There are few teams on campus that can boast a perfect regular season, but for the first time since 1974, heavyweight crew has earned those bragging rights after overcoming Yale and Princeton in the Ithaca-based Carnegie Cup. This spring, the Cornell oarsmen pulled ahead of the likes of Navy, Syracuse, Princeton, Yale and Georgetown, taking the first-place trophy at all four of their regular season races, all under the steady guidance of former lightweight IRA champion coach, and the new Head of Cornell Rowing, Cornell heavyweight Todd Kennett ’91.
“Todd is a madman.” said senior Jason Malumed, “He has a way of always pushing us to our physical and mental extremes.”
Kennett’s unique coaching style, developed and perfected during his 10 seasons as the lightweight rowing coach, has revolutionized the heavyweight squad.
“He’s instilled in us an absolute hatred of losing,” Malumed said. “He’s been in our position before, almost winning the Eastern Sprints. He demands a high level of performance and, when we’re head to head with another crew, we’re even more motivated by the competitive precedent he’s set.”
Kennett’s rowers have adopted his competitive mentality, noting that Kennett never allows the top rowers to rest on their laurels. “Nothing is given to anyone on the team, even the commodore,” says Malumed, “You still have to pull your hardest to beat the guy on your left.”
The team will need this renewed sense of ferocity as it heads to the Eastern Sprints next Sunday. Cornell will join the rest of the Ivy League along with 12 other schools in battling for a chance to take back the gold for the first time since the 1977 team won the race. Its perfect regular season has earned a No. 4 seed, and the Red needs to place in the top-9 to earn the bid to race at the rowing national championship, the IRAs, taking place in Lake Natoma in Sacramento, Calif. in early June.
“The difference between this year and last year isn’t that they’re working harder in one single practice, but that they’re more focused and consistent. They were in the weight room early in the year, using their own time to benefit the team.” Kennett pointed out that the leaders of the team, Malumed and senior coxswain Jimmy Germano, were the first to show increased individual commitment. “Jason was in the weight room all the time during the winter… which is important to maintaining power during these week-long races. And when I was named head coach, Jimmy was one of the first to call me at home.”
“Todd ‘suggested’ that, on top of our practices, we come in on our own and erg 30,000 to 60,000 extra meters a week,” Jason recalled, “so we would meet up and push each other in groups during our extra workouts.” The extra work is paying off, not only in their undefeated record, but also in their individual physical accomplishments, “All of us have increased our squats, and beaten our personal 2,000-meter erg record… it’s made us all more competitive for the top seats in the boat.”
As the Eastern Sprints close in, Kennett is switching his coaching focus from physical fitness to technique. “It’s a balancing act between taking care of their bodies and perfecting their form,” says Kennett.
However, Malumed believes their greatest threat hasn’t yet seen the water this year. “Todd always says his two-year-old daughter can row harder than us, so I’m just hoping she’s ready to suit up by Sprints.”