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Rowing teams take strides in weekend regattas

All three Stanford rowing teams competed last weekend, making big strides in their respective regattas to gain momentum heading into the main part of the season.

(MICHAEL PIMENTEL/stanfordphoto.com)

Senior Austin Hack (right) led the No. 8 Stanford men’s rowing team to a berth in the finals of the Men’s Collegiate Invitational at the San Diego Crew Classic. The team finished third in the final heat, but has room for improvement with the final varsity boat combination still to be determined. (MICHAEL PIMENTEL/stanfordphoto.com)

Lightweight women’s, in its first regatta of the season against other lightweight teams specifically, followed up its 2013 IRA National Championship with a first place finish in the Collegiate Lightweight Grand Final at the San Diego Crew Classic. The varsity eight outpaced its greatest competition in the Classic, Princeton, by a margin of just over five seconds to finish the weekend undefeated. The win extended the varsity eight boat’s winning streak in the Classic to four consecutive years.

“[Princeton] is throughout the season our [greatest] competitor, and so we go in hoping that we’ll come out on top but I wouldn’t say it’s a given; they are a very competitive team and we go into it with a fighting spirit,” said junior Mackenzie Crist.

On Saturday, in the first heat, the Cardinal routed Princeton, winning by a huge margin of nine seconds. Typically a big win is considered to be of a margin at which point the boats don’t overlap and there’s open water — for a men’s race that’s three seconds and for women’s is four to five — so Stanford had a considerable victory over Princeton in both heats. Since the pool of boats is so small (five boats), all boats advance to the final heat; the teams were competing for lane-placement.

The Crew Classic took place at Mission Bay in San Diego, where the course has its lane disadvantages due to the current and the crosswind from the ocean, with lane one being more protected. The Cardinal secured lane one by winning the first heat and put itself in a good position to win the final heat.

This weekend also served as a measure for how the team will fare against Harvard in races to come, since Harvard reigns among the greatest competitors in lightweight. Harvard did not compete in the Classic, but Stanford will go up against the Crimson in two weeks in Boston.

“During the final event, though we knew we were a faster crew than Princeton, we wanted to make sure that we could beat them as much as we possibly could,” said sophomore Brittany Presten. “Based on last year, our biggest competition is Harvard, so it was important to set a tone and get practice being as aggressive as we can for when we meet a crew that is faster and better than us.”

***

No. 8 men’s rowing also competed in the San Diego Crew Classic, with the varsity eight advancing to the finals of the Men’s Collegiate Invitational, which features the best collegiate eights in the field, after edging No. 10 Northeastern in the prelims by 2.7 seconds.

Since it was the same location that the lightweights had to face, the prelims were also especially important in terms of lane placement. Instead of having the top seeds placed in the middle lanes, the winner of the heat was placed in the more-advantageous lane one.

“We’ve been thinking a lot about starting and getting out really fast so we executed and did what we wanted to do…which was winning the heat,” said senior Austin Hack.

The Card wasn’t able to muster the same dominant performance and fell to No. 2 Cal by a margin of just over 15 seconds and Northeastern by 7.74 seconds on Sunday in the final heat to finish in third. The Cardinal, however, have yet to settle on a fixed varsity eight boat. With the lineup changing with each practice and with four freshmen competing in the varsity eight boat on Sunday, Stanford has a lot of room for improvement.

In the final heat on Sunday, the Cardinal started off slow, allowing Cal to take the early lead and eventually allowing Northeastern to overtake them.

“We knew that Cal was the fastest off the starting line and so we were trying to get out with them,” Hack said. “We were already having a shaky race, so as [Cal] moved away we were just thinking about that boat and then they were gone and Northeastern started coming up on us a bit and they gradually overtook us.”

Despite an undesirable finish in the final heat, the Card still gained a moral victory in beating a highly respected Northeastern team by a good margin in the prelims, providing confidence for the team and setting the groundwork for this weekend’s races against Washington, Washington State and Oregon State.

“We’re hoping that we can improve from this race and find out what combinations work best for our varsity boat and move people around so we can keep working towards our fastest line-up,” Hack said. “It wouldn’t be out of the question to be making switches the week before the national championship.”

***

Finally, No. 11 women’s rowing had a great display at the Oregon State Classic, its second regatta of the season, with the 2V8 (second varsity eight boat) halting No. 2 Ohio State’s 19-race winning streak, holding off the Buckeyes’ early surge to come out on top.

“We went out and started ahead and then [Ohio State] took a really great move and ended up walking through [overtaking] us and winning the race. So Ohio State upped the pressure, passed us and ended up winning the race by one-point-four seconds,” said sophomore Emily Grundman. “For us, that served as motivation for in the afternoon, which we ended up winning. The second [race] was really close as well. Ohio State lost by 1.2 seconds so the margins were pretty similar, but it was flipped this time in our favor and everything worked out in a really great way.”

It’s especially important for the 2V8 to do well in addition to the varsity eight boat, as the whole team has to collectively have enough success to qualify for NCAAs, so the depth of the team early on (including the varsity four boat) holds great importance in its qualification at the end of the season. Each of Stanford’s 1V8, 2V8 and varsity four boats finished in the top three in the morning and afternoon sessions of the Classic.

“Ohio State won NCAAs last year, which is great to have such a tough schedule because it motivates you to compete to the best of your capabilities, and the 1V8 boat only got edged out by Ohio State by one second, so the margin was really close,” Grundman said. “That really bodes well for us for the future because this was only our second regatta of the season. So knowing that this is where we are currently and that this is something where we can put in more work and develop as the season continues, is just so intensely gratifying.”

Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Ashley Westhem

Ashley Westhem is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team and aids in KZSU’s coverage of football. She has been a desk editor for three volumes and now serves as Managing Editor of Sports. She is an American Studies major from Lake Tahoe, Calif., and aspires to work in sports administration, to positively affect the lives of student-athletes and the relationship between the athletic and academic spheres of universities.