This weekend’s racing at the Knecht Cup was done under very fine conditions following a brutal Friday practice session under rain, strong winds, and temps in the 40’s. As the regatta dried out Saturday morning the team rolled into the venue ready to race and feeling confident.
The day got off to a good start with the V8 winning their heat comfortably over crews from Delaware and St. Joseph’s Universities. It was a solid race at 33spm and the guys controlled the race throughout breaking open water on the 2 crews battling for second in the 3rd 500m. As the heats ended Bucknell had posted the fastest time in a very strong field. As the Semi-Final’s were set 8 crews were within 4 seconds of each other and indicated very tough racing in the afternoon.
The Freshman were next and continued their impressive start to the season with another open water victory over North Carolina. The guys continue to race with long powerful strokes and we’re set to match up with ECAC rival Trinity in their afternoon semi-final. The 2V finished the morning racing by qualifying for the Grand Final in electrifying fashion by grabbing the last automatic qualifying spot in a come from behind sprint that over took Marietta College by .4 seconds.
Saturday’s semi-final racing turned out to be a mixed bag for the Bison. The Varsity were in Semi #2 racing against Trinity, Drexel, Rutgers, St. Joe’s and ACRA rival Grand Valley. Drexel shot out of a cannon at the start and took the early lead with Trinity and Bucknell trailing. As the body of the race developed Trinity found the edge to stay with Drexel and eventually track them down to pass and win the Semi in 5:59.72. Our guys never seemed to find themselves once the race started to take an unexpected turn in the 3rd 500 and we slipped back towards a feisty Grand Valley crew who had been shadowing the lead crews in the 1st 1000m. In the end, Trinity beat us by 1 Length and Grand Valley raced their guts out to sprint through us and capture the final qualifying spot in the Grand Final by .9 sec. It was a stunning turn of events and highlighted the quality of the field and the difficulty that semi-final racing presents in a deep field.
The Varsity crews downfall may have helped sharpen the focus of the freshman who launched as the 1V race finished. Their semi-final race was a fantastic back and forth with the Trinity freshman. The guys clearly possessed the x-factor you need to race with poise and purpose in a tight race. As the finish line approached it was either crews race to win and the young Bison made a fully committed push to the line together and won the semi-final by .1 sec!
Championships are won on Sunday’s. The goal of our crews is to win championships in May and this regatta presents a terrific dry run at that format and learning how to navigate all the obstacles and challenges that come in a long weekend of tough racing. The V8 went into their petite final ready to race and as they have done so often this spring they pushed the pace of the event and found ECAC rival Hobart ready to challenge. It was another dramatic race with never more than 2 seats separating the two crews. As the finish line approached we had a small lead, but again the challenger found away to slip through in the sprint and we finished .8 sec down. In similar fashion, the 2V was in a serious duel with St. Joe’s all the way down the course and they too found themselves just short in a close race missing 4th place by .5 sec.
The only crew to capture a medal were the freshman and again it came down to fractions of a second separating our guys from their goal. The grand final was a tight race between Drexel, Boston College, and Bucknell with Bucknell leading to the 1000m mark. Drexel was able to grab the advantage in the 2nd half and BC showed their stuff by coming along with the long anticipated race between Drexel and Bucknell. As the race came to a close the Drexel crew was a little more polished rowing with length and a significant advantage in rate to win the event. The battle for second was just as dramatic as the other races of the morning and BC was able to take the silver by .4 sec and Bucknell earned the Bronze medal in 6:14.3
In all my years of coaching I can’t remember so many races week in and week out being decided by fractions of second. The good thing is we are clearly in the mix with the fastest teams in each event. We also know that we have a great plan for growth and each boat is still very much in the process of developing (I think we’re going to spend some time working on our last 500m this week!) and peaking in May.
This week is another stiff test against #1 Michigan here at home. We have a great weekend planned around this intense ACRA rivalry and of special note is the attendance of the Bucknell 4- (Steve Rocheleau, Mark LaGatta, Mike Cunningham, and Bob Cullenfrom) from 1987 that raced in the Canadian Henley.
Get to Lewisburg this weekend! It’s going to be a great weekend of racing with plenty of fireworks I’m sure.
Follow the team this weekend on Twitter – BucknellCrew