April 14, 2008

Lightweight Men Win; Women’s Results Vary

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Though a brilliantly sunny morning and glassy water on the Cayuga Inlet may have been a rare occasion, solid performances by both the men’s and women’s rowing teams are a growing trend. The lightweight men cruised to a victory in their home Ivy League opener against Harvard and Penn on Saturday morning to claim the Matthews-Leonard Cup, while in Boston, the women finished third behind Princeton and Radcliffe.
Not too long after sunrise Saturday morning, the lightweight men’s novice-8 opened a morning of solid racing by finishing second to Harvard by only 1.9 seconds in a 2000-meter race. In all three of the varsity races that followed, the Red was able to hold off both Harvard and Penn, with the smallest margin of victory being 4.6 seconds for the first varsity boat. [img_assist|nid=29831|title=Ducks in a row|desc=The men’s lightweight teams were successful Saturday, enjoying the beautiful Cayuga weather along with their wins.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The Cornell varsity boat, currently ranked No. 1, led from the gun and battled to hold it all the way down the inlet despite a disadvantageous starting position.
“Our race plan was dependant on what lane we were in because if you’re on the inside lane, that gives you an advantage,” said senior captain Matt Kochem. “We were more worried if we ended up being on the outside of the turn in trying to nullify the advantage the other team had in having the inside.”
As Cornell’s luck would have it, the Crimson, the Red’s top competitor of the day, was given the inside lane.
“We knew that coming up to that turn we had to make a really big move to try and at least hold our ground and just minimize the amount of real estate that we were going to lose,” Kochem said. “So we just revved it up for a really big move at that point and it really paid off because we ended up taking seats on them.”
Harvard’s lightweight boats are known for their mid-race moves that earn them the few seats for a lead they carry to the finish.
“Every time that I’ve raced Harvard in the past, they’ve just come out of nowhere halfway through the race, whether its an early sprint or just a big move or something like that,” Kochem said. “I wouldn’t have been surprised had that come [during the race]. We wanted to make sure we had the lead by like 1000 or 1200 [meters] just in case they did make that kind of move. It was nice for a change because last year we had to come from behind a lot of times.”
And though planning race strategies and practicing make up the vast majority of every rower’s season, having eight men able to perform well together under pressure on race day separates the best teams.
“It’s one thing to be able to go fast in practice,” Kochem said. “We’ve been able to do that, but what wasn’t certain yet was whether or not we could perform on the day. I think a big thing is being able to keep your composure and actually execute when the pressure is there. Especially in the lightweight league, there are a lot of teams that are very fast but what it comes down is the day of a race. It’s good that we were able to show that we can do it on the day.”
Though their early lead was met with no challenge on Saturday, the defending National champions can’t be sure exactly where they stand on any given day of the season.
“I think we did pretty much as well as we could have,” Kochem said. “Today we were better than Harvard and Penn, but who knows if that was a good or bad piece for them.”
On the Charles River, the Red women’s novice-8 was successful in its own right. The boat finished second to Princeton by just over one second. Unfortunately, the three varsity boats were unable to keep pace, falling to both Princeton and Radcliffe by 12 and six seconds, respectively.
“We had a strong start and a strong finish,” said sophomore Caroline Post. “But there were certainly areas of improvement in the middle. As a boat we need to work on the swing and the catches and staying together, all eight of us.”
Despite third-place finishes, the women still show vast improvement in speed and attitude with each race. A 12 second margin of defeat is a pretty impressive performance for the Red, given that the Tigers remain undefeated in the spring season.
“The attitude this year is so much stronger and more together than last year,” Post said. “There’s definitely hope for an excellent outcome by the end of the season. I think we have a lot that we can do.”
The Red’s first varsity boat finished the 2000-meter course in 6:57.8, an excellent base time that simply more practice will improve.
“If we race Princeton and Harvard again, we could get much closer,” Post said. “Over the weekend, it kind of showed where we stand, but our potential is much greater than what the results showed.”
Like the varsity boats, the Cornell novice-8s performance is indicative of potential for the rest of this year and particularly next year.
“[The freshman] results are really good because that means we are going to be very strong next year and the following year,” Post said. “It’s really exciting to have a strong freshman team.”