April 10, 2009

Lightweight Crew Welcomes Tigers to Cayuga Lake

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Making headway into their seasons, the Red men’s and women’s crew teams look to push the pace this weekend against stiff competition. The men’s lightweights face Princeton in a matchup that could either allow the Cornell defending national champions to make a statement on their home lake or the Tigers to gain retribution for last years grudge match. Traveling down to Washington D.C. to compete in three races at the Washington Invitational, the heavyweights seek to maintain their success from the Ithaca College Invitational season opener. Meanwhile, the women’s teams look to improve upon last weekend’s races for the Cayuga Cup in their matchup against Princeton and Radcliffe tomorrow in New Jersey.
Sophomore men’s lightweight Gregory Fuoco described the race against the Tigers as one of the biggest of the season. In noting the Princeton crew teams speed and strong fall time trials, Fuoco said, “they’re one of those schools out there that you really have to watch out for.”
The Cornell-Princeton rivalry is particularly intense as they last met at Nationals, where the Red came back from about a seven-seat lag behind the Princeton boat to clinch a victory in the last quarter of the race. Fuoco predicts the Tigers will be out for blood in their upcoming race. “We’re the team they want to beat,” he said.
Despite the success of the lightweight team in the past years, last Saturday’s loss to Harvard is still fresh in the rowers’ minds. At the Mathews Cup in Philadelphia, the Crimson varsity-8 boat was able to seal a victory, winning in 6:22.2 and crossing the line with a 9.1 second lead.
However, results from the Mathews Cup were not all negative. The Red was able to come up with a win against Penn, finishing 6:31.3 compared to the Quakers time of 6:39.0. Also, the second and third varsity-8 teams, as well as the second novice-8 team, were able to outrow both Ivy competitors.
Fuoco cited the rowing rate as being a big factor in the loss to the Crimson. To prepare for their upcoming competition, the team has been working on improving its stroke – namely popping off the front end more quickly and increasing the power at the front of the stroke. [img_assist|nid=36744|title=Perfect timing|desc=The women’s rowing team will compete for the Class of 1975 Cup at Lake Carnegie in New Jersey. Also competing will be Harvard and Princeton.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Although Cornell is guaranteed an invitation to Nationals at the end of the season, there is pressure on the lightweight squad to maintain the reputation as No. 1 in the country.
“We don’t want to show any signs of weakness…if we lose, it signals to the entire league that we’re not as strong as Cornell is supposed to be…we need to prove that we still have it,” said Fuoco.
Down in Washington, the heavyweight team also has something to prove: its endurance. At the invitational, the Red faces George Washington, Gonzaga, and Georgetown — three races in 24 hours.
“That’s quite a lot of rowing,” said junior varsity heavyweight rower Singen Elliott. He noted that one of the team’s biggest challenges was that Georgetown, the toughest team, would be the Red’s final race. “We need to come to the line at every single race and make sure we perform at our best,” Elliot said.
As the heavyweight schedule is planned such that the competition builds throughout the year, Georgetown will be the toughest competition that the Red has faced this season.
The heavyweights have had plenty of time to improve their stroke — they have had two weeks of straight practices since last competing in the Ithaca College Invitational.
“The biggest thing we’ve worked on is trying to get consistent speed,” Elliot said. “We had a good start to our races, now we need to work on continuing to get the top end speeds to continue throughout the whole race.”
While still at the beginning of the season, the heavyweight team has set high goals for this year. The Red hopes to medal at Nationals and win the Eastern Sprints. New coach Todd Kennett will undoubtedly play a huge role.
So far, the heavyweights have responded well to Kennett’s coaching style and tactics. Elliot, who believes Kennett will help make them into a faster team, commented, “we’re stronger, fitter, and leaner than we’ve ever been before.”
The women’s team, younger and physically smaller than most, will need to bring its top form to New Jersey against top Ivy rival No. 7 Princeton and Radcliffe. The Tigers boast a particularly strong team with many returning rowers from last season.
The young Red team recently received good learning experience from last Friday’s tri-meet against Yale and Syracuse for the Cayuga Cup. Although 2008 NCAA champion Yale swept the races, Cornell made a strong showing against local rival Syracuse.
Overall, Cornell came out on top of the Orange, 3-2. In the first matchup the Red varsity-8 team finished in a disappointing third place after being near the front for most of the race. However, the second varsity team was able to beat the Orange to the line by about three seconds – although finishing behind the Bulldogs, 6:38.1 to 6:54.3. Syracuse answered back in the varsity-4 race, narrowly defeating Cornell by 4.3 seconds.
Both novice boats came up strong for Cornell, the novice-4 outpacing Syracuse by a 10-second margin, and the novice-8 finishing less than three seconds behind first place Yale.
The Red has been preparing for more strong competition at the Class of ’75 Cup this weekend.
“We’re working on getting a lot faster off the starting line and at the sprints at the end,” said varsity sophomore Jane Whalen. She emphasized the need for the team to be able to perform with speed at both ends in addition to being good at settling into race pace.
Cornell will definitely need a quick start against the Tigers, who started off their spring races with a surprising upset, crossing the finish line two seconds ahead of Brown, last year’s Ivy League Champion. In the Princeton women’s competition against Rutgers and Columbia last weekend, the Tigers ended the day with a perfect 4-for-4, clinching wins in all of their varsity boats.