The 2022 IRA got underway today with fast racing in flat-to-fast conditions, as the Heavy Men, the D3 Men and the Lightweight Men all got their National Championship regatta started in fine form. The Light Women's races will join the program tomorrow.
The form book mostly held today, with Yale, Cal, Washington, Brown, Dartmouth, Princeton and Harvard all advancing all three of their eights to tomorrow's semis. If you are keeping score at home, Yale posted the fastest time of the preliminaries in the 1V and 3V, and Dartmouth in the 2V.
For the favored teams, the key challenge on the first day of the IRA is straddling the balance between managing the racing and performing.
"How often does any crew race 2000 meters on a six lane course?" said Yale coach Steve Gladstone after the racing. "For American collegiate rowers, rarely. So I frame it this way: this is an opportunity to refine your 2000 meter racing. And so you want to take each one of these opportunities here to do that. The two preliminary race races are preparation for the final. And the mindset is the same: you want to lay down what your training has provided you."
The Cal Men's 1V headed into the regatta as the top-ranked crew, but Cal Coach Scott Frandsen said that his team was taking things one race at a time.
"We progressed through today but we know that we have more substantial racing in front of us," said Frandsen. "The varsity is engaged, for sure, they controlled their race, but I think the semifinals are going to be significant tests. I think the 3V has a better race in them, and I'm looking forward to seeing them lay that down tomorrow."
"I think we've been very focused on on the whole team effort this year. Saying that sounds cliche, but it really has been a big focus of ours this year that our depth from our first varsity to our sixth varsity is what we're going to sort of measure ourselves on."
A Sports Illustrated piece on the eve of the regatta pointed at the entwined history of Cal coach Scott Frandsen, who rowed for Gladstone at Cal, and when we spoke to both Gladstone and Frandsen today, both indicated that their "rivalry," if you can call it that, is one of abiding friendship and respect.
"The friendship, or the relationship with me and Steve is completely a very genuine thing," said Frandsen. "He's been a big part of my life, we check in on each other both ways throughout the year, and I talked to Steve today. "
"So is it a rivalry? Sure, but I think it's a mutually respectful rivalry and we're both happy with where our programs are at. Both teams have big goals over the next two days, but it can be it a positive combination of all of that. It doesn't have to be this bitter, bitter competition. Believe me, both of us want to win, but I love Steve and I have really appreciated over the last year or the last 10 years of my coaching career, him constantly reaching out, just chatting. It's a really good thing."
"When I see people that I've coached and work with like Scott, Paul [Cooke], and others, I'm very happy for them," said Gladstone. "That they're here, that they're performing at a high level and therefore their crews are. Yeah, I'm glad. Because, whether accurately or not, I feel I've had some influence on young men, and they've chosen coaching as a career. And they're doing it well."
Brown's Paul Cooke was himself coached by Gladstone, at Brown, during Gladstone's stint there. The Brown Men also showed strongly today, with each of the Brown eights advancing directly from their heats to tomorrow's semis.
"You never take anything for granted," said Cooke. "Basically, you're just trying to go as fast as you can, because you don't know what's going to happen. And you don't want to put yourself in a position where you get surprised. You just try to put yourself in the best position you can to get to the next round, and in the best shape, the best position we can."
The Dartmouth men, who stormed through a coming-out party of sorts at last year's IRA, have demonstrated that their performance was not a one-off.
"I don't think our approach or our perspective has changed, I don't think we are ever going to go into the heats feeling like we have them in hand," said Dartmouth Head Coach Wyatt Allen. "We always feel like it's going to be competitive. We're just really focused on trying to progress and making sure our crews are progressively getting better throughout the weekend. You want to get the job done in the heats and try to go directly to the semis, but you also want to put down a piece that you can then build off of the next morning."
For Allen, the biggest difference this year is that his team might be just a little bit more prepared to execute at a high level, having done it before.
"I think the performance piece comes first. Believing, having a performance that then allows you to believe that you belong in the grand final, you have to do that to then acquire the belief that you belong there, and then learn to manage the pressure for sure."
"We've got a lot of great senior and upperclass leadership in the program, guys who have now been successful at last year's IRAs, and having won medals at the Sprints, and certainly that experience of managing the emotions and the nerves and having performed multiple times over a long weekend, that experience is definitely helpful."
The afternoon reps for the 1V added Northeastern, Cornell, Wisconsin and Navy to tomorrow's A/B Semis.
FIT, Princeton and Washington were the top qualifiers in the Men's Varsity Four, which ran a seeding time trial and then a set of thrilling afternoon "A/B/C" Semis, where crews could make the Grand or get sent all the way to the C Final depending on how the piece unfolded.
The seven D3 men's varsity eights raced for lanes today, ahead of a Saturday final for this, the inaugural D3 Championship, with Williams College leading almost from the get-go. The Ephs brought home the win to take the middle lane for tomorrow's final, ahead of Tufts, Trinity and WPI, who made a game run in second through the 1000.
"Our last race was almost four weeks ago, so more than anything the heat was a good opportunity to shake out the racing cobwebs," said Williams coach Marc Mandel. "It’s clear the D3 field has gained speed since early May, and we’re looking forward to a great race tomorrow."
Tufts finished a strong second, and Tufts coach George Munger pointed out that the D3 teams know one another fairly well.
"I'm glad that we got a chance to have race for lanes because most of the programs out there, we see each other a ton during the spring," said Munger. "It feels different to have more than a week between racing against each other, and I think a lot of a lot of the teams out there were were getting used to running a 2K for the first time in a month."
Trinity finished a close third today.
"I think the standout is Williams, they have been kind of head and shoulders above everyone this spring," said Trinity coach Kevin MacDermott. "We've had a great opportunity through the last two weeks to prepare for this, and I think this morning was a really positive step. We wanted to perform well, without needing to play all of our cards and move on to tomorrow, get in a good spot, which I think we did."
Coaches were split on the "race for lanes" format, with a few supporting it and a few wishing for a more traditional heats/finals approach.
"I think everyone would prefer lanes and if over the next couple of years, we can get to a place where we almost exactly mirror the women's NCAA Division III event with eight total entries, I think that's the ideal," said Trinity's MacDermott. "Where we are today, it was odd, because you know, you want to put yourself in the best possible position for tomorrow, but you don't want to burn the afterburners too hot."
"I think [it's OK]," said Williams' Mandel. "So much can change over the course of almost a month that it makes sense to give the crews an opportunity to race a preliminary heat leading into championship. Assuming the D3 field continues to expand, I could see the format evolving into two heats leading into the championship."
"With the race for lanes, it's always hard to identify what's going on, but based on what I saw from from today, I don't think you can really count anybody out," added Tufts' Munger. "It's anybody's, and I'm excited to see who can rise to the occasion and uncertainty. There's going be some really good racing tomorrow."
Four crews for three spots to advance? Yeah, Heat 2 of the Lightweight Men's Varsity Eight was probably the best race of the day. Georgetown took it ahead of Columbia and Navy, racing from the front, in the fastest time in their event. Sunday's final in this event is going to be a rager yet again.
Yale, the top seed and Sprints Champ, took the first heat--twice actually. That heat ran a full 500 meters before being called back because of breakage in the MIT boat. Cornell and Princeton grabbed the other two spots in the Grand--and MIT paddled over the course with the back stay that failed beyond the breakage zone, so they would be eligible to race the Petite final on Sunday.
The times in that second heat though, as Columbia and Navy chased down Georgetown suggest it will take some doing to win this event for sure.
"Navy's been beating up on us all year, and we knew we had to have a fast start," said Georgetown coach Matt Madigan. "I thought it was really good racing today, I think we did a good job of rowing our race and had a nice, first 1000. Columbia and Navy were really competitive, Columbia has picked up a lot of speed this season, we were able to get out and just were able to hold them off. And Yale looked really good, too!"
Madigan, who only took over the crew mid-year, reflected on the journey his group has taken.
"When you lose your coach, it's really tough. So I think they really appreciate where they are now. And they're really doing a good job of keeping level-headed. They've been through the hard stuff. And now they just appreciate where they are and they want to they want to keep progressing."
"The guys did a whole lot of hard work over the winter. When we came in, they were hungry, just for some guidance on what they were doing. They just needed to get a unified picture for what needs to be done. We have a really good coaching staff, with a couple of volunteer coaches and Coach Federici and myself, and we were able to put the attention and get them focused in just a couple areas that that they can kind of unify what they were trying to do. And over the past month, month and a half, they've really started to pull together, and it's been really exciting to see."
The Navy Lightweight 2V won the first race of the day, a race for lanes for Sunday's 7 boat 2V final, while the Navy and Harvard fours (the only Harvard lightweight crew attending the IRA this year) took the top spots in each of the two heats.
Notes from the Course
On to the next one!— Harvard Heavyweight Rowing (@HarvardHeavies) June 3, 2022
All three varsity eight boats medaled in their respective races and will move on to the semifinal rounds tomorrow morning!
Complete Results: https://t.co/0yJHPjIP2t #GoCrimson
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06/04/2022 4:36:03 PM