Crews set for GW Invitational

The GW crews will make their first home appearance of the spring season when the 12th Annual GW Invitational Crew Classic takes over the Potomac River Saturday.

A large crowd always turns out for the race, the largest collegiate rowing competition in Washington, D.C. The banks should be full as tourists and locals alike come to sample the sights of the National Cherry Blossom Festival and Parade.

The course begins near Spout Run and ends at Washington Harbor. The categories of boats this year include varsity eights, junior varsity eights, novice eights, second novice eights, lightweight eights and fours.

The invitational is often GW’s most well-attended sporting event. For the idle fan, the main events are the varsity eights. If a nice tan isn’t a priority, hitting the river at 3:30 p.m., in time for the finals, is a good bet.

GW will field boats in the women’s varsity four (first heat at 8:30 a.m., final at 2:l0 p.m.), the women’s novice eight (first heat at 9:20 a.m., final at 2:40 p.m.), the men’s novice eight (first heat at 9:50 a.m., final at 3 p.m.), the women’s junior varsity eight (first heat at 10:10 a.m., final at 3:20 p.m.), the women’s varsity lightweight four (final at 1:30 p.m.), the women’s varsity eight (first heat at 11 a.m., final at 4 p.m.), and the men’s varsity eight (first heat at 11:20 a.m., final at 4:20 p.m.). The awards ceremony will be at 4:40 p.m.

The men’s and women’s crews have each participated in two meets so far this spring. The men’s varsity eight finished second March 27 in Ithaca, N.Y., and third at a race last weekend in Massachusetts.

The boat faces a tough challenge Saturday. The favorites in the men’s varsity eight are Temple and the U.S. Naval Academy, with Temple already owning a win over Navy this season. Last year, Georgetown University won the Oliver T. Carr Bowl, which goes to the fastest men’s varsity eight, and the Hoyas look to contend again this year. GW is seeded in a middle pack of five or six boats. Temple is in GW’s heat, so the men will have to pull an upset or have the top second-place time to make the final.

The women’s varsity eight won its first race at Cornell University and finished second to Boston University in a tri-meet last weekend, while notching an important win over Navy. The GW women are ranked second in their region, which includes Navy. Wins over teams in its region puts GW in good position to return to the NCAAs in May.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” women’s head coach Steve Peterson said. “It’s a very young group of rowers. Experience can play a large part of it and they’ve done a good job of handling it.”

The women’s varsity eight is seeded second and is expected to make the final, where the top-seeded University of Virginia likely awaits. The Cavaliers are the second-ranked crew in the nation and took home the Women’s Varsity Eight Bowl last year.

“What we’ve focused in on is not U-Va.,” Peterson said. “Let me give you an analogy. That would be like the basketball team playing Duke (University) the third game of the season, and Tom Penders saying, `Let’s go kick some butt.’ We’re focused on teams like Georgetown. We’re second in our region behind Princeton (University), and if we can finish second Saturday, that’ll help our seeding.

“Beating Georgetown and Navy is important. Our goal is obviously to win, but I’m a realist. We’ll focus on beating the people we should. And then you don’t know what’ll happen. We had the same goal last year, and then we found ourselves only losing by one second to Virginia.”

Fourteen universities will participate, with more than 400 rowers expected to compete in the daylong event. Competing in the invitational will be crews from Georgetown, La Salle, Navy, Virginia, the College of William & Mary, St. Joseph’s, Temple, Ohio State, Columbia and George Mason universities, the universities of New Hampshire and Tennessee, and most intriguingly, Cambridge University (from the United Kingdom), which is entering a boat in the women’s varsity lightweight eight final (l:l0 p.m.).

The ultimate prize of the day is the Gilbert H. Hood Jr. Point Trophy, which Virginia took home last year. GW finished fourth in points in last year’s event.

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