NCAA and IRA Championships in Full Swing: Crews to Watch this Weekend

The trophy table at IRAs (Photo: B. Kitch)
It's another championship weekend of racing at the collegiate level in the U.S., with the best of the best in NCAA Rowing gathered in Indianapolis, and the top varsity men's crews on the water at Lake Mercer. With national titles on the line, and incumbents with very strong squads once again, the challengers will have their hands full trying to wrest the titles from the holders' grasp. But, when the wakes settle, we may see new champions crowned in the east and (Mid)west.

IRA Crews to Watch
The heats are in the books, and this year's top IRA crews will be very familiar from 2013—the strongest men's heavyweight varsity eights are Washington, California, Harvard, Brown, Northeastern, Princeton, and Yale (the top seven at last year's championships). This time, however, we may see some reshuffling of the order. California has been threatening all season, and so far the Huskies have fought them off in impressive fashion. Still, just as we said in November, our pick to win the men's varsity eight is Cal—the Golden Bears have been putting the pieces together better and better all season, and nearly toppled UW at Pac-12s. (Washington did post the fastest time of the day, however, and looked very smooth doing it, by all accounts.) We're also looking for a very impressive Harvard crew to make the podium once again after an inspiring showing at Sprints, but expect Princeton and Brown to make things very interesting for the podium. Also, if Cal could pull off a victory in the varsity eight, things might get interesting for the Ten Eyck—the Golden Bears won the second varsity eight race in Sacramento, and have a very strong frosh crew, which won its heat earlier today.

It'll be a tough ask, though...

In the lightweight events, while the Stanford women are coming in as the No. 2-ranked varsity eight, they've got a streak of four-straight IRA titles (and they've never gotten the No. 1 seed entering the championship regatta). It's going to be a battle between the Cardinal and the Black and White, as Radcliffe hasn't missed a beat since new head coach Lou Berl took the helm at the beginning of the 2013-2014 campaign (which included a record-setting performance at EAWRC Sprints). Our call: Stanford.

The men's lightweight field has been shaken up since last year with a number of coaching changes, and varying results. Cornell is having its best season since its last IRA victory in 2008, winning Sprints (and the Jope Cup), and Princeton is looking like a resurgent program with the influx of new coaching and a great deal of horsepower. Yale is always in the mix, and this year is no exception—look for these three to be battling it out for the podium once again in Princeton just as they did two weeks ago in Worcester. Keep an eye on Columbia as well, as the Lions will be looking to finish off their season strong with a second-straight IRA podium appearance, having just missed at Sprints.

NCAA Crews to Watch
Division I: The Golden Bears have had, in some ways, a tough season to date—at least by their own standards. Cal had won six-straight Pac-12 titles before seeing their Bay Area rivals topple them earlier this month in Sacramento. But they're still an extremely talented team, and they know how to finish strong—just look at last year's varsity eight's performance in Indy. Hence, they're our pick to win the varsity eight (and maybe even the varsity four) this weekend, placing them strongly in contention for an NCAA team title.

Stanford had a great morning in Indianapolis, and has been gaining speed throughout the season—though they flew under the radar for much of the year, the Cardinal exploded onto the scene with an impressive sweep of Cal (in the NCAA events) in their annual dual, and haven't looked back since.

No. 1-ranked Ohio State is coming off another Big 10 sweep of the NCAA events, and is looking strong, though their varsity four encountered some trouble in this morning's heat—the Buckeyes had a mechanical issue that saw them finish sixth, so they'll be headed to this afternoon's reps. Washington is another very strong team out of the Pac-12, and has a chance to take home the team trophy, while Princeton and Brown (the incredible John and Phoebe Murphy might just do it again!) are the favorites from the east. As usual, we expect Virginia to be in the mix as well—it's going to be a very interesting weekend at Eagle Creek Park, to say the least!

As for Division II level, last year's winner, Nova Southeastern, enters as the No. 1 seed, and we don't see any reason to challenge that ranking, while No. 2 Humboldt State returns after a year's absence, having won the 2012 title. Division III is likely going to be the toughest battle that Williams has seen in years, with Bates entering as No. 1—will the eight-time national champion Ephs be able to extend their winning streak?

Keep an eye on the RR Twitter feed for live results and commentary from the race course, and follow the links for live results from IRAs (streaming video here) and NCAAs.


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