This weekend, men’s heavyweight took off on their home waters of Cayuga, with the Varsity Eight securing all three first place titles in their races against Oregon State, Penn and Georgetown. For their efforts against Penn, the team secured the Madeira Cup, retaining the title for another consecutive year.
On Friday, the Red faced off against the Oregon Beavers. In the Varsity Eight, Cornell surged ahead, winning first place by a 10 second margin. The Red also won the second and third varsity eight titles, flying past Oregon to win by 10 and 20 seconds, respectively.
Head coach Todd Kennett explained that Cornell utilized their familiarity with the course and its conditions in order to strategize and pull ahead.
“Friday afternoon, the wind was howling,” said Kennett. “It was all headwind which made it excruciatingly slow and heavy, which was actually huge to our advantage. We could use our power really well. We can row, but these conditions just really helped bring our abilities to light.”
The following day, the Red took off in the battle for the Madeira Cup. While the competition was tight, Cornell was able to pull ahead in the end, scraping by with a victory over Penn by a mere two seconds.
In the second varsity eight, Penn sought redemption, pulling ahead for a close victory over Cornell. In the third, however, the Red was able to pull through, securing another victory, this time with a gap of 16 seconds. In the later race, Cornell’s fourth and fifth eight defeated Oregon’s fourth with times of 6:06 and 6:10, respectively.
Kennett explained that Saturday’s smooth conditions helped mitigate any home-field advantage the Red could have grasped from the races, essentially leveling the playing field.
“On Saturday with Penn, there were neutral conditions,” said Kennett. “We didn’t have any unfairness in the lanes which was great. It really came down to the question of ‘who’s the better team today?’ And we were able to put together a really good performance and pull through.”
Later on in the day, Cornell took on its final challenger of the weekend: Georgetown. In the Varsity Eight race, the Red retained its victory streak, stretching out to secure a 10-second win over the Bulldogs.
Cornell’s second varsity eight also fared well, taking Georgetown by an 11-second margin. In the final race of the day, the Red’s third, fourth, and fifth teams also put up solid times of 6:24.2, 6:41.2, and 6:50.8, respectively.
“In the race against Georgetown, I think the team did very well in emptying their bucket,” said Kennett. “In the second half of the race, a headwind came up again, but I was very pleased. I could hear the coxswain and see the split, and they were able to get faster throughout the course.”
Throughout the spring competitions, the team has managed to place consistently well in their races, earning second place titles across the board. However, this weekend marked Cornell’s first time securing first place titles this season.
Kennett explained that one of the team’s long-term goals has been to improve upon their mental game, a feat accomplished during this weekend’s races.
“I think we had a really great setup going into this weekend,” said Kennett. “We talked a lot about preparing ourselves to not just try our best, but to actually do it. A lot of the crews, having multiple chances to race, really tuned in, paid attention to the details and had a chance to execute during each race.”
With these victories tucked under their belt, along with their newfound mental resolve, the Red aims to continue its success later in the season, eying the chance to perform well at the upcoming EARC Sprints Regatta, followed by the IRA National Championship.
“Right now, we’re ranked at the bottom end of a big pack,” Kennett said. “All it takes is a couple seconds’ swing and all of a sudden you find yourself in a grand final. Right now, we are strategizing about how we go about the last race and put ourselves in a really good position.”
In order to prepare, Cornell will focus on rejuvenating its energy and keying in on the mentality necessary for racing in higher-stakes competitions. For now, however, the team will revel in this weekend’s victories, taking each race as it comes their way.
“We have a really tough schedule this year- we see a number of the top 10 crews in the country before we get to the national title,” said Kennett. “To have a weekend like this, it just makes you feel good.”
The Red will return for the EARC Sprints Regattas, held on Sunday, May 15 in Worcester, Massachusetts.