March 12, 2002

W. Crew Shoots for First NCAA Trip

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Next week, while many Cornellians will travel to faroff exotic locales to find out exactly what it is that makes sorority girls go wild on spring break, the Cornell women’s crew team will be soaking in the sun at what they call la Playa de Cayuga. For all of you non-Spanish speakers, that means Cayuga Beach. For all of you non-rowers, that means Cayuga Lake.

There will be no pink, frosted drinks with little umbrellas in them, just bottles of water and Gatorade. The women of the crew will get to spend their time on a boat on the water, but not to relax. Instead, they will be propelling it across the lake at top speeds, preparing for the season to come.

Spring break week is selection week for the crew teams, where the various boats are sorted out according to ability. This year, there seems to be plenty of ability. Between the strong core of devoted seniors, and an up-and-coming group of sophomores who did not lose a race last year as novices, head coach Melanie Onufrieff believes she has the raw material to get to the NCAA championships this year.

“I think I have a team that can do it,” said Onufrieff.

This is not a light comment, as the women’s crew team has not made it to the NCAAs in the seven years that the competition has been in existence. Nevertheless, team members are confident.

“I’m personally banking on us going,” said senior Cheryl Englehardt. Englehardt believes that the team’s cohesiveness and positive energy will put the team over the top this year.

Even in a sport that stresses teamwork above all things, there are always standout performers. Junior Nicole Sylvester became the first ever at Cornell to break the seven minute milestone for two kilometers on the ergometer, as far as Onufrieff knows.

“She’s always been pretty strong,” the coach remarked.

During the fall season, Onufrieff concentrated less on immediate results and more on developing the program, a move that could pay off this spring.

In the fall, the four placed second at the Stonehurst Capital Invitational in Rochester, only behind Syracuse. At the Head of the Charles in Boston, the eight finished 22nd, a decent result for a group that remained intact from last season. The four did even better, finishing sixth overall and second among U.S. schools.

The novices also turned some heads in the fall, placing boats eighth, 13th, and 21st in a 36-crew open field at the Head of the Fish, held in Saratoga Springs. At the Belly of the Carnegie in Princeton, the novices placed boats fifth and 10th.

Onufrieff particularly noted that the freshmen impressed her with their intensity and work ethic, and that she was looking forward to seeing them continue to progress this spring.

While it may seem as if working out on recently thawed Cayuga Lake for several hours a day may not be as much fun as, say, lying on the beach in Florida, the Cornell women’s crew team is excited for the upcoming selection process and the coming spring season.

With a solid group of seniors, as well as quickly developing underclassmen, they have the opportunity to do what no other Cornell squad has done.

There’s no need to pity the fact that they’ll be missing out on good old college fun this spring break, they’re just preparing for their potential trip to the NCAAs later on in the year.

Archived article by Robert Alarcon