Collegiate Championship Blog

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Welcome to the 2016 USRowing Collegiate Championship Series Blog & to the May racing season! Dedicated to all things collegiate rowing, remember to check back here each week for important links, up to date information, pictures and more! 

IRA Lightweight Men’s Eight Preview, 2016

May 31, 2016

Yale
Like their counterparts on the heavyweight side, undefeated Sprints champion Yale will be the team to watch in the men’s lightweight eight this year at the IRA Regatta. Y150 doesn’t have to look too far back to recall their most recent IRA title (coming in thrilling fashion in 2011 by roughly one foot over a previously undefeated Harvard crew), and can take confidence from their success this spring, which has seen them run the table to date. From the look of it, they’re well positioned to continue their momentum, coming off their first EARC Sprints title since 2002 (and taking first in the second varsity eight, to boot). However, just as Yale themselves proved in 2011, you can never take the IRA title for granted—something veteran head coach Andy Card has likely impressed upon his crew since taking top honors at Sprints. 

Columbia
The Columbia Lions have been steadily climbing the ranks of the Sprints league for some time now, beginning with Scott Alwin’s tenure as head coach, and continuing that trend under current skipper Nich Lee Parker. While you can pretty much pencil the Lions into a podium finish at both Sprints and IRAs (they’re coming off another silver-medal performance in Worcester, back of Yale, this year), so far they haven’t quite been able to get to the top of the mountain, scoring silver and bronze at IRAs over the last two seasons. They’re not far off, though, having crossed the line roughly seven seats back of Yale at Sprints—could this be the year that Columbia takes home a first-ever national title? 

Princeton
The Tigers, like Columbia, have had strong crews for the past several years. This season, Marty Crotty’s Tigers have been very close to the mark, again starting the year strong with a solid second place at the Head Of The Charles (back of a Canadian crew made up of national team athletes), and recently third in the varsity eight at Sprints. It will be a tall task for the Tigers to get past the top two crews, Yale and Columbia, but with a typically talented and deep program (finishing with a bronze in the second varsity eight at Sprints as well), Princeton may just have the speed to make it happen.

Cornell
While Big Red came into the season with hopes of completing a three-peat of titles at both Eastern Sprints and IRAs, Cornell struggled against the top end of the field in 2016 during the regular season. 2015 Ivy League Lightweight Coach of the Year Chris Kerber’s crew has not been far off the pace (and have shown solid depth, taking a very close second to Yale in the second varsity eight in Worcester), but Cornell suffered three straight losses in the varsity eight for the first time in recent memory this year, coming against the top crews in the league. Still, with Cornell having missed the podium by just three tenths of a second at Sprints, don’t sleep on Big Red in West Windsor.

Penn
The Quakers have had a strong year for the program, moving up the ranks and proving that they deserved their no. 5 seed at Eastern Sprints, building on the promise of their Sprints-champion freshman eight two years ago. The fall season saw Penn post impressive results at the Princeton Chase, edging Harvard and taking fifth place overall behind Cornell, Princeton, Yale, and Navy, respectively. While the Quakers haven’t yet cracked the podium, they were roughly one length from a bronze medal in Worcester after a tight race with Princeton and Cornell—look for them to continue to make an impression on the field at IRAs this year. 

Navy
The Midshipmen have had very strong spring, with a signature victory over Harvard for the Haines Trophy—the first for Navy since 2008, and just the ninth for the program since 1936—and an appearance in the final at Eastern Sprints, taking sixth place. With growing confidence and experience to draw on, head coach Shawn Bagnall (in his third season with the Midshipmen) and his crew will no doubt be aiming to track down Penn to crack the top five in the country at IRAs—a worthy goal for a squad that finished the 2015 season at eighth overall. 

Harvard
It has been an up and down season for the Crimson so far in the 2015-2016 campaign, with the varsity eight taking a solid third place finish at the Charles behind the Canadian national team and Princeton, but with mixed results in the spring. The Crimson raced very well with Cornell and Princeton, but they’ve lacked the top-end speed we’ve come to expect from the storied program since they won back-to-back national championships in 2012 and 2013. Still, Michiel Bartman’s crews have performed well when it has mattered most over the past two years, and bounced back from a fifth-place finish at Sprints to take an IRA bronze medal last season—they’ll be battling to make the final this year and put themselves in a position for an upset over their Sprints league rivals in West Windsor.

Mercyhurst
The Lakers earned their way into the fray at IRAs to take on the top teams from the Sprints league with a win at Dad Vails in Philadelphia, where they edged a strong Delaware crew by roughly two seconds to punch their tickets to Mercer Lake. Mercyhurst comes into the IRA Regatta having recently been ranked ninth overall, and has experience racing Sprints schools this season. The Lakers took two of three races from Dartmouth in their dual with Big Green, and earned a silver medal in the varsity eight at the MACRA Championships racing against heavyweight crews, knocking off strong club programs from Grand Valley State and Cincinnati along the way. The IRA field will be an excellent proving ground for the Lakers, as Mercyhurst and head coach Adrian Spracklen—son of legendary Olympic rowing coach Mike Spracklen—look to continue to elevate their program to new heights.  

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