March 12, 2002

Living to Race

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Ah, spring — when a young man’s fancy turns to love.

Maybe, but come spring down at the Colliyer Boathouse, the men have only one thing on their minds — and it ain’t love. Spring marks the time for crew to get back on the water and gear up for the rapidly approaching season.

Cornell’s lightweight crew is anticipating a successful season after a strong preseason performance in the fall.

At the Princeton Chase in October, the varsity boat took fifth in a field of 11. The JV boat finished just two seconds behind the leading JV boat, which belonged to Yale.

“They were in the hunt,” said head coach Todd Kennett. “The JV had really good speed this fall.”

The quirky format of the Stonehurst Regatta in Rochester was also kind to the first boat, which finished third ahead of several schools, including Harvard.

The crew that everyone’s looking to beat, however, has to be Yale. Its fall season was crowned by a trio of prestigious victories. The team swept the Stonehurst, the Chase, and the Head of the Charles, winning all three by margins of at least 10 seconds.

“I think Yale is the crew to catch,” Kennett said.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle the lightweights will have to face this year is the team’s lack of experience. Right now the group has only three senior rowers.

Senior John Zelken is recovering from a broken hip and may be out for the season. As a veteran of the varsity boat and second place finisher in the men’s lightweight pair at IRAs, his talents will be sorely missed.

“It’s a huge hurt to have only three seniors,” said Kennett. “It’d be nice to have more depth, but at the same time, I think the guys that we do have are doing a nice job of rising to the occasion.”

Seniors Chris Cotronei, Scott Triolo, and captain Joe Kiely compose the group of rowers that will be returning for its fourth season.

“They really do a nice job,” Kennett said. “All three of them have incredibly strong work ethics. They lead by example.”

As one of the largest elements of the team, the juniors are going to have to step up if the lightweights want to be competitive. Kennett believes that the group has demonstrated a lot of potential in the last couple of months.

“I think the way the junior class has come together is really outstanding. Guys like Mike Cody and Nafis Smith are doing a really nice job of putting in some good hard work,” Kennett said.

“One of the strengths of our team is the ambition of our underclassmen,” said Kiely. “It’s not just one class carrying everything. The team is really well rounded.”

The lightweights still have a number of weeks left to prepare for their first race on April 14. The event pits the crew against two of the most powerful teams in the country in Ithaca, Ivy League foes Harvard and Penn.

“The Harvard-Penn race is a huge race. Both of them are really dangerous — Harvard especially,” said Kennett.

But he’s not worried about dropping his men straight into the heat of a fiercely competitive match-up.

“We don’t have any small races to get in the way before we meet Harvard. It gives us more time to practice and really gear up,” said Kennett.

The lightweights have been on the water for about three weeks and are taking advantage of every opportunity to prepare for the racing season.

“Everyday in practice there’s some version of a race,” Kennett said. “It’s competition, and they live for it.”

The team’s winter training, which included a fair amount of weight training, has also had a tremendous impact on the lightweight program.

“It’s remarkable how much stronger the guys have gotten,” said Kennett, “and they have better endurance because of it. I think it has given them a lot of confidence.

“We haven’t been this competitive in a number of years,” added Kennett.

Archived article by Meredith Long