Collegiate Championship Blog

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! 


Jun 01, 2016

Over the past few years, the battle for the national title in the Women's Lightweight Varsity Eight has been defined by the tilts between Radcliffe and Stanford; two years ago, Radcliffe captured the title with a stirring sprint over the last 250 meters of the race, while in 2015, Stanford did not disappoint expectations, recapturing the title with a brilliantly executed race.

This year Stanford is the unquestionable top seed, having seen off all challenges from coast to coast.  The Cardinal captured the San Diego Crew Classic, the Knecht Cup, and the Boston Lightweight Invitational for a perfect record and the pole position.  Under second-year head coach Derek Byrnes, Stanford has continued to impress.

The real intrigue in 2016 is taking place behind Stanford as Boston University, Wisconsin and Radcliffe will tussle for podium spots.  Boston University's rise to the top of east coast lightweight women's rowing is one of the great stories of this spring, with the Terriers capturing not only their first lightweight Beanpot (the trophy shared amongst the Boston lightweight teams, BU, Radcliffe and MIT), but also taking the program's first Eastern Sprints Varsity Lightweight Eight title against a packed field of contenders, and capping it by winning the Konrad Ulbrich overall points trophy for Lightweight Women at the Sprints, another program first. 

"Sprints was a performance benchmark for us," said BU head coach Malcolm Doldron.  "We knew how we needed to train in the fall and winter and did what was necessary.  We knew that if we executed well the outcome would be inevitable."

What makes BU's performance impressive is that its good racing results were not limited to the Varsity eight.  BU's lower boats have also performed strongly, creating the type of environment necessary for the entire team to perform at a top level.  BU enters the 2016 IRA competition as the first pursuer of Stanford, and should serve as a real challenger to the Cardinal.

"While we know we have incredibly tough racing ahead with Stanford, Wisconsin, and Radcliffe, we also know that these kinds of challenges is what makes racing fun!" said BU's Doldron.  "High performance racing requires opposition at their best so that we can achieve our best. Our focus all year has been positioning ourselves to race our best at the IRA."

Also in the conversation are the Badgers of Wisconsin.  Under first-year head coach Dusty Madison, Wisconsin has continued its tradition of fielding strong lightweight women's crews.  While no team is looking past Stanford, the Wisco women will come into the IRA itching for a rematch with BU, as the Terriers outgunned the Madison crews by less than one point for the Eastern Sprints team trophy.  "Team depth" has been the mantra of Wisconsin's 2016 campaign, and while the Badger Varsity eight faltered somewhat in finishing third behind BU and Radcliffe, the Wisconsin lightweight second varsity and third varsity eights, as well as the Wisco lightweight varsity four, all captured gold medals at the Sprints.

"We had a moment of disappointment after Sprints and then quickly moved on knowing that our mission from here on out is about increasing our top end speed," said Mattison. "To win three out of our four races was huge for the future of our program."

Also certainly not out of the discussion for a podium finish and a challenge for the title under the right circumstances is Radcliffe.  The black and white, under new head coach Sarah Schwegman, have found themselves in the unaccustomed position of looking catch crews, but to Radcliffe's credit, they have not backed off at any point, keeping their margins to BU at just under one boat length at all points this season.  With a long layoff between Sprints and the IRA, Schwegman and her crew could find the speed necessary to crack BU and Stanford.

All teams will be using this comparatively long layoff between the end of the regular season racing and the IRA to find their end-of-year speed.  "The longer layoff is nice since it gives us time to make an adjustment, look at it and then either stick with it or try something else," said Wisconsin's Mattison.  "As with most other teams we raced every weekend in April so there wasn't a ton of time to try new things. Now that school is done for the year they can relax a bit and really focus on gelling as a group."

Rounding out the field in the Women's Lightweight Varsity Eight are MIT, who captured the Dad Vail championship in this event earlier this spring, Princeton and Georgetown.

These teams will be joined by others in the two additional Women's Lightweight events at the IRA, the Women's Lightweight Four and Women's Lightweight Double Sculls.  In addition to the seven teams taking part in the Varsity eight, Fordham, UMass, Tulsa and Villanova complete the field in the Women's Lightweight Four.

Given the impressive depth of the top teams, it would not be surprising to see Stanford, BU, Radcliffe or Wisconsin vying for the podium spots, but the smaller boat events always come with surprises. 

Finally, nine teams will contest the Women's Lightweight Double sculls: BU, Princeton, Radcliffe, Wisconsin, Stanford, Tulsa, Dartmouth, Loyola University (Maryland), and Oklahoma City University.  With the Double Sculls serving as the only Olympic event for lightweight women, it's encouraging to see teams allow athletes to experience championship-level sculling as undergraduates, which is generally an exception.  The intriguing entries come from Dartmouth, who does not field a lightweight women's team during the regular season, and Oklahoma City University.

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