June 5, 2006

Lightweight Crew Claims National Title

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The lightweight men’s crew finished its postseason surge with the program’s second national title after beating second-place Harvard across the line by .08 of a second at the 2006 IRA Regatta on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J. It is the first national crown for the Red under head coach Todd Kennett ’91, and the first for Cornell since 1992.

In the first day of action at the IRA Regatta, the varsity eight boat stroked its way to first in its heat with a time of 5:53.53, two seconds ahead of Columbia. This mark was the third-fastest time of the day behind only Navy (5:53.25) and Princeton as the two boats raced to a photo-finish in the second heat.

Cornell came out on top in the second photo-finish of the weekend, holding off a late charge by the Crimson to finish in 5:42.71, less than a stroke ahead of the runner-up boat. The Red led from start to finish over the 2,000-meter course. Princeton (5:45.07), Columbia (5:45.66), Yale (5:46.29), and Navy (5:47.18) rounded out the rest of the Grand Final field.

The victory capped a storybook postseason for the lightweights, which began when the Red won three gold medals at the Eastern Sprints in Worcester, Mass., on May 21, claiming first in the varsity eight, the second varsity eight, and the freshman varsity eight races.

Cornell took the field by surprise that weekend, as the Red entered the weekend seeded eighth before racing to its first Eastern Sprints title since the undefeated 1992 crew claimed first. It was the eighth title in program history, and gave the 2005-06 squad its ninth Ivy League title of the season, setting a new record for single-season victories for Cornell. The varsity eight cruised to the finish in a time of 5:53.2, three seconds ahead of second-place Navy and more than four seconds ahead of Yale, the next Ivy boat.

The men’s heavyweight crew could not live up to the success of its lighter counterparts, although it did find its own success in the postseason. The varsity eight finished second in the Eastern Sprints Petite Final for an eighth-place showing overall, an improvement over the squad’s ninth-place finish in 2005. The second varsity and freshman eight each notched a second-place finish in their respective finals as well.

The heavyweights continued to perform at the IRA Regatta, as the varsity eight boat finished 10th overall, placing fourth in the Petite Final with a time of 5:48.91. California claimed the overall title with a time of 5:37.71 to take first in the Grand Final. The varsity pair advanced to the Grand Final, taking third in a time of 7:03.2 behind first-place Stanford (6:53.7) and runner-up Wisconsin (6:56.7). In the second varsity eight competition, the Red took top honors in the Petite Final with a time of 5:57.37, while Harvard (5:44.11) claimed the national title in the Grand Final.

The women’s crew’s postseason foreshadowed a strong future for the Red, as the novice boats advanced to their respective Grand Finals in the Eastern Sprints on the Cooper River on May 15. The varsity eight failed to advance to its Grand Final heat, taking fourth in the Petite Final for 10th place overall with a time of 7:23.50. The novice boat had the seventh-best time in the preliminary heats, then took clocked in at 7:38.13in the finals to take sixth in the Grand Final. The second novice boat showed came on strong in the finals, finishing in fifth.

The women also brought home postseason honors for Cornell, as the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association awarded junior Diana Athonvarangkul and sophomore Sarah-Jean Griffin academic honors as National Scholar Athletes, while sophomore Kimberly Kraemer and senior Alexa Olson were named to the first and second-team Mid-Atlantic All-Region teams, respectively. Kraemer and Olson were also invited to the selection camp for the United Stated U23 team, which begins June 6 at California-Berkeley.