The second V8 semi held more than a couple surprises. First off, it looked like the Pac-10 final from lanes 1-4 - Washington, Cal, Stanford, Oregon State. Then, when all the crews were across the finish, the most remarkable surprise of the lot was Stanford's fate of heading for the B finals - has to be one of the few times ever that a crew with two Olympians rowed in the petites. A very strong second 1000 from BU was the perpetrator in a heat that almost spun wide open in the last 500. Washington found themselves in the lead for almost the entire race, leading Cal by closed water, with the rest of the field about a length behind or more. Then with 400 to go, the Cal bowman caught a full-on boatstopper, and the hull listed so hard to starboard that the port blades were about 4-5 feet off the water, and the starboard gunwale threatening to let some water come over. Cal made a fantastic recovery, however, but BU was emboldened by the happenstance, and pipped Cal at the line to take second. Stanford finished about a length back.
And as all this was going on, the Washington bowman was clearly enjoying the view. In the last 10 strokes of the race, he turned his head fully toward the grandstand, stared straight into the eyes of the crowd, and grinned for a full 10 strokes. Awfully confident, some thought; probably best to get that out during the semis, as the final might be a tougher place to pull it off, some think.
That insane frosh eight semifinal that included three of the top four Sprints crews along with the undefeated Cal crew played out in unexpected fashion - the Sprints-winning Brown frosh were rowed down by a late- and hard-charging Princeton crew, and ended up in the petites. Cal led the thing most of the way by open water, eventually winning by seven seconds; Penn took second by a blink over Princeton. To lead by that much with so fierce a brawl going on behind them, it's not unreasonable to think that the Cal crew looks almost untouchable.
In the first semi, Harvard and Princeton were pretty much alone and very much side-by-side the entire race, and both crews sprinted for the line, clearly thinking about nailing the best lanes for the finals on a day that the cross-head made it a valid concern. Harvard came up on the right end of the tussle, and the gamble paid off - they drew lane 1, with Princeton all the way out in four.
That said, conditions are expected to come around to a quartering tail, in which case the Cooper River course is extremely fair. The tail could tighten things up as well; it should be a great final.
The scales were very active today, and by now the lightweights are all out eating their last post-weigh-in meal of the collegiate season. Given the way the Eastern Sprints unfolded, with four crews within one second of each other, and all under the previous course record, the men's race at least should be hellacious. On the women's side, Princeton and Wisco have met three times this year, with Wisco taking the first race at Redwood, Princeton the second at the Knecht Cup, and Wisco the third at Eastern Sprints.
Army has two crews in the grand finals, in the straight four and the Varsity Four. That has to be a first; how about UNC?
Conditions for photo-taking were very poor, so today's shots are not among the best we've ever posted, unfortunately. Note also that there were apparently some problems with yesterday's galleries; this is fixed, so there should be many more photos to see.
On the topic of rowing's relative invisibility on campus, in the papers, etc:
I have a toast for every race. Last night, I said that the one that applies to us is "to ourselves, because no one else cares."
Did you expect yourselves to be in the rep?
We had done well at Sprints, but found yesterday went a little flat in the second 500 in that first race. The guys lost their rhythm, and when they got in they were upset, so I said okay, we're going to go out tonight and row the race of our lives. This rep is instant death, we've gotta go out there and win. We know we can do it, so let's just get out there. So they went out, and Columbia got a little lead, and we ate that up, and then just pulled out ahead to open water, then dropped to a 32 and sat there. Obviously doing four races is a tough test.
You beat Stanford today - what did it take to do that?
These guys really want to do better all the time, which makes it fun to coach them. So I said let's just remember all the basics, Rowing 101. Swing, length to the finish, being together, and to have that rhythm, you gotta have that rhythm. And we know we have it in the second 1000, so we just had to get there with a good first 1000. Today we came up against Stanford in the middle of the race, and from what I could see from the shore, we were a seat and a half down, and the next time I was able to see them we were a half-length up.
How would you assess tomorrow's final?
Tomorrow will be tough, everyone is going to be going really hard in that first 1000 meters. My assistant Dave Sanderson said you gotta start dragging through the barbed wire early, and I said you'll need to explode a few grenades as well. You can't underestimate any one of these crews.
It appeared your guys were not content to qualify, but were clearly trying to win the race. Was this the case?
Yes. It makes a difference in the draw tomorrow; if there is a difference in lanes, there is that at stake, and you want to be next to the other semifinal winner. It's worth the effort.
This year and last, the crew has tended run with the pack, then go late. Is this something you have developed purposefully?
I don't think we did that, we were out front early right with Princeton. We race hard right from the beginning. There's no sort of laying back.
But it has become a pattern; is this something you developed, or something you discovered? Are there guys in the boat you think are the drivers behind that?
It just happened that way. Certainly Malcolm and Holsapple, that's their way of racing; it's what they do best.
How do you size up tomorrow's final?
(laughs) More than tough enough, more than tough enough. No question. Clearly we're basically the same speed as Princeton, so we have to be ready to outrace them. And the question is whether Washington or Cal will be up at that level or not.