March 14, 2007

Lightweights Hope to Repeat as National Champs

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Last year’s lightweight crew was supposed to face a rebuilding year. After a Sprints championship, a national title and a second place finish at the Henley Royal Regatta which started with a field of 72, most experts would agree that the team is rebuilt. This year, however, the crew will face a much more different task at the beginning of the spring season. That task will involve deciding which rowers will make the varsity boat and which ones will make the jayvee boat.

‘While the season has not started yet, the Red feels quite confident that the jayvee boat will be just as good as the varsity boat in every aspect. The competition between rowers is so intense during practice that about 16 rowers could be in the varsity boat at any time. Unfortunately, only eight are allowed in one boat.

‘“It’s the most competitive group of guys I’ve ever seen in my life,” said senior captain John Ackerman. “Every day when we go to practice, if you’re not at a cut-throat level and not fighting for every stroke, you’re not going to make the varsity.”

‘While only losing three seniors in the off-season due to graduation, the Red rowers feel quite good about the team’s position going into the 2007 spring season. Nevertheless, this year’s squad of 11 seniors, 12 juniors and 21 sophomores has its work cut out to turn the high preseason expectations into a reality when it hits the water.

‘“I said two years ago that this class was going to be one of the most incredible classes,” said head coach Todd Kennett ’91. “Now you look at their resumes and realize that they make the 2005 class look silly.”

‘In the eyes of Kennett, that 2005 class was one of the best classes that Cornell had seen in 40 years. When those 14 seniors graduated, the Red was 11-1, finished third in the sprints, and second at nationals. Then came last year’s 2006 class which had to fill in the large holes created by the 14 graduating seniors. Of course, it would be an understatement to say that last year’s class did a phenomenal job in accomplishing that goal. Now, the Red only had to fill in three holes over the off-season.

‘“I think I have all aspects covered,” Kennett said. “Ackerman is a great leader by example and by thought process. He is really thinking about how to get us to the next step. He’s just a great, great competitor. He’s probably one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever met. In addition, my coxswain Emily Baines is someone who trains really hard. She’s been around forever. My other coxswain Patrick Little is another very competitive kid and a great motivator. Those two are the key components to our group. Not only are they coxswains, they’re also coaches.”

‘Last year, seniors Baines and Little were the coxswains for the varsity and junior varsity boats, respectively. After practicing in Florida over winter break, Little was clearly optimistic about what he saw during the off-season training period.

‘“We showed that we actually have more speed than we thought originally,” Little said. “We lost only a few seniors, but we gained a bunch of sophomores and although they’re young and inexperienced, they show a lot of speed and a lot of promise for growth. There’s definitely a lot of promise this season for a really good year for both the varsity and the jayvee.”