(Important note: Saturday's schedule has been adjusted in anticipation of possible thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon; find the adjusted schedule here (please note also that the official results show the original schedule, but do not currently reflect the revised order of racing at this writing as of 6:30pm Friday; your best bet is to use the PDF file here REVISED Saturday schedule, which is also linked in the lower right section of our main IRA coverage page.)
In last night's report, we gave mention to the second men's V8 semi, which was so stacked on paper that one wag said he tried to auction off a spot in the first semi on eBay on Thursday night. As we noted then, the race included the three Sprints finalists along with Cal, Brown and Oregon State, but even on paper it couldn't have been quite as gnarly as it played out - in the end there were four crews within 1.3 seconds, a fifth that was faster than anyone else in the other semi, and two Sprints medalists headed for the petites.
"That is what you dread," said Washington coach Bob Ernst after watching the race, having looped back up the bike path after watching his own V8 win the first semi with a very controlled race. "If you can help it at all, you don't want to have to do that until the final."
Harvard led the second semi almost the entire way, with Oregon State off the pace early, Cal and Brown in the back of the lead pack of five, with Yale and Wisco just barely ahead of them; only about 2/3 of a length separated these five for the entire race. Cal was in fifth place by about 8 seats late in the race before taking a move that seemed to leave Brown behind the pack; Brown, however, had other ideas, and latched on to the tail end of Cal's move.
"When I saw Cal go, I thought it might be curtains for us," Brown coach Paul Cooke said after the race. "But the guys responded and went with Cal, and then drove through most of the field right with them. It was a really mature response; it was just astounding that they were able to do it."
Not that Cooke did not have confidence in his crew. "We need to have our bow ahead more often, so we went out to win," he said. "We really didn't talk about qualifying."
In the first semi, the Washington crew came through the 500 meter mark in about 1:19, while Princeton and Stanford got there in a bit over 1:21, and Washington rode their lead in from there. "I think our guys had pretty good control early," Ernst said; they crossed the line without a sprint.
Stanford and Princeton qualified in the same semi, and Stanford coach Craig Amerkhanian watched the other semi as well. "After watching those races, I have to think that Cal is the favorite," he said. "You don't spot the field 6-8 seats and then come back like that. That's what they tried to do at Pac-10s, but that was a different situation that came down to two boats down the course, which is harder to do. Tomorrow in a six-boat final could be different. If conditions stay like this and all the lanes are the same, it will be an incredible final."
The first semi of the frosh eight also saw a bit of a tussle approaching the finish line, but with very different approaches. Washington led the race most of the way, only to have Harvard nip them on the last stroke of the race.
"We rowed to win it," said Harvard frosh coach Bill Manning. "We wanted to go as fast as we could in lane 3 today, and absolutely wanted to win it." Manning did not seem very worried about paying a price for the sprint come tomorrow's final. "They're 18-year-old guys," he said with a chuckle. "And sometimes it's more here," he said, with his index finger on his head, "than here," pointing to his legs.
Washington's approach to the race could not have been more different. "Our plan was to get into a solid qualifying position, and then if someone else tried hard to win the race, we would let them go," said UW frosh coach Mike Callahan. "I think in a field this deep, we're going to need it tomorrow - that final is going to be really tight."
The day started out with the women's light eights heats, which found the top two seeds placing second in their respective rows down the course; with two crews qualifying from both heats, the actual placing has no real consequence for the final other than lane placement, but one wonders if the outcome points to some shifts in the racing dynamic for the weekend. In the first heat, Wisconsin
"Princeton led early, but I think it was about level at about 700 meters (into the race)," said Bucknell coach Steve Kish. "Then Princeton moved away again for some time, but they (Bucknell) got through at the end." Asked whether it was important to win the heat, Kish was circumspect. With two to qualify, I don't think it is critical, but if you can, sure, why not?"
Princeton coach Paul Rassam said his crew did not shut down during the heat. "We definitely sprinted, but I'm hopeful that they have something more for tomorrow," he said.
Finally, the first medals of the IRA were awarded today, in a new event, the lightweight women's four. Princeton trailed Wisco to the 1000 by up to ? length, but pulled even and ahead early in the third 500 and won going away. The crew was composed of two frosh (at stroke and bow), and three sophomore members of Princeton's 2V eight. "I was really pleased they could come from behind," Princeton coach Jeremy Turk said after the race. "For a young group, they rowed a really composed, mature race." Wisco took second, with the four from Lawrence University, a club program from Appleton WI, in third.
Well met fellow hail department: stalwart IRA ref Pete Kay is officiating his 40th consecutive IRA this year, having started reffing the race in 1968, the first year the event was raced at 2000 meters instead of the usual three and two mile distances. Well, almost the first time: "Prior to 1968, they rowed 2000 meters in Olympic years, then went back to the 3-mile distance in non-Olympic years," Kay recalled. "My first IRA was the first time they officially adopted the Olympic distance, but it wasn't the first time they raced it." In the ensuing 40 years, Kay missed no IRA's, and only one Eastern Sprints.
So the light men's final at the 105th IRA on Saturday afternoon will be the last 2000m IRA final Kay refs, his 40th and final IRA - or maybe not. Sitting alongside his wife Sally in between races, Kay said "Yep, this is my last one," then stole a glance over at Sally out of the corner of his eye. She caught him looking; "Sally isn't convinced," he said. See you next year, Pete? Either way, well met fellow hail and three cheers to Pete Kay.
In case you missed it above: Saturday's schedule has been adjusted in anticipation of possible thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon; find the adjusted schedule here.