October 7, 2003

Rowers Race on Ohio River

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All three Cornell Crews started the fall season with a bang at the Head of the Ohio race held this past Saturday in Pittsburgh, Penn.

With only one “eight” from each team competing as compared to the normal three boats, Cornell’s rowers fared quite well: the men’s heavyweight won the open men’s eight, defeating Penn AC — a club team located in Philadelphia consisting of graduate rowers training for the national team — by one second.

The Red lightweight men also participated in the same race as it was an “open weight” category, and finished third behind the heavyweight boat and the Penn club team, respectively. Marrietta College, Michigan State, Dayton, and Toledo were among the next top finishers, but, according to heavy weight head coach Dan Roock, the competition field thinned out considerably after these schools crossed the three mile mark.

Cornell’s women placed second in their open eight event behind Michigan State, a performance that head coach Melanie Onufrieff commented on as “good, but we would like to see improvement.”

Because it was not a major race and only one boat of eight could compete, the heavyweight, lightweight, and women crews were chosen based off of seniority as well as each member’s intensity of training during the summer months.

Regardless, lightweight coach Todd Kennett was satisfied.

“We have a young team, and wanted to just have a piece that we could build upon for the rest of the fall season,” he said. “The guys raced well in less than ideal conditions.”

The fact that there was no weight category allowed the lightweights to focus solely on their racing technique without having to worry whether or not they would make the weight markers. The weather, however, did prove to be an issue — particularly in the last mile of the race.

“Challenges came from a strong head wind and rough water made rowing very difficult in the last quarter of the three mile race,” said Roock.

Kennett agreed.

“We had to put splash guards on the boats because of the large waves,” he said. “and we rowed a little lower in cadence than we would have liked to due to the unsettled weather.”

Despite this, Kennett was pleased with the crews performance.

“They looked sharp as they passed me at the 2.5 mile mark.”

Because the spring season is the prime rowing season rather than the fall, Head of the Ohio served as an introductory race to ease the rowers back into racing mode after last season and a summer away from school. Until spring semester, training basically consists of running and conditioning. Even races are formatted differently, as fall competitions consist of different boats starting ten seconds behind one another, whereas spring races are more traditional with each crew lined up next to each other at the beginning of a competition, racing each other throughout.

After the completion of the race on Saturday, the teams gathered at the home of one of their top supporters, an avid alum of Cornell Crew and the annual host for dinner every year after the Head of the Ohio.

“The party was great,” commented Coach Roock.

As any athlete knows, there is nothing better than good food after a strenuous competition.

Fans can catch rowing’s next competition, the Head of the Charles, to be held in two weeks on Sunday, October 19 in Boston, Mass.

Archived article by Julie Heckman