Racing is done for the day in Indy; it was a really beautiful day with ample sunshine and only a bit of a nagging crosswind (knock on wood – although there was a little bit too much of that around today as you will read). After this afternoon's repechages, the DI semis and DIII finals are set.
The spectator area in Indianapolis covers the last 250m or so of the course, and it filled up early this morning with parents, friends, and fans. The crowds were dense right along the shore, where they were able to watch the majority the race on a jumbotron, and then turn their eyes to the water as the women entered the sprint. Most of the groups of fans have bunched themselves into groups based on school. The Indiana contingency is huge as expected, Ohio State has brought a few fans along to cheer on the defending champs, and some of the Bates men's rowing teams have come out from Maine to support their female teammates. On the spectator shuttle this morning, there were even some rowing parents who had daughters on the same high school team before college who had not seen one another in years and were pleasantly surprised to run into one another.
It was nothing short of an exciting morning for the DI races, with many close finishes, a protest and a broken skeg. The protest came from the University of Washington 2V8 who missed the A/B semi-finals by .07 seconds behind Michigan. The protest was filed regarding debris in the water, and after deliberations the jury decided to advance the Huskies directly into the A/B semi-final l instead of having them race the afternoon repechage. Though they will race in a 7-boat semi, the progression will still only send three of those crews to the grand final, as originally planned.
Skeg and rudder woes came from the defending champions Ohio State, in the V4. The crew was leading their heat through the 1k when just before the last 500 the boat turned sideways and swerved from lane 3 out to lane 7, cutting in front of Jacksonville and Louisville. It was unclear what was happening as people were watching the jumbotron. The crew finished the race last, by 24 seconds; they then raced the repechage from lane 7 where they won by a solid 4-seconds leading the whole way down the course. Ohio State will be sending all three of their boats into the A/B Semifinals, and coach Andy Tietelbaum reflected on what this year's regatta means to the team.
"I think more than anything it's less that we are defending National Champions and more of the fact that we have had a really good year this year," he said. "This group has put us in a position where we might be able to take home the team trophy or some of the event titles at this regatta; so more than defending its about asking ourselves if we can we fulfill our potential this year."
One of the teams that had to endure sending all three of their crews into the repechage was Radcliffe. While no one wants to have to race the repechage, it's a second chance to take a spot in that A/B semi, and one that has to be approached with all the of a grand final—in rowing we get second chances, but rarely third tries. Their 1V and 2V 8s qualified for the A/B semi, but in a competitive race their V4 came up short, and will race the C/D semi tomorrow.
"We're not seeded at the top but we know we can be competitive, and if we can put together a good race that we can be in thick of it," said Radcliffe coach Liz O'Leary. "Reps are tough because you have to get the job done, and that was the goal for this afternoon. Now you have to move on from that and look ahead to what you need to do in the semifinals tomorrow, and that's going to be an uphill battle."
And how did the local crew, Indiana University fare today? They too, raced all three reps, and will be sending their 1V and V4 onto the A/B semis. Coach Steve Peterson is pleased with the performances and can feel the support of the school, parent and alumni community that has come out to cheer on the Hoosiers.
"Our big goal was to try to get into at least the B final--the A/B semi, and the varsity 8 and 4 did a nice job," he said. "Our strength has been the base, the second half of the race and in both cases they were able to move through people. It's what we've been planning and now we have nothing to lose—that's the best part about it."
As expected, many of the finishes were out of seeding order this morning. The 7th seeded UVA 1V (their lowest seeding in many years) finished less than a second behind #2 Stanford. Likewise, the #6 seed Cal beat out #3 Princeton by six seconds. The races were very competitive within the D1 field and will become increasingly so in the A/B semifinals tomorrow morning.
The DIII 2V8s kicked off the regatta this morning with the top finisher from each of those races qualifying for the grand final tomorrow. The Bates crew in the first heat took an early and commanding lead, leaving Williams and Wellesley to battle down the course. In the second heat, Trinity took the win over Wesleyan and Washington College. The afternoon reps added Wesleyan and Williams to the grand finals, with Wesleyan leading ahead of the Ephs in the second half of the race.
In the 1V8 heats, the top two crews advanced to the grands and it was the expected top crews from ECAC/NIRC that will be moving on: Bates, Trinity, Wellesley and Williams. Bates and Wellesley faced one another in the heats and Wellesley hung on for an impressive finish just 2 seconds behind Bates. The Trinity/Williams match-up was equally strong with a very tight race until the sprint, when Williams opened it up for a 5 second win. Joining them out of the reps will be Wesleyan and Washington College - for a six boat final that is comprised of the same crews that raced in the grand final at ECACs.
It's Wesleyan's first time at the NCAA regatta since 2001, and advancing the grand finals out of the repechage in both the 1V and 2V is quite an accomplishment for a growing team.
"We've been racing a lot of these same crews this past spring, and for my past four years so after we got the bid we were just ready to continue working hard for the next couple weeks and hopefully pick up some more speed to show up here and really prove that we've earned our spot here," said senior captain Clare Doyle.
The Nova Southeastern Sharks bit the competition this morning as they took a spot in the final in both the V8 and V4, with four and 12 second margins over their competition. Humboldt State took the second grand final spot in the V8, and Western Washington nabbed a spot for grands in the V8. On the evidence so far, Nova Southeastern may be able to defend their title comfortably, thought the Western Washington V4 could prove to be good competition; the two crews will face one another for the first time all season in the grand final.
The DII crews will race their repechage tomorrow and their final on Sunday; we'll catch up with the athletes and coaches after the finals are set.
A few notes from the start
The crosswind and maybe a little lift in the reservoir from yesterday's downpour was pushing tons of debris from the shore into the starting area (and in fact the whole course, causing the episodes described above), which kept a crew of guys in launches really busy all day. At the end of the morning racing, the officials in the starting tower gave the guys a round of applause; those guys earned their keep today. Overall, the start was run in a professional and highly competent manner today; as we all know, that isn't always the case (speaking as one who aligns crews every weekend all year), but this was a really solid show.
The starting area is accessible by a hike out a long, long spit of land that puts hikers just across a lane or two of water from Lane 1; in the early morning, it was only birders and fitness folks (including a birder with blue hair, which I have never seen before; maybe it was a punk rock attempt at camouflage), but as the racing went on parents and team spares found their way out there. Hearing their parents yelling at such close proximity at the start at NCAA Championship definitely, uh, surprised a few of the athletes, but it is all good; a bit of spectator action is probably just what our sport needs.
Visualization is getting a bit of a foothold in rowing if this morning's heats are any indication; more crews than ever were doing eyes closed talk-throughs than I have seen before.
That said, it is Fist Bump for the win in the pre-race ritual tally; nothing else comes even close.
Though the "high 10, low ten" behind the back move was pretty good.
In a couple of the lanes, when a longer eight comes into the gates, things are getting really cozy out there. Some of the stakeboat people were fully into the coxswain's space, to the point that they were getting hit by ponytails; after the crews took off, here were some of their comments:
-"I was literally touching her hair; I wanted to apologize she had to listen to me breathing."
- "We are almost literally snuggling; I kind of wanted to hug her because of all the emotion out here."
For originality at the line, it has to be Humboldt's joke-telling ritual, which of course originates in the bow sections of the boats. It does seem like it is a regular occurrence, as at around the four-minute call, one of the other members of the crew said "yea, let's do it...," which brought on the first joke of the day - so it sounded like they do it all the time. The two jokes I overheard:
In the eight:
-Why did the turtle cross the road?
- To get to the Shell Station.
In the four:
-What did one cell say to her sister cell when she stepped on her toe?
Finally, really long ponytails - like two feet long - are in this spring.
Oh yeah, and trainers using support tape are getting really creative (I'll link this when the reps galleries go up).
Well, that's a wrap! Much more racing coverage tomorrow as the Division III champions are crowned and the DI and DII crews race for a spot in Sunday's grand finals. In life weather might just be banal small-talk, but in rowing it is actually a topic of great importance, and today one could stop commenting about how much better the weather is after last year's near-monsoons, so please keep your fingers crossed for us!