Only one crew arrives in Sacramento this weekend with a goose egg in the L column - California. Having won San Diego, the Windermere regatta, run away with the Cal-UW dual with an 11-second victory, and almost inevitably claiming the Pac-10 title, they'll enjoy the top seed this weekend. Astute observers will remember that the Bears found themselves in the same position last year - undefeated season, top seed - and then found themselves in sixth at the end of the regatta. This year's crew seems to have a little more juju, and will look to defy any developing pattern.
Results out of the Midwest have read like a series of pieces in even boats, with crews trading pieces from week to week, and even morning to afternoon in some of the double dual regattas in the early going. The early leader seemed to be Michigan, who kept an undefeated season until Michigan State, who had been knocking off one sleeping giant after another through the month of April, roared to life with a win in the Big 10 regatta. In the endgame at the Central/South Sprints, however, Ohio State claimed the top spot, and two Southern crews, Tennessee and Virginia, rowed themselves into the next two spots ahead of the rest of the Midwestern crews; both of these crews appear to have solid late-season momentum. Wisco found themselves ahead of two crews from Michigan, the blue from UM and the green from MSU.
At the Eastern Sprints, Yale won their first V8 title since 1981 with a victory over previously undefeated Princeton, followed by Brown and Radcliffe (who officially race as Harvard at the NCAAs). The Yale crew has a heap of horsepower, clearly seems to be getting on the end of the oarhandle now, and should be formidable on Natoma. As the crews unpack in their Rancho Cordova hotels, you can bet that no one has forgotten Brown's stunning turnaround last year at NCAA's, where, after a medal-less fourth place finish at Easterns, they outclassed the field all weekend, taking the V8, the 2V8, and the points championship.
Stanford and Radcliffe have an Olympic silver medalist each in their varsity boats; Sam Magee leads the Stanford crew, and Caryn Davies sits in the Harvard varsity. The Stanford eight whiffed a stroke or two at the start in the final at Pac-10s, and will hope to assemble a full championship 2k this weekend.
With selection for the NCAAs involving ever-increasing difficulties, and crews, especially from the South and Central regions, racing nearly impossibly strong schedules, none of the crews that race at the NCAA championships will be ignorant of the speed it takes to do well at these championships.
With less regional overlap, handicapping the Division II/III championships can be daunting. For D2, the selected teams were Western Washington University, Nova Southeastern University, Mercyhurst College, Florida Institute of Technology. In addition, UC San Diego and Florida's Barry University were selected "at large." Five of these crews have seen each other: Western Washington and UC San Diego finished 1-2 at the the Div. 2 West Regional final, while Nova Southeastern, Barry and FIT finished in that order in the Sunshine State Conference championships on May 8th. Mercyhurst looks to the be the unknown here, having competed in the largely DIII field at the ECAC championships, surviving as far as the semis.
The field in the DIII event reads much like the WV8 grand final at the ECACs: Trinity, Ithaca, Smith, Williams were the top four crews in that event, with Coast Guard and Tufts, the at large selections for the event, coming in fifth and sixth. Colby, a 4th place at the New England rowing championships behind Trinity, Williams and Smith, is also in the field, with Puget Sound rounding out the eight-team field. For the DIII, Trinity looks to be the class of the field, but this isn't an easy event...Ithaca won this championship in 2004 by a mere whisper over Smith, so margins will be tight.