April 5, 2012

WOMEN’S ROWING | Cornell Tries to Defeat Tigers for Second Time in Its History

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The women’s rowing team will travel to Princeton, N.J., and New Haven, Conn. this weekend to face Princeton, Radcliffe, Columbia and Yale. Coming off an impressive season opener last week, the No. 16 Red are prepared for one of its toughest races yet.

The team will race the three schools on Saturday morning at the Class of 1975 Regatta in New Jersey, before heading straight to Connecticut to take on Yale in the afternoon. According to head coach Hilary Gehman, recovering between back-to-back races will be the Red’s greatest challenge.

“It’s not an ideal situation to get right on a bus for three hours after you race, get off the bus and race again,” she said. “We’ll definitely be working on recovery.”

Gehman emphasizes the importance of getting the squad walking around the bus to make sure muscles are moving, while senior Anna Psiaki claims “chocolate milk and maybe a neck massage” are crucial to post-race recovery.

In the history of Cornell women’s rowing, the Red has only defeated Princeton once, in 1983. Psiaki says the Tigers pose the biggest threat on Saturday.

“Sometimes we look at Princeton as this unbeatable force,” she said. “But they’re girls just like us that work hard every day and I think we have the ability to work harder than them and beat them one stroke at a time.”

The Tigers opened their season with mixed results, winning two of their five events against Brown and Michigan. While Princeton might be its strongest opponent, senior Taylor Goetzinger says the Red does not underestimate the other teams, especially Columbia.

“Some of our boats have never beaten Columbia before,” Goetzinger said. “They’ve snuck up on us when they shouldn’t have, but we’re prepared for that this year.”

Columbia has beaten the Red in the 1st Varsity for the past two years, while 2011 marked Cornell’s first win over Yale in nearly ten years. Radcliffe, too, has increased its speed this year, Gehman said.

Despite these skilled competitors, Psiaki believes the Red is mentally prepared to take on the challenge.

“I think our greatest strength is our instinct and competitive spirit,” she said. “We have so many people that are fighters and want to win above anything else.”

Beyond this determined mentality, both Gehman and Goetzinger cite the team’s depth and speed across the board as major advantages going into this weekend.

“We don’t just have one or two fast boats,” Gehman said. “I think all of our boats are going to be competitive, and our varsity is really fast this year which is an added bonus.”

“We’re really excited about our speed this year,” Goetzinger — the seventh seat on the 1st Varsity boat — added. “How we compete against Princeton and Yale will tell us a lot about where we stand in the Ivy League.”

Due to a recent change in NCAA qualifying, this is the first year that there will be an Ivy League championship for women’s rowing. Prior to this season, the Ivy League was a part of the Eastern Sprints Rowing League. However, the NCAA will instate a new conference qualifier system as of 2013. The winning team from each conference will advance automatically to the NCAA tournament, while remaining schools compete for at-large invitations. The Ivy League championships will take place in May.

According to Goetzinger, Cornell’s program has been steadily improving in recent seasons. In 2010, the Red achieved its first national ranking since 2004, and it narrowly missed out on the NCAA tournament in 2011.

“Our program is kind of up and coming over the past few years,” Goetzinger said. “We’re going from the underdog position to a crew that can hang with anyone.”

To prepare for this weekend, the Red has concentrated on stamina, recovery and mental focus.

“As a team we decided to start preparing for this race last weekend,” Goetzinger said. “We needed to get our minds in the right place for racing these teams and for recovering in between races.”

“We’ve been doing a lot of full-out race pieces back-to-back to try and prepare for the double race format,” Gehman said.

Although they have a difficult weekend ahead of them, all three women are confident that the Red has the ability to win.

“We’re out for blood,” Psiaki said. “Nothing and no one can hold us back.”

Original Author: Gina Cargas