulder from last season's loss in the semis, and so far this year they have taken care of business: they had an outstanding race at the Head Of The Charles, and haven't looked back since, sweeping the East Coast during the regular season and through Sprints. Princeton, though, haven't been far off the pace, and Greg Hughes & co. know how to build program depth—still, it's the speed at the top end that will be the question. Can the Tigers put all that #wattfarming to good use at the highest level?
Putting all of the above together, here's our take for the men's heavyweight varsity eight grand final:
Call us crazy, but ranking Washington fourth given their year-over-year performance at IRAs doesn't make sense.
Moving on to the lightweights, again, Yale has the mojo this year. Looking back at Eastern Sprints, the seeds all performed exactly as they were supposed to, and it's hard to see anything huge changing about that, with the possible exception of Cornell—Big Red will be a crew to watch for the podium, in our opinion, as Princeton will be looking to see if they can avoid a late-season fade that has plagued the program over the past few years. Also, if Harvard continues their championship surge as they have over the past couple years, we may see the Crimson in the final.
For the women's lightweight eight, we think Derek Byrnes is going to be winning. A lot. While there has been greater parity on the East Coast this year, with Boston University making big strides for the program against Charles rivals Radcliffe, in our opinion, everyone is going to be chasing the crew from the Bay Area—look for Stanford to repeat this year.
2. Boston University
It's nearly time for the racing to begin! Good luck to everyone out there competing, and we'll be watching with a keen eye for the top performers this weekend on Lake Mercer, or Mercer Lake, whichever you prefer.