It was a decidedly busy morning on Mercer as the local clubs snuck in a few strokes before they relinquishing control of the course to the competing IRA crews. Racing kicked off at 8am with 70 degree temperatures a slight wind out of the south. There was an overcast haze as teams arrived this morning, which gave the day a cooler feel. As the day progressed the sun came out and the temperatures once again rose into the mid to upper 80’s with a 5 to 10mph southerly wind.
To start the morning festivities the lightweight women made their first run down the course. It's always an interesting dichotomy at the IRA to see 130lb women racing along side some absolutely monstrous heavyweight men, but this has always been a sport of extremes. Heat one of the lightweight women's 8 kicked off with the top seeded Stanford Cardinal looking to earn an IRA title.
Unlike yesterday, there was a slight crosswind at the start that caused coxswains some difficulty locking in their point. From the onset of the first race it appeared as though Stanford and Princeton would be battling it out for the top spot however the top seed Cardinals took control of the race by the first 500. Wisconsin was trailing close behind with the understanding that a third place finish would send them to the reps. The Badgers began to reel in Princeton and by the 1000, Wisconsin and Princeton were now bow ball to bow ball. Princeton responded in the 3rd 500 to regain a few seat lead over Wisco, but it seemed like too much too early for Princeton. Wisconsin walked back through Princeton in the last 500 to gain the second qualifier spot for the grand final. There always seems to be a “surprise team” for the lightweight women and this year it may just be the Badgers.
Heat two for the light women’s 8 was a very Charles heavy group with 3 of the 4 teams sharing the same home body of water (Boston University, Radcliffe, and MIT). These schools parted ways early into the race however as Boston University and Radcliffe separated from the rest of the field by open water soon after the start. Radcliffe took a boat length lead over BU and held that lead for the rest of the course. Unlike many of the men’s races yesterday, Radcliffe seemed to be racing at full tilt for the entire course. While Radcliffe won their heat over BU, it may be a tough final tomorrow as Stanford looked much more paced in their heat while producing a slightly faster time.
While yesterday may have been a bit of an unassuming day with many of the races finishing in a “parade” like fashion. Today for the heavyweight 8 events the regatta turned into a “hold on to your seatbelts because here they come” kind of day. The heavyweight men’s 2V8 kicked things off in explosive fashion. Yesterday many of the crews started high then quickly brought their ratings down. Today however the ratings in the first heat for the 2V8 started very high ratings and remained high. Princeton coming in as the Eastern Sprints Champion started off with an early lead over a pair of Husky shells trailing close behind. Washington and Northeastern were battling it out for second however as we see so often from UW, Washington flicked a switch and pulled right past Northeastern. Northeastern almost seemed shocked by this sudden change and fell back relinquishing their 3rd place qualifying spot to Yale. The Huskies of Washington continued their move right through Princeton and suddenly were in control of the race. Princeton has a very quick 2V this year however they simply were unable to keep pace with Washington finishing ¾ of a length back with Yale half a boat back on Princeton.
As was the case with the first semi of the 2V8 there was a tight pack of boats coming into the first 500. At this point everyone knows about Cal’s quick starts so Cal seemed to change tactics to counter this. With a more controlled pace than the first semi of the day, Cal stayed with the pack early on, then slowly inched into the lead just as Washington had done in the previous semi. To keep pace with Cal’s advance Brown maintained a high rating. At first it appeared as though Brown may have rowed a little high a little too early, but they continued to close the gap on Cal after the 500 to go. Brown seemed to really want this race and pulled even with Cal over the last 500 for a photo finish. After an official review it was Brown followed by Cal followed by Boston University. 0.026 seconds separated Cal and Brown.
Row2k caught up with Brown’s head coach Paul Cooke after the race. “The preparation for Sprints and IRAs has been really strong. We have made some changes between the JV and 3V and I thought they raced really well.” Cooke continued, "The energy of the team helped them and their energy has helped the team." The grand finals are going to be extremely tight tomorrow if the semis today are any indication. While it still appears this race is Washington’s to lose, with how strong Princeton and Brown are looking, the grand final may not be the Cal and Washington show again this year.
No one was going to mail it in on semifinals day as we transitioned from the 2V semis to the V8 semis. The crowds along the shore swelled and the wind calmed down as the first semi of the V8 left the starting dock. Washington, Harvard, Northeastern, and Yale separated themselves at the start and found themselves in a battle for the 3 available grand final spots. Washington established a lead over this group and showed everyone why they have been the fastest 8 in the country over the last 5 years finishing first in the semi.
What followed Washington may have been the two biggest surprises of the day. The first surprise came trailing close behind Washington. It wasn’t the Eastern Sprints Champ nor the runner up, but the Eastern Sprints 5th place crew, Harvard. Harvard overhauled their 8 following Sprints and looked very dangerous yesterday. This translated very well today as they finished in the second qualifier spot.
The biggest surprise of the day however came across the finishing just behind Harvard. All season long Yale has been the team some believed could challenge Washington or Cal at the IRA. After their victory as Sprints it looked as though Yale might be able to pull it off. Today however Yale found themselves in a battle with Northeastern for the final qualifier spot just to make the grand final. After looking a bit sluggish rowing yesterday, Northeastern looked much more alive today as they were in a slugfest with Yale over the last 500 of the race. As they crossed the finish line, even with video re-play, no one could tell who had actually earned the 3 spot in the grand final. After an official review Northeastern knocked Yale out of the grand final by .02 seconds. “They went out there and overcame what they needed to overcome and I’m just really proud of them” said Northeastern’s head coach John Pojednic. He continued “I was watching the video feed at the launch area and the feed cut out and I literally had no idea what was happening until the boats rowed by.” Even at the finish line every time the video feed cut out panic set in across the venue due to how close the races were progressing.
While it was impossible to match the drama of the first semifinal of the varsity 8, Navy was trying to mix things up early on. Coming off the line Cal established its typical early lead over the field with about a 4 seat lead over Princeton. Like Washington in the semi before, Cal looked very strong crossed the finish line with a somewhat comfortable lead. Princeton and Brown remained in control the last half of the race and claimed the final two spots in the grand final. Navy had a really strong showing for 4th, but unable to crack the top 3. Make sure you get to the finish line early tomorrow because the winner of the grand final is far from a certain. Harvard and Cal may be the biggest question marks of the day. Cal’s coach Mike Teti seemed very calm walking around the boat yard today. Does he know something the rest of us don’t?
The first semifinals of the varsity 4 were quickly controlled by Washington and Cal, but Harvard was close on their tail. Washington pushed out to a few second lead and stayed in front through the finish. Harvard pulled even with Cal however Cal was able to get their bow ball across the line just ahead of Harvard. Those three crews advanced to tomorrow grand final. Even though they were sent to the petite finals, one should note Marietta’s effort coming in 4th just two seconds behind Harvard and Cal. Marietta during a coaching change lost almost every rower on the team two years ago. They have done a great job rebuilding the team and look to be a team on the rise in the future.
For the second semi of the varsity 4 Stanford, Temple, Cornell and Wisconsin found themselves in a very tight pack off the start line, but Cornell soon dropped back from the pack. Temple, Wisconsin, and Stanford were now in the lead group, but Temple started to fade at the 1500. Temple dropping back allowed MIT to creep back into the race, but Temple was able to summon enough energy to hold them off. Temple crossed the line in third with Wisconsin in second and Stanford in first. Stanford only brought their V8 and this 4 to the IRA this year, so this boat has some very strong athletes in it.
Lwt Women's 2x Grand Final
Sculling at the IRA?!? This year there were two exhibition events added to the IRA schedule. The first of which was the lightweight women’s double. This was the first time this race has ever been run at the IRA. As the crews backed into the start dock, the temperature was boiling and the sun was relentless. Wisconsin broke off the line to an early lead and maintained control the entire race. Stanford who found themselves in second were close to the main pack with Boston University on their heels. Stanford finally broke away from BU in the last 500. Wisconsin took gold followed by Stanford in second and Boston University in third. All three teams have very strong 8s and that team speed has carried into their small boats. “That boat just came together last week” said Wisconsin head coach Lisa Schlenker. “Stroke seat was switched into this boat because of an injury while bow has been in the shell for a couple of weeks.” Schlenker continued “The lightweight 2x is an Olympic event and it’s great to see it at the IRA”
Lwt Men's Straight 4 Grand Final
Following the lightweight women double was the second exhibition event of this regatta, the lightweight men’s coxless 4. Coming off of the line these crews seemed to forget they didn’t have a coxswain as numerous boats found themselves drifting into the “alternative” lanes. It was a bit like herding cats for the referees at the start of the race. Once the boats made a shift into their base rhythm however everyone began to move forward instead of laterally. Princeton had an early lead in the race with Harvard holding second. Yale worked through Harvard at the 750 to temporarily hold second. By the 1500 Cornell worked their way back into the race by passing both Harvard and Yale. Cornell really wound it up in the last 500, but was unable to catch Princeton before the line. Yale finished in third with Cornell in second and Princeton in first. “This boat had a great collection of guys (1 freshman, 2 sophomores, and one senior) with great attitudes” said Princeton’s assistant coach Bill Manning after the race. “We tried to get this event added last year, but it didn't work out. We were excited to race this event this year and to see it continue in the future” continued Princeton head coach Marty Crotty.
Lwt Men's Coxed 4 Grand Final
The final race of the day was the grand final for the lightweight men’s coxed 4. Yale took the early lead and left Cornell, Columbia, and Harvard battling it out for silver. By time they hit the 1500, Harvard and Columbia drop Cornell from the silver medal race. With Yale firmly in the lead it was between Columbia and Harvard heading to the finish line. Harvard was in silver medal position until the last couple strokes of the race when Columbia pushed their bow ball just ahead by just .2 seconds. Yale went home with the gold, Columbia took silver, and Harvard the bronze. Yale’s 4 had a very interesting journey before the IRA even began. During transport from New Haven both their lightweight 4 and lightweight 8 shells were damaged. Yale actually drove back to New Haven to pick up another 4 for this race. Yale assistant coach Ned DelGuercio after the race said “this shell was a little bit older, but now it’s lucky right?” DelGuercio continued, “these guys have been together since Eastern Sprints. We prioritized this boat for the IRA, but we are interested to see how the straight four event progresses.” Coach also wanted send “a huge thank you to Lori Dauphiny and the Princeton women for letting them borrow an 8 for their varsity.”
With the threat of thunderstorms, the schedule has been altered Sunday! The heavyweight men’s 8 will kick off the grand finals at 8:40am. While it may be reunion weekend, this regatta will wait on no one. Set multiple alarms because you will definitely not want to miss any of the grand finals!