Once again in 2006 there are no undefeated crews among the EARC Lightweight Men's varsity eights (Navy, riding high in the final poll, lost to Yale early in the season). Nevertheless, with several very solid years and boatloads of medals in the frosh and lower varsity crews, the Mids of Navy are looking like the crews to beat headed into the EARC Sprints.
Where 2005 produced great racing and a good deal of parity in the league (not to forget, Penn finished in bronze medal position at the IRA...on a given day, any crew can be very fast), the results in 2006 have ranged from ho-hum normal to downright bizarre (Rutgers beating a very good Yale crew by 5 seconds in a headwind, the first time since 1978).
Parsing the results is enough to give any seeder fits, but with most crews in the league now seeing the entire Sprints field during the regular season, the corps de ranking can make some judgments based on consistency of results. Starting with top-ranked Navy, who have not lost since April 1, it's been all wins since then. Second-ranked Yale, the only crew to beat Navy thus far, have had a host of good results, barring the upset at Rutgers, and won HYP by a few seats ahead of Princeton.
Dartmouth and Princeton fill in at three and four in the pre-Sprints seedings. Dartmouth has produced six-seat wins over Harvard and Yale this season, while losing to Rutgers. Princeton shown signs of definite speed (a lot of that going around the boathouse on the Carnegie these days), and should be able to run with any of the top three crews.
Behind these four, Harvard, Columbia, Rutgers and Cornell make up a conundrum of crews that could (and will) challenge for spots in the final. Harvard looked like world-beaters early in the season, opening up with a 9-second win over Cornell, and a drubbing of Georgetown, Rutgers and Delaware a day later, on April 8th. However, the Crimson have not won since, losing to Dartmouth, Navy, Yale and Princeton to close out their regular season. It's hard to count out Harvard at any point, and the spate of losses may have Charlie Butt's crews rowing on a mission.
Columbia has also raced all of the top crews close, but can claim only a win over Cornell in its quality wins column. (The Columbia/Dartmouth race, which might have answered a few questions, fell victim to bad weather and was never rowed).
Rutgers and Cornell, at seven and eight in the final poll, are probably the best cases for parity in the league; Rutgers owns a win over Yale and Dartmouth, while Cornell beat Princeton (and Rutgers, for that matter). Both of these crews, on a good day, have a shot at the final.
In the JV, Navy has not lost and gets the #1 nod, like their Varsity. Harvard has come closest to the Mids, and is #2. These two crews look to be head and shoulders above the field in this event, with Cornell, Yale, Dartmouth and Rutgers the crews who look likely to fill out the final.
In the frosh ranks, Navy completes the trifecta of #1 rankings, also rowing undefeated on the year. Yale's frosh, who were closest to Navy, are ranked second, with Princeton, Columbia, Cornell and Georgetown filling out the remaining potential finalists.
Beyond the 1V/2V/1F, Navy is also ranked first in the 3V and 2F, completing the pre-Sprints "sweep", if you will. (Once again, the Navy 4V is ranked in the top 5 in the 3V event...to describe the Navy team as "deep" is almost inadequate at this point). The Navy rowers and coaches are smart enough to know that a lot of hard, white-knuckle racing comes before everything is said and done, but from the looks of things, the Navy gold shirts could be joined by fistfuls of gold medals by the end of the weekend.