This Sunday, Women’s Rowing kicked off the spring season at the Doc Hosea Invitational. While it was unable to finish the competition due to unfavorable weather conditions, the Red showed a rocky return to racing after a lengthy break from competition.
The Doc Hosea was the team’s first legitimate race since COVID-19 created an abrupt ending to the 2020 spring campaign. Like other spring sports, the Red had been unable to compete in regular races for almost 2 years.
One of the last events prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was held at Cooper River in Cherry Valley, New Jersey, the site of this weekend’s competition.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to do some real racing since before COVID,” said Head Coach Steven Coppola. “The last time we were legitimately racing was in 2019 at the same racecourse, so we picked up right where we left off.”
The rust showed on Sunday, as Cornell struggled to maintain a competitive edge. For most of the Red’s rowers, the Doc Hosea was their first time experiencing the high rigor involved in collegiate racing.
“We effectively have three years of freshmen,” Coppola said. “We have three years of athletes who have never competed collegiately. This weekend was telling that we haven’t raced in a couple of years, but I think we’ll be able to play catch up pretty quickly.”
In the first Varsity Eight, the Red placed fifth in the third heat with a time of 6:49.14. The team fell just short of a fourth place finish, as Columbia’s time of 6:47.72 beat it by a mere two seconds.
Within the Second Varsity Eight, Cornell fared slightly better, coming in third place in its heat, its time buzzing in at 6:55.06. However, in the First Varsity Four, the Red struggled to produce favorable results. It finished fourth in its heat, with a time of 7:50.29, solidly behind Penn State’s first place mark of 7:27.01.
Later in the competition, the Red placed fourth in the Second Varsity Four, racking up a time of 8:29.95. In the last event before the weather hindered further contests, Cornell finished in third place with a time of 7:25.74.
Throughout the invitational, the Red consistently finished in the middle of each heat. However, when stacked up against each of the 18 teams, many of the Red’s times failed to meet the team’s normal standards of competition. Consequently, this weekend’s results demonstrated room for improvement.
“What we saw from today is that we’re working on building this team,” Coppola said. “We feel like we have a deep middle of the team but in terms of the upper end power, we’ve got quite a bit of work to do not only developing for this season, but the coming seasons as well.”
Coppola added that for now, the team will mainly focus on challenging Ivy League opponents, such as Harvard, Princeton and Penn. Moving through the season, the team intends to use each competition as an opportunity to steadily improve, with the end-goal of advancement later on in the season.
“The first step is getting ourselves in the upper end of the Ivy League,” Coppola said. “We have to really work and push that speed so we have a chance later on to secure some postseason opportunities.”
Coppola also stated that he intends to take the spring season as an opportunity to utilize the team’s excellent fitness, which it has been steadily working on throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. To do so, Coppola stressed the importance of putting forth the most effort possible within the span of a race.
“The goal is always to go as fast as you can,” Coppola said. “It sounds pretty simple but if you’re going as fast as you can, you’re trying to hit failure on the last stroke of the race. You’re trying to get better at failing every time you go on the course.”
Coppola hopes that with the recent return to racing, the Red will fall back into rhythm and rediscover its competitive edge amidst a sea of worthy contestants.
“We’re just trying to get to that finish line and see where our speed stacks up,” Coppola said. “We know that no matter our speed, there’s always someone to chase.”
The Red will race against Yale, Bucknell, Harvard and Princeton on April 9 at the Cayuga Cup and the Class of 1975 Cup. The races will be held in Saratoga Springs, New York.