Thursday, June 1, 2017

2017 Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships Preview

National champions will be crowned at Lake Natoma (Photo: RR)

We had to do it. While the NCAA Championships are now in the rearview (with our top five teams all finishing in...the top five), IRAs are just around the corner. Time to crank the banter up to 11.

Heavyweights

This year's IRA Championship Regatta may work out to be part three of a West Coast battle that has seen Cal draw first blood on Washington's home course, only to later flip that result with the Huskies taking an impressive victory at Pac-12s. And, of course, the best of the East will be no slouches—with Eastern Sprints champion Yale weakened (missing their team captain Rob Hurn due to illness—he'll be replaced by Kiwi frosh Jonathan Winter), it looks like Harvard might have the edge to regain podium status this year.

Washington

The stern-three for the Huskies are Dutch: Freshman Bram Schwarz in stroke (he stroked their JV in the Cal Dual), Michiel Mantel (sophomore in seven), and Simon van Dorp (freshman in six). American international Ben Davison backs up that trio in the five seat, with big man Arne Landbow (team captain) in four.




German sophomore Philipp Nonnast is in two (he was stroking the V8 earlier in the season), with Guglielmo Carcano of Switzerland in bow. Also self-styled 'super-senior,' 24-year-old Aussie Stuart Sim is a very good driver in the coxswain's seat.

California

The Bears are stacked as well, with an eight that features (similarly) a ton of international talent. Led by Polish Olympian Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk (now sitting at five according to RegattaCentral), the Cal lineup for IRAs will also include Austrian U23 world champion Ferdinand Querfeld (who replaces Jack Gosden-Kaye in the varsity eight following Pac-12s).




These guys are joined by experienced Cal varsity oarsmen Joachim Sutton (Denmark) and Maarten Hurkmans (Netherlands), freshman Christopher Seidfriedsberger (won U23s for Austria along with Querfeld), Serbian Martin Mackovic, and American Kyle Flagg.

Harvard

The Crimson's Vincent Breet (South African Olympian) could maybe rival Szymczyk as the best rower in the college ranks. James Johnston sits just behind Breet in the five seat and is also South African junior national team veteran. German sophomore Lars Lorch and Australian Sam Hardy also bring international experience to the crew, and Liam Corrigan and Alex Richards are former U.S. junior national team studs.




Meanwhile, Princeton's consistent depth-building over the past few years still doesn't seem to have quite translated to the kind of top-end speed it takes to topple the big dogs/dawgs—still, we're expecting a solid showing from the Tigers, who could make things interesting with Yale and Harvard for the final podium spot if all goes well.

At the back end of the Grand Final, we're expecting Brown to break through—they've got a solid engine, and the way they train sets them up well for the grind that is a multi-day (potentially including reps) championship regatta. However, the 'other' Bears have a very young squad, and Dartmouth has been making some major strides in the past couple years under Wyatt Allen, finishing fifth at Sprints earlier this month. Still, to crack the Grand they'll have to get by Brown (who seemingly always finish well), Northeastern (again looking solid), and Boston University—BU is coming off a very impressive 4th-place finish at Eastern Sprints and will be gunning to make the IRA Grand Final for the second year in a row.

Men's Varsity Eight Final Picks:

1. Washington
2. California
3. Harvard
4. Yale
5. Princeton
6. Brown

Lightweights

Cornell is coming off another undefeated season that they capped off with a Sprints title (their third in four years), and looks to be the team to beat entering the racing in Sacramento. However, Harvard is hot on their heels, and Columbia showed last year that they know how to win on the grandest stage. Also, Penn is coming off a bronze-medal performance at Sprints, and is making headway under Cornell grad Colin Farrell—we see a battle between Penn, Columbia, and Princeton going for bronze at IRAs, with an edge to the Lions.

Men's Lightweight Eight Podium Picks:

1. Cornell
2. Harvard
3. Columbia

Stanford's streak of dominance has already survived one coaching change, so why not another?  The Cardinal is looking poised to take another IRA title this year under new head coach, Olympian Kate Bertko. Meanwhile, Charles River rivals Boston University and Radcliffe will duel once again, this time hundreds of miles from home water—we're giving the edge to the Terriers over the Black and White.

Women's Lightweight Eight Podium Picks:

1. Stanford
2. BU
3. Radcliffe

The forecast is for temperatures around 90 degrees in Sacramento through the weekend—no question, things will be heating up on the water with national titles on the line.

Attention, go!

-RR

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