The D3 Men, and the Men's Heavy and Lightweight fours crowned their national champs at the IRA today, while the heavyweight men racing set the remaining national championship finals in torrid semifinals, and the Lightweight women also kicked off their regatta with preliminaries this morning that looked to be running a few degrees hotter than your average heats or races for lanes.
Williams captured the men's inaugural D3 varsity eight national championship with a wire to wire victory today, and while the outcome did not appear in doubt at any point, Williams coach Marc Mandel acknowledged that the win came as a result of months, if not years of preparation.
"These races don't just appear out of nowhere," said Mandel. "This particular crew has rarely had a bad day, in practice, and if they ever did, it wasn't for lack of effort. We had some learning moments, but they've been very consistent all year. They take the training very seriously. They're really close. All of those things go into the performance you saw today. We rarely talk about winning, but we did talk about building to our last race and being as fast as we possibly could be, and I felt their race today was a true testament to that."
All of the D3 coaches in attendance felt the event would help raise the stature of D3 men's rowing.
"Man, I think it's going to be huge," said Tufts coach George Munger. "It just creates a much more compelling spring season for guys who are looking to row at at the collegiate level as high school rowers, even for our own guys. Before, the postseason didn't make as much sense, and now can go and try to race for the national championship."
"It was clear that the racing was really competitive," added Mandel. "The rowing was at a really high level, especially Tufts and Trinity, they've found a whole other gear over the last four weeks. You could feel the excitement, you could feel the enthusiasm. There are still some D3 programs that haven't joined the IRA."
"I think the field is going to grow," said Mandel. "And I think that's just really good for men's rowing."
Heavy and Light Fours
Navy took the final of the Men's Light Four ahead of Harvard and Dartmouth. While Navy has traditionally done well in the fours at the IRA, this win was a little surprising, as the crew was made up mostly of athletes from Navy's Lightweight 3V eight that had finished just off the podium at Men's Sprints.
"That group was made up of three three Seniors and two Juniors, three of those guys learned to row at the Naval Academy," said coach James Sands. "They came together after between Sprints and IRAs, and just gelled together and fought through some ups and downs and rotations of seats. They were able to throw down a really good piece today!"
"It's kind of a product of the system and a product of the environment that they're in, and that [head coach] Shawn Bagnall has set up. We keep our practices pretty competitive and it's a grinder of a selection process. But over the course of the two weeks in the lead up to the IRA, we're just taking tons and tons and tons of strokes, and some of the some of these young guys are expanding their kind of repertoire and expanding their experience level, sometimes by an order of magnitude. By the end of a fours camp, they've effectively gone through another entire week of spring-break level rowing right out of school, and that allows these walk-on guys to have space in a little bit slower boat to be able to get in and use some of that fitness."
The fact that a post-Eastern Sprints fours camp can create its own kind of magic was the case for the Princeton heavies as well, who took the Men's Open Four just ahead of Washington and a game Georgetown crew.
"Three of the kids were freshmen, so they did not have a ton of race experience," said Princeton coach Joe Gartland. "And obviously, with this boat, we don't get to race it throughout the year, it's just a project we do after the Eastern Sprints. We knew we were fast, but we didn't really know how fast."
"We ran a selection right after Sprints, and ultimately, these were, this was the fastest combination. We did a lot of training with the lightweight women's eight, they were great training partners for us. They put some heat on us in the first 500, and made us have to really dig in and trust our base. And that's what we saw today, Washington had a great start, but we were able to just trust our base, and it was pretty powerful through the middle of the piece."
Like Navy's Sands, Gartland acknowledged that lower boat IRA wins could have potentially big impacts down the road.
"All of these guys will be returning, some of them for multiple years, and I think we really found something with this group that worked in terms of the looseness. These guys have learned how to win close races now, and that's something they can bring with them. This kind of stuff is infectious, it gets other people on the team excited to try to do the same thing."
The Georgetown entry was mentored by the legendary Tony Johnson, who was called out of retirement this year to lead the GU heavies for one last time. Read our interview with Tony afterwards here.
Heavyweight Men's Eights
"This is the most aggressive Cal crew I have seen in a decade," said Fred Schoch in the live commentary, and he wasn't mistaken, as the Bears rocketed off the line and had a length on Washington after 500 meters.
"I think the guys did exactly what they needed to do," said Cal coach Scott Frandsen. "They focused on executing a full 2K race and they did that. I think everyone knows that tomorrow is the big one, we're going to have six crews in that final that think they have a chance to win or to grab a medal, it's going be some close racing."
The final order in the first semi was Cal, Washington, Harvard advancing to the final.
Harvard, who was seeded 7th going into the regatta, has clearly fixed themselves up. A few folks have noted that US Olympian Clark Dean has been all around this Harvard crew this year, variously rowing stroke, six, and four here at the IRA, but whatever changes have been made, they're working.
The supposedly "easier" of the two semis ran hotter than the first race today, with Syracuse changing the race in the third 500 meters, and coming to the line just behind Yale and ahead of Brown.
For Syracuse, who made the IRA Final last year as well, it's not all that surprising to make a return trip to the Grand, but this was redemption of sorts for a crew that only finished 6th at the Eastern Sprints three weeks ago.
"You know, we thought we had a decent race at Sprints, but it wasn't enough," said Syracuse coach Dave Reischman. "We sat down with the crew the Tuesday after that race, and they identified two things we thought we could do better. We were just getting a little too eager on the racecourse, and we were cutting our strokes off a little bit and we were just not letting the boat run quite as much as we thought we could.
"I think from a strategy standpoint, at Sprints, we were trying to do a little bit too much work trying to feel like we were 'in' the race. From there, we decided that we are who we are. Let's just start as fast as we can, and see if we can get to the good rhythm, what we call the good stuff. We just tried to stick the rhythm a little bit better than we had at Sprints and really concentrate on trying to keep that speed going for the full 2k."
Yale finished their semi about 1.5 seconds slower than Cal, but Yale coach Steve Gladstone was not getting too deeply into comparing times.
"On a day like today, where the conditions were identical, really looking race to race is the closest you can get. You get a window," said Gladstone. "You're training in particular way, and your people have to have faith in the framework of what they do."
"Ultimately, you are not thinking past that, not thinking to the next day. The challenge on the day of the finals is really not to overdo. You have not tried to not break the basic pattern of what you do. I think it's part of human nature to react, so that's a hard thing to do. You have to become what I would call a steel racer, where your emotion is just subdued. You need to be icy."
Like Gladstone and Reischman, Cal's Frandsen was looking forward to the final.
"Our guys are excited for that, and I'm really excited to have that opportunity," said Cal's Frandsen. "We've been working all year or in some cases many, many years to get to a day like tomorrow where we have a chance. It's over to the guys to grab that chance."
The qualifiers in the 2V were Cal, Brown, Princeton and Yale, Washington and Dartmouth; while Washington, Yale and Cal, and Harvard, Brown and Dartmouth qualified in the 3V.
Four teams have qualified all three of their eights to tomorrow's Grand Finals; Brown, Cal, Washington and Yale.
The lightweight women got their regatta underway with heats in the double, and races for lanes in the Light Four and Light Eight.
Princeton, Georgetown and Stanford were not giving anyone anything for free in the race for lanes in the Women's Lightweight Eight; all three crews crossed the 500m to mark mere feet apart, before Princeton pushed ahead to win the race by a few seats.
Radcliffe took the race for lanes in the women's lightweight four, ahead of Princeton and BU.
It's heartening to see sculling to continue to take hold in the women's collegiate ranks; on the evidence of today, the Princeton lightweight women must be putting in the mileage on Carnegie Lake, because the Princeton light double absolutely schooled the field in their heat, and look like they will be incredibly tough to beat.
Wisconsin and MIT trailed Princeton to join the Tigers in Sunday's A-Final, while BU and Radcliffe and Gordon College qualified from heat 2.
Notes from the Course
Overheard at the finish line:— Syracuse Men's Rowing (@CuseMRowing) June 4, 2022
"Wow, Syracuse V8 was not messing around."
|Log in to comment|
There are no Comments yet