RowingRelated Rankings: The Top Teams to Watch at the Junior Level in 2015

RR junior rowing rankings
Here at RowingRelated, we're all about knowledge. And, what better way to put a little of it to use than to make some brash picks and predictions? So, for the first time, we're putting together the official RR rankings for junior men's and women's rowing programs, based—for the most part—on sweep rowing results in the big boats, following the college model. This will naturally change and adapt in the future—it's not a perfect system. But it's a start. Here are our picks for Spring 2015. Attention, go.

Men's Junior Rankings

1. Marin Rowing Association
This year's Marin squad has a very solid top-end, led by Crash-B champion Brennan Wertz. They've shown that they're not afraid of a close race, edging Oakland at Crew Classic by the narrowest of margins, and head coach Dustin Kraus will have them ready for championship racing come May. The only weakness of the program is that it may not quit have the depth of recent years, though the speed at the top may just make up for that.

2. Oakland Strokes
Newly appointed head coach Brian de Regt made an immediate impact with the Oakland program, winning his first major race—which just happened to be the 50th Head Of The Charles Regatta in Boston. Since then, the program has shown great depth but suffered that close, early-season loss to Marin in San Diego. No doubt they've been logging the miles necessary to make moves in the spring—the question will be whether or not they can find the right combination to take down their more powerful rivals.

3. Newport Aquatic Center
Newly returned head men's coach Nick D'Antoni is having a great influence on his once and present program—already, the NAC squad has shown that they have better top-end speed and overall depth than last year, and they recently defeated the Oakland JV in a dual meet in Southern California. Given the relative lack of experience, however, catching the top two West Coast programs might be too tall a task. However, if anyone can pull it off, it might just be the boys from Newport Beach.

4. Winter Park
The Winter Park junior men, coached by Dan Bertossa, just pulled off an upset of Sarasota at the FSRA Sweep Championships (by 0.56 seconds), and look poised for a great run this championship season. The rumor is that this might just be one of their most competitive crews to date, and so far the results seem to reflect that notion. They'll also have the advantage of competing in their home state at this year's USRowing Youth National Championships, set for Sarasota this June.

5. Community Rowing, Inc.
Boston's biggest program has had good results within its region, and there's reason to think that might translate to the national stage for Will Congram's crew. However, they'll be playing catch-up all spring thanks to their severely shortened water time this year. So far, so good—the CRI boys won and placed two eights in the top three in the varsity eight event at the Saratoga Invite, with PNRA/Mercer splitting the CRI entries.

Also on our radar, and in the mix for the top 10, are PNRA/Mercer (solid results in the fall), Central Catholic (talented, experienced group), Gonzaga (one of Scholastic rowing's most dominant programs), Sarasota (large, deep team that graduated a great deal of talent, but may have the skill and experienced coaching staff to make up for it), St. Joe's Prep (close finishes with Gonzaga, solid regional results), and Sammamish Rowing Association (just took points trophy at Brentwood Regatta, won junior men's varsity eight). Given the different distances and relative isolation of the NEIRA and Scholastic crews, however, straightforward rankings become a little more hazy here—while Gonzaga again look like a strong bet for the Stotesbury Cup, it's unlikely we'll be able to see them over the full distance against a West Coast program, unless they happen to meet at Henley.

*[Update: Kent School should be included above, coming off their recent victories over Gonzaga and St. Joe's Prep]

Women's Junior Rankings

1. Saugatuck Rowing Club
Without a doubt, the Saugatuck girls have shown that they're the team to beat in 2015, going back to their stellar performance in Boston at the Head Of The Charles (where they won, and placed two eights within the top eight overall—their second crew just one second behind 2014 national champions Oakland). Then, they came out West for Crew Classic, and showed that the long winter hadn't slowed them down on the water, winning the junior women's eight event by open water. And, while their varsity eight showed promise last year at nationals, head coach Chase Graham knows that their potential is even greater this season—it's an opportunity that SRC will be looking forward to, and ready for, when the time comes.

2. PNRA/Mercer
Like Saugatuck, the PNRA/Mercer junior girls had a strong fall, and a solid performance at Crew Classic, taking second behind SRC in the varsity eight. It's a program that has been building toward these kinds of performances, and that should be taken seriously as a podium favorite at the national level this year. Still, Saugatuck just placed first and second in the women's varsity eight ahead of PNRA/Mercer at the Saratoga Invitational—SRC is going to be tough to catch in Sarasota this spring.

3. Marin Rowing Association
This year's group is relatively young and inexperienced, but head coach Sandy Armstrong knows just how to prepare her crews to be ready at the pivotal time. The Marin girls haven't yet reached their potential, but their results have still been solid to date, placing third overall at Crew Classic behind our no. 1 and no. 2 crews, and regional success early at the Fault Line Faceoff in early March.

4. OKC Riversport
The program, run by Marin alumni Jim Andersen and his former disciple-turned-colleague Brian Ebke (women's head coach), has become increasingly competitive as it has grown over the past several seasons, and this year's Crew Classic showed that. The OKC Riversport girls placed fourth overall in the varsity eight, and third in the junior women's JV in San Diego, which featured a very competitive field. OKC was just two seconds from the podium in 2014 at USRowing youth nationals—they'll be gunning to make up that gap in Florida.

5. Connecticut Boat Club
While the CBC girls started the season without showing a great deal of top-end speed, they do have depth, and it appears that that is beginning to translate—CBC placed fourth overall at the Saratoga Invitational, just three seconds back of PNRA/Mercer (this, despite having missed the A Final in San Diego). Head coach Liz Trond's program is a perennial contender, however, and given their second-place finish at nationals last season (though they  and their solid group of seniors this year, we think they might just have the talent to crack the A final in Sarasota.

Further teams to watch are Marina Aquatic Center (solid results within their region, good group of novices), Winter Park (coming off a win at the FSRA Sweep Championships, lots of seniors, well coached by Mike Vertullo), Oakland (last year's champs but adjusting to new coaching staff after departure of Derek Byrnes for Stanford), Sarasota (deep but young team, just edged by Winter Park in their region), Cincinnati Junior Crew (strong results so far within their region, perennially competitive program), and Holy Names Academy from the Northwest (recently took the women's varsity eight event at Brentwood Regatta ahead of Mt. Baker and Green Lake, has junior national team talent in Marley Blue and Katy Gillingham).

For updated rankings, check the RR Rankings page as the season progresses and the USRowing Youth National Championships draw closer.


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