September 27, 2010

Rowing Teams Honor Schwartz Cup Tradition, Kick Off Fall Season

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Over the weekend, the men’s and women’s rowing teams kicked off the fall racing season by honoring one of the oldest traditions in all of Cornell athletics: Schwartz Cup.

As men’s heavyweight head coach Todd Kennett ’91 explained, back in the late 1870s and 80s –– well before there was big-time travel in any sport –– the Cornell crews would host a fall race that the entire town would turn out for.

“They’d race off the lake [since] the existing inlet wasn’t here then; it was a different set of canals,” Kennett said. “They’d have this big race and eventually it became the Treman Cup, and Allan Treman started awarding the Cup to the winning crew.”

Over the years the event has come to encompass a number of different categories, with alumni Dick and Jean Schwartz funding the tradition and supplying the pewter Schwartz Cups that are awarded to the winners of each race.

This Homecoming kick-off to the fall season came after a productive summer that saw the men’s heavyweight Varsity 8 crew row to a third-place finish at the 108th annual IRA Regatta –– matching its best result since 1994.

The boat has recently been named the EARC Co-Crew of the Year following its strong showing at IRAs, and shares the honor with Harvard, a team that finished first at this year’s Eastern Sprints.

“I think why they were voted Co-Crew of the Year was their continued progression throughout the year, with only three guys who had returned from the previous year’s Varsity,” Kennett said. “Most of the guys in the Varsity last were guys who didn’t even make the first freshmen boat, and just by work and determination over their four years here they got themselves in a position that allowed them to race with some of the best in the country, and I think that was what the tribute to them was for.”

The accolades have continued to pile up for the Cornell rowing program, as Kennett was also named Coach of the Year in only his second season at the helm of the heavyweight team.

“That’s another huge honor, and I think it’s more a tribute to the guys and to the rest of my staff … Matt Smith, my assistant … and then all the other people who helped me, whether it’s the admissions people, the compliance people … all the people in the business office,” he said. “There’s so many people … all of them as well deserve part of that … it was a huge honor. It was awesome.”

Unlike other races, at Schwartz Cup boats are assigned based on class year, which, in addition to fostering inter-squad competition, provides the classes with an opportunity to race each other for bragging rights.

As Kennett explained the afternoon before the race, Schwartz Cup serves many functions. For one, it presents freshmen with their first exposure to collegiate racing and also enables the coaches to witness firsthand the work everyone put in over the summer and evaluate how the first month of training has gone so that adjustments can be made “from there to what we’re going to end up doing in nine months from now.”

Many recent and older alumni alike made their way back to the Cayuga Lake Inlet to either row in an alumni boat, or take in the action from the ground outside the Boatyard Grill.

Although the day’s festivities exuded a prevailing sense of fun and camaraderie (some of the crews even wore matching costumes), that’s not to say there was a lack of competitive spirit, or an unwillingness to bend the rules for the sake of procuring bragging rights over fellow alums.

In fact, following prompting from coxswain Kerry Quinn ’10, who was named to the U.S. National Team and guided the U.S. lightweight-8 boat to a second-place finish at the World Rowing Championships in 2009, the men’s lightweight alumni boat actually cut the turn in the 4K. However, Quinn’s sly maneuver did not escape the watchful eyes of the coaches, who promptly disqualified the crew.

Unlike the 500-meter sprint, the 4K was staggered so that the boats were not racing head-to-head, as they would in an actual competition.

Each crew’s 4K and 500 times were weighted according to a formula to determine the winners in each category.

The junior class arguably had the best showing on Saturday, with both the men’s heavyweight and women’s boats bringing home Schwartz Cups, along with five other crews comprised of either alumni, freshmen or some combination of Cornell rowers.

Following the conclusion of the day’s races, each boat presented a skit to a panel of judges lead by Jean Schwartz, with friends, family and teammates looking on.

The sophomore heavyweights won the competition for their parody of The Wizard of Oz –– aptly-titled “The Wizard of Todd” –– and of course earned a Schwartz Cup for their efforts.

The sophomore lightweights decided to take their singing talents to the Cornell boathouse, a bold move that resulted in them sharing runner-up honors with the junior heavyweights, who were looking to defend their title as skit competition champions. This year, the juniors elected to go with a theme inspired by the summer blockbuster Inception, with Jim Voter reprising his role as Todd Kennett. Kennett’s character factored prominently in many of the day’s skits, as did men’s heavyweight assistant coach Matt Smith and junior heavyweight rower Matt Scheuritzel.

The junior women rounded out the standings with “Survivor: Coaches Edition.”

Original Author: Alex Kuczynski-Brown