April 7, 2011

Senior Captain Smith Leads Varsity 8 Boat

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Tucked into a cove on an inlet in Cayuga Lake sits the John Collyer Boat House. This building, which also serves as the 1,700-meter mark of the 2,000-meter course, is a second home to some of Cornell’s lesser- known athletes: the heavyweight and lightweight rowing teams. So how are these guys able to fly under the radar so well?“Rowing in the United States is not [that] big a deal,” said heavyweight head coach Todd Kennett ’91. “You go to England and you find several regattas that are equivalent to the Super Bowl. The pomp and circumstance is a true event.”Led by captain Colin Smith and nine other seniors, the heavyweight roster is packed with talented rowers bringing power, size and experience to the team. Smith has always been an asset to the heavyweights including a stint as the only sophomore in the varsity boat in 2009. Smith is known for his impressive power-weight ratio. Though he is lighter than some of his other teammates, Smith is one of the strongest in the weight room.“We don’t have the highest of pedigrees [with where the rowers went to school], but the guys that are here really want to go to Cornell and study something special,” Kennett said. “[Smith] is a huge asset in that he is one of those guys — a double major — and he has done really well academically and he works really hard because he really wants to win. The other classes can see how hard he works and how much he wants to win.” As captain, Smith relies on a more silent style of leadership.“[Being captain] is more under the radar,” Smith said. “There are a lot of players or roles on the team. The coxswain is in charge of taking control of practices because he is the only one talking in the boat. The captain is more of leading by example. In terms of racing and getting the boat moving right, it is more experience and you really use the experience to get the boat going.”Joining Smith in the Varsity 8 boat are sophomores Chris Massey, Kevan Zeadeh and Jim Rectenwald and juniors Bryan Searle, Russ Mason, Jim Voter and Alex Karwoski. Giving voice to the rig is sophomore coxswain Ryan Anthony. Searle is the stroke rower for the boat — setting the stroke rate and rhythm for the rest of the crew to follow. The boat is fairly young, featuring only one senior, so there is less experience among the rowers and a greater need for guidance from Smith.“There is a core group of junior guys that is having to step up really big because my varsity right now only has one senior, which is very uncommon,” Kennett said. “Having a young varsity is not always something you strive for, but when it happens it is good because they can get a lot of experience on them and it can lead to some very good things.”Cornell’s strength is not limited to the first varsity boat, however. After losing 11 letter-winners to graduation from the previous season, the squad has added 17 freshmen this year. Many of the new recruits were letter-winners in high school and served as captains of their respective teams. The fresh talent that these new members bring to the team gives the class great potential for the future, as Kennett explains.“I think it all comes down to how hard they work,” he said. “The sky’s the limit if they decide they want to be really good. If they don’t work hard, they won’t be national champs. It all comes down to how hard they work because unless talent is really driven it won’t be enough to win the biggest race. You don’t have to be wanting to win, you have to be willing to win.”The spring season for the heavyweight team started on somewhat of a rough foot this past weekend, as the Red lost to Ivy rival Harvard. The regatta in Cambridge, Mass. was full of challenges for Cornell. Weathering the harsh conditions, Harvard was able to pull ahead and beat the Red’s first varsity boat by a comfortable margin of 17.9 seconds. Looking to improve after the regatta against Harvard, the heavyweights are training harder to face remaining Ivy rivals, Penn, Princeton and Yale, but only after racing George Washington, Navy and Syracuse within the next few weeks. The regatta against the latter two will be held at home on April 16. The final contest of the season will come June 2-4 when the Red travels to Camden, N.J. for the IRA Championships, where the team finished third last year.In the locker room down the hall, the lightweights have been strengthening their team as well. Led by captain Kyle Traub, who earned his first varsity letter last year as a junior, and only five other seniors, the Red is comprised mainly of freshmen and sophomores. In the first varsity boat, there is one sophomore, five juniors — including coxswain Mike Szymoniak — and three seniors.“We have mostly juniors,” Traub said in regard to the heavyweights young crew. “The boat is full of talent. We aren’t trying to build for future years.”All of the juniors in the crew won gold at the Eastern Sprints as freshmen, bringing important previous experience to the team. Two other teammates rowed for the U.S. squad over the summer. “Our enthusiasm and energy to do well has helped us in the boat,” Syzmoniak said when asked what each member of the varisty boat contributes to the team.As was the case with the heavyweight team, many of the new recruits were letter-winners in high school and served as captains of their respective teams. One new rower is freshman Gabe Fort, a Miami native who rowed varsity stroke for four years in high school, and rowed second seat at the Junior World Championship.The lightweights have not yet raced in a regatta this spring, as the team was limited to scrimmaging over Spring Break due to harsh weather conditions. “The biggest way we view weather is it is something we have to deal with,” Szymoniak said. “The only thing the weather affects is the first day we practice because of ice.”Looking to move past the difficult weather, No. 3 Cornell will head to Philadelphia, Pa. to take on Ivy foes Penn and Harvard on April 9 at 2:30 p.m. Like the heavyweight team, the final contest of the season will be at the IRA Championships.

Original Author: Lauren Ritter