When you roll into Whitney Point, NY, you see the best of rural New York: acres of green pastures, old red barns and the associated animals. It is a tame, bucolic setting. Crews rolling into the state's agricultural paradise might feel like they are heading for a meeting of the Future Farmers of America rather than a rowing race.
But Whitney Point Lake was anything but tame May 13 for the finals of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference National Invitational Rowing Championships. Although a full ticket went off without a hitch on Saturday, the wind checked in late in the day, raising eyebrows on the shore. With that in mind, Regatta Director Gary Caldwell compressed the schedule for Sunday in hopes of squeezing in the Grand Finals before the predicted wind ended all. Unfortunately the lake roiled and tossed with white caps by 9:30 am Sunday and the 2V men's 8 that were heading to the start were turned back. No more boats launched that day, and all remaining events for cancelled.
Tom Fuller, the chief referee from Portland, Oregon told row2k that they were holding the racing and re-evaluating every 30 minutes. "There is no competitive value to run the races now." He felt that if races were held until 1:00 pm, they could still get all the finals in by day's end. Unfortunately for all involved, the winds managed to stir things up for a full day.
"This course has had some problems before, but what course hasn't?" said Bob Jaugstetter from Tulane University Crew and on the regatta committee for ECAC. "It's also good to rotate around on different courses," he adds, "There are so many races this time of year."
Gary Caldwell concurs. When asked how the course became a first-time ECAC venue, he went over the list of regattas that were scheduled for the weekend of May 12-13. You can see the results of all these on row2k now?almost every course in the ECAC's footprint was already hosting a regatta. The ECAC has been held at Quinsigamond, Occoquan, Camden, even Gainsville, GA at the Olympic site?all were taken or just too far. (Well, Tulane would have been happy with the Georgia site.) Dan and Becky Robinson of Ithaca College's Men's and Women's teams, as well as Mike Alton from Hobart College, had invited Caldwell to see the Whitney Point course, where numerous collegiate and scholastic regattas have been held over the years. The New York State Collegiate Championships were held successfully the week before at the same course. These coaches are not alone in favoring this course; Skidmore Coach Jim Tucci claims it as one of his favorites, and Dorchester Park landside venue provides plenty of room and unusually good food provided by the area's Rotary Club. The Village takes great pride in this park and lake; their website calls the Broome County town: "best by a dam site." Good one!
As Jaugstetter said, most courses nationwide have seen a cancellation or two over the years. Here, both the NY State scholastic and collegiate championships scheduled for 2004 were cancelled, and there have been at other races cut short by a windy day at Whitney Point. When I first heard the moniker "Windy Point" upon arrival Sunday it was good for a chuckle. By mid-day, it was a statement of fact.
"I'd like to be racing right now," added Jaugstetter. As cold athletes milled around Dorchester Park waiting for news, he wasn't alone in the sentiment.
When all was cancelled, a few enterprising crews and packed up for Cayuga Inlet about 30 miles away. Michigan, Trinity and Virginia Men's Crews raced at the Ithaca course that is narrow but protected for most of the 2000 meters. Michigan came out on top of the Varsity 8 races, but Trinity has a deep crew, and not only came in second in the V8, but also scored wins in all remaining match-ups that day. These teams were each heat winners the day before, so it was a fabulous decision to line the crews up!
During the big wait, I had a chance to speak to Williams' Women's Coach Pat Tynan about the team's consistent results and current number one ranking in NCAA Division III polls. Tynan took over coaching the Ephs for one year during Justin Moore's sabbatical and is maintaining the quality of the program. "It was a good situation to come into?the culture is there," he said. "They know how to work hard." The team won New England Championships last weekend (results that will determine their NCAA bid without ECAC results in the mix), and have been first or second all season in the polls. Trinity bumped them out of number one a couple weeks this year and had a faster heat time Saturday, but a slower semi-final time Sunday. Conditions varied race to race, but clearly these are teams that need to meet again in 2007.
"Our biggest competition is in practice right now," says Tynan, whose boat has been way ahead of the field for most of their regattas this year. He says there will be no line-up changes for the rest of the year, but feels there are a few 2V rowers that could sit in the Varsity boat now. The current Varsity boat has only one graduating senior, so they should continue to be a force? and one of those 2V rowers will grab that seat!
As it turns out, the big wait turned into the final cancellation and crews already retreated to the waiting buses pulled out. Unfortunately, the ECAC NIRC goes into the history books as unfinished business.