October 28, 2008

Rowing Learns From Results

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No team ever enters a competition without the intention of winning. Often, however, a non-victory can provide a lot more information about the team’s standing and help to narrow the focus of upcoming training. This weekend was an informative one for all of the Cornell rowing teams, as the men’s varsity heavyweight eight took fourth, the men’s lightweight eight fifth, and the women’s eight 17th at the Princeton Chase regatta. [img_assist|nid=33071|title=Greater than the sum of the parts|desc=The men’s and women’s rowing teams didn’t win the Princeton Chase regatta this weekend, but learned that it has the strenghth, but must focus on rowing together to get better.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The heavyweight eight’s fourth-place finish was out of a forty-team field and only 10 seconds behind winner Yale.
“It’s not like we ever go into a race not wanting to win,” said head coach Todd Kennett ’91. “But this race was not about winning. It was really important that we have a solid race, so we’re not coming off the water saying ‘Oh, if we had done this a little better or that a little better we would have been this much faster.’ This to me was about understanding what we need to do, where we are at this point after two and a half months of training, and to figure out where we’re going to go for the rest of the season.”
With one race left in the fall season, finding the things the team will spend the next five months indoors working on are a top priority.
“We see that we have a lot of strength, because the first couple minutes of the race was pretty fast,” Kennett said. “We have some strong guys that can get far stronger and tougher yet, but I think the biggest thing overall is can we row together? Actually drive our legs, swing our bodies and draw our arms in one cycle so we have one power? If the blades all hit the water at the same time and actually press, you get an exponential return on the power.”
Similar questions were raised during the heavyweight four’s race, where the Red saw boats finish fourth and 10th. The fourth-place boat gave up a potential second-place finish after gradually fatiguing in the second half of the race.
“When they rowed by me, I said, ‘Boy we’re not doing so hot,’” Kennett said. “I could see again that it was our rowing in an effort together that was lacking, it was not our strength.”
The four that finished 10th collided with two other boats during the race, an accident that cost 10 or 15 seconds and a possible fifth-place finish.
The heavyweight JV eight turned in an outstanding performance, finishing seventh with only one other ‘B’ boat ahead of them.
“There are some guys in there that are doing a great job,” Kennett said. “All of a sudden they’re beating a whole bunch of ‘A’ boats.”
The lightweight varsity eight was a little more disappointed with what the weekend revealed, finishing fifteen seconds behind first place Yale.
“I think some of the results were illuminating as far as individual athletes and our training plan,” said head lightweight coach Chris Kerber. “But it was a great regatta to gage our speed against the league.” Though the fall racing season is more for the experience and the training, it is ideal to enter the winter training feeling confident. Senior lightweight captain Michael Gavalas has been on injured reserve all season, leaving the varsity out of a top contributor
“Anytime we can have one of our key players back in the race it’s good,” Kerber said. The team has one race remaining in the fall season, and will use it in combination with the Chase to help determine the lineup and where to focus the training.
The women’s varsity eight showed continued improvement with a seventeenth place finish out of a competitive forty-three crew field. After disappointing results at the Head of the Charles, a week of refocusing and hard practice earned the women a better performance.
“We took this week to really regain our sense of confidence and put everything we had on the water,” said senior Karen Ketsche. “We were pretty happy with the results, but I think we still have a ways to go for next weekend.”
One remarkable performance turned in by the women came in the pairs event, where sophomores Natalie Wingerning and Alex Almeida won the regatta. It was a repeat win for Cornell in the women’s pair event, having claimed the title in 2007.
“That was a big achievement and we are very proud of them,” Ketsche said.
The weekend revealed not only progress for the women, but where there is room for more. “We just can’t be satisfied with the effort we’re putting in,” Ketsche said. “We have to keep putting in more. There’s always more that we could be doing.”
At the Head of the Fish regatta, the novice rowing teams had an exceptional weekend. In the men’s collegiate novice eight race, the Cornell lightweights took first place, followed by the Cornell heavyweights in third. The first women’s novice crew finished an impressive second place out of the forty crews.