The 112th IRA championship is upon us. Most of the trailers have made their way to Mercer as the anticipation builds to the start to racing. It has been a couple weeks since any of these programs have raced, and with classes wrapping up for the summer, these athletes are now 100% focused on rowing. With the extra time to prepare, will there be a few surprises at this year’s regatta? Maybe.
The University of Washington has been a traditional powerhouse in collegiate rowing for the last century. Under the supervision of Mike Callahan over the last seven seasons however, the narrative has changed from Washington being a powerhouse to something more like - can anyone beat UW at all? After sweeping every event the last couple of IRA championships, one has to wonder if the trend will continue.
If there is a program that can knock the Huskies off of their pedestal this year, it would probably be Cal. The margins between the two programs were almost negligible during their dual race earlier in the season. A few weeks later at Pac-12s, Cal’s 2V beat Washington’s 2V and Cal’s 1V had a lead until the last 500 of the race. With favorable conditions and two weeks to prepare for this regatta, anything could happen. Does Mike Teti have any more tricks up his sleeve? Can Cal sneak up on the Huskies like they did in in 2010 or will Washington blast away the competition yet again?
While the pick 'ems focus on the longtime Cal-UW rivalry, let's not forget about the east coast programs. This is the first season that Harvard has traveled to IRAs without the leadership of Harry Parker in over 50 years. While his legacy lives on, Charlie Butt has carried his team forward into a new era. Taking down the Pac-12 leaders will be a tall order for anyone, but Harvard may be the one program capable of pulling it off. Harvard’s 1V was very strong at Eastern Sprints, but we will have to see if they have to find another gear to keep pace with Cal and Washington. It's not just Harvard that can bring some heat from the east. Brown, Princeton, Northeastern, Yale, and BU all have the potential to bring home the title at this years regatta as well. The long and harsh winter may have initially held back some of the teams from the northeast, but maybe that extra land training may lead to a last second bump in speed that no one could have predicted.
To know who will take home the title for the fastest lightweight men’s 8, one simply has to look at the results of Eastern Sprints to get an idea of how events may transpire at the 2014 IRA. In 2012, Harvard won Eastern Sprints then went on to win IRAs. The same occurred in 2013. If this pattern continues, it may be Cornell’s year. Cornell has been able to go undefeated this season including a one second victory over Yale at Sprints.
One word of caution however, during the 2011 season, Harvard’s light 8 was also undefeated heading into IRAs. They too won Eastern sprints by one second over Dartmouth and Yale only to lose to Yale during the IRA grand final. With only one second worth of ground to make up on Cornell, will Yale be able to close the gap yet again or will Cornell keep the streak alive? The lightweight men’s 8 may be the most “up for grabs” contest of the entire regatta.
Radcliffe went into the 2013 IRA’s with an undefeated record, but fell to the 4-time champion Stanford Cardinal in the final. Yet again, with a successful and undefeated spring season, will the Radcliffe’s women get over the hump and take home a national championship, or will Stanford once again spoil their day and make it a 5peat? Or could we see a major upset, might an outsider sneak into the fold? Wisconsin was in the mix early on in the season, even with almost zero water time. We will see if they were able to pick up some speed since Sprints to make up the difference?
At the end of the day, all of this is speculation. The countless hours of training, the hours spent in the weight room, and the millions of meters erged and rowed all comes down to this. The 2014 IRA National Championship could simply repeat the happenings of the past season, or maybe someone new will step up and make their own history. Racing starts at 8am on Friday morning with the varsity men’s 8’s. Why not start off with a bang! See you in Jersey.