May 10, 2009
PHILADELPHIA, PENN. - On Friday and Saturday the Loyola College crew team competed at the 71st Dad Vail Collegiate Championship, the largest collegiate championship regatta in the United States, with over 100 colleges and universities from the U.S. and Canada competing. Thousands of student athletes are in attendance which results in very tough heats, and this year's river conditions forced the regatta to change the qualifying format to a 1500 meter time trial, accepting only the top 18 crews
Loyola brought it's best four boats with lofty goals-advancing all four boats through the semis to the finals.
Highlighting the weekend was the Novice women's four earning the program's first Dad Vails National Collegiate Championship. The group was led by stroke Kim Winiarzcyk, Julie Roccuzzo, Maggie Ajello, Leslie Perez and coxswain Katherine Griffin. The four advanced through the time trial with a nine second lead over the next closest finishers : Tulsa, Iona, and Delaware-a remarkable show of dominance in a field of 53 entrants. Their semifinal win was equally emphatic, winning over Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Toronto-Miss, Sacred Heart, and UConn making them the only grand finalist crew since the men's pair of 2003.
The grand final conditions for the novice four became so windy and choppy that the novice race had to be restarted following an early collision and another delay after a men's 8 crashed into a bridge abutment in the rolling chop and gusting winds. The rolling waves and gusting winds resembled Loyola's practice conditions a little too well and the ladies used it to their advantage. They led the field from start to finish by a comfortable five seconds over second place Duquesne, and trailed by Tulsa, Delaware, Robert Morris, Purdue, and Pittsburgh, crowned the Dad Vail Champions.
The varsity Greyhound races provided top quality racing, as well.The varsity men's 8 placed fourteenth in their top quality field of 33 D-1 entrants, advancing them directly to the round of 18. In the process they eliminated some very fast teams, as St. Joseph's fell to the Hounds for the second time this spring, as well as Santa Clara, Florida, Ohio State and UMass.
The semi-final proved to be an incredibly daunting one that included eventual silver medalists Purdue, as well as great teams from Grand Valley, Jacksonville, Florida Tech and Delaware. Although the Hounds fell to Delaware by only 0.14 seconds in a back and forth battle, Florida Tech used the lane six stagger to their advantage, somehow gaining almost 10" from the previous day's race and eliminating the Hounds from the elusive finals.
Although Ramirez and the varsity men were both impressed and a little stunned by the incredible speed of the competition there were no regrets following their weekend efforts.
"It's hard to be disappointed when you know you've created the fastest and most successful boat in the history of the program, put out your best effort and been able to pressure, and beat some of the finest teams in the region and country," said Ramirez.
" That's what racing is all about-pitting your best against the best available. Seeing the incredible power of gold medalists Michigan and 2nd Purdue, and knowing that a school like Fordham can win the Bronze against such a deep field gives us more respect for these teams and more motivation to train harder next year."
The JV men's eight provided another fine effort for the Hounds. Racing a completely new lineup led by freshman Kyle Mannheimer, the boat was comprised of three other novice freshman and the lightweight men's 4.
The JV men's 8 were unable to crack the grand final of six against the same powerful teams that the varsity men faced: Grand Valley, Michigan, Temple, Purdue, Delaware and Jacksonville. They finished 9th, only four seconds out of the Top 6 grand final. They were able to top Marietta, Bucknell, Minnesota and others. Ramirez said both coaches were extremely impressed by the improvements made and the speed of the JV.
"It's essentially a frosh/novice 8 with three very light vets-so to have such little prep time and such a great race was very satisfying ," Ramirez noted.
Also having success in the time trial was the women's varsity four of Kelly McDermott, Sheila Marsicovetere, Daisy Carter and Liz Staub. They finished 16th in their time trial, which was much more indicative of Dad Vail championship depth. To contrast the novice 4's nine-second dominance in the time-trials, the varsity times from 6th place to 16th were only separated by five seconds. The women eliminated some very big teams such as Alabama, Michigan State, St. Joseph's, Purdue and others as only 18 of the 37 moved on.
Saturday the women provided one of the morning`s best race finishes. Racing in 4th near the back of the pack at 1200 meters, the Greyhounds started pressing. They held off charges from UMass and Northwestern, passed an Iona four that had led by over a boat length, and started to charge through 2nd place Stetson with 400 m remaining. Unfortunately they ran out of race course with 2/3 of a boat to go. The 3.5 second gap kept the Hounds out of their second women's grand final of the day.
Ramirez was very impressed by the race as well as the strong finish.
"That's their trademark finish-charging through the leaders and accelerating away from the pack with 600 meters to go-it takes a lot of guts and it's also a great personality flair that is difficult to teach.
"Some racers just won't roll over and the crowd loved it. I wasn't the only coach impressed that their boat was able to charge forward in the notorious water conditions of lane 6. Some crews just stop dead there but not these `Hounds".
"Overall I was very impressed with all our athletes this weekend and this season," said Ramirez. They overcame many unusual obstacles this season, including severe depth problems, injuries, and a very high inexperience level to achieve more than one might expect: a conference victory, unprecedented wins and boat speed and the first Dad Vails win ever. Next year `s season is looking bright already.