Since taking over as the men’s heavyweight crew coach in 1996, Dan Roock has made many positive changes for Cornell’s rowing program. Besides replacing nearly the entire previous coaching staff, he flushed out all of the old boats out of the boathouse, doubled the number of ergs in Teagle Hall, and drastically increased the depth of talent on the team itself.
For the first three years of his reign, Roock only could field two boats of eight rowers.
“Four years ago we were pretty bad,” Roock admitted. “We did have some really good rowers — ones who would row on our first boat today — but we didn’t have enough talent to fill out the boats.”
Today, the team has three boats and the dramatic difference appears with the depth of talent.
“Making the final selections for the races will be difficult because right now we have around 18 guys who could be in the top boat of eight,” Roock commented.
The selection process, although competitive, only makes the athletes stronger.
“We have a team that people enjoy being a part of,” Roock emphasized.
Besides the facilities, another reason for the explosion of talent is because of the new commitment to recruitment. With the help of varsity assistant and novice heavyweight coach Dan Allen, the number and quality of recruits have both increased. Because crew is not as prominent among high schools as it is with colleges, this process focuses on both athletes on campus as well as high school seniors looking to attend Cornell.
Last year, Cornell’s top boat finished ninth out of the 24 crews at the IRA National Championships. The freshman boat finished eighth, the second varsity boat finished sixth, and because of the numerous smaller boats’ success, the team took fourth overall in the Ten Eyck Trophy for all-around performance.
As for this year, Brown, Princeton and Harvard will be the toughest competition, and the rest of the Ivy League will not be far behind. The PAC-10 Conference and the Ivy League are consistently the two best rowing conferences in the nation, so Cornell has no easy path to the top.
With the continual progress that the program has made, however, there’s no telling how well the team could do this year.
“For the first time in many years,” Roock beamed, “we can match any team on any given day.”
Although he insists that every race is extremely important to the team, Roock admits that the Goes Cup at Navy on April 21st and the Carnegie Cup at Yale on April 28th, will be especially important and good predictors of the team’s performance at the IRA National Championships this year in Camden, N.J.
The team’s first race will be at home against Michigan on March 31. Before that, however, the Red has to fight the Ithaca weather and get out onto the water. Roock says that as long as the team gets out in the next two weeks, it won’t be a problem.
Archived article by Jon Goldberg