No. 12 Cornell men’s heavyweight rowing team faces stiff competition as the Ivy League boasts all schools ranked inside the top-30 nationally (No. 2 Yale, No. 5 Dartmouth, No. 6 Princeton, No. 7 Harvard, No. 10 Brown, No. 14 Penn and No. 20 Columbia). The heavyweight squad has struggled significantly against these opponents, losing all five races in their season opener against Harvard in the inaugural Robinson Cup on April 1, but is working to make improvements in their performance.
The first three races were very close between the Red and the Crimson, however, with Harvard edging out the win by no more than 4.5 seconds in each race. The fourth and fifth races weren’t so close, with the gap being 17 and 19 seconds, respectively, to Harvard.
“On the water we’ve been close to a lot of competitors that we haven’t been as close to in previous years… We haven’t really beaten any of the teams we’ve competed against, but we’ve gotten close,” said junior Joseph Welling. “The team goal individually has been to push each other, and the biggest thing that we’ve seen this season so far is that the younger guys have been pushing up to the older guys. This is more of a building year.”
The team has begun stepping up their training in an attempt to rise to the occasion of these top schools. In the weight room and on the boats, the team has priorities of building their cardio and strength.
“We’ve tried to do a really good job in the fall and winter with building up base cardio so that when we start doing anaerobic workouts in the spring — like sprint work — we have a really good base to build off of,” said freshman Evan McGowan. “We’ve [also] been working a lot on instantaneous strength…We’ve really been emphasizing lifting this year. Coach [Tom] Dilliplane has done a phenomenal job crafting a really solid lifting plan.”
The Red is up against a talent pool from opposing schools that represents some of the best rowers worldwide, and it is still going to take some time for the heavyweight squad to catch up to these top Ivy League teams.
“At the end of the day Yale, Harvard and Princeton have Olympians in their boat…if you look at it on paper, they’re faster than us. They don’t necessarily row better than we do, it’s just that they’re able to put more watts on the oar. That’s really what it comes down to at the end of the day,” Welling said.
While the team is still facing an uphill battle in terms of being competitive, the heavyweight squad has begun to close the gap from last year.
“Last year our varsity was about four seconds off of [Harvard] and our other boats were very far behind. This year our varsity was a few seconds off and our two V, our three V and our four V were only just a few seconds off,” Welling said. “That was probably our best race in terms of our results, but every race we keep coming back and every weekend we keep showing up to race. The intensity and the camaraderie and the teamwork has always been one step above where it was the week prior. We’re always pushing, we’re always cheering each other on.”
Along with this increase in performance has come a strong team culture and tight-knit community of athletes all working towards the same goal.
“The guys on the team are my best friends… It’s a brotherhood that’s been instilled in us, especially by our captain last year Jack [Robinson] who passed away,” Welling said. “He was an inspiration in terms of what a team really should be. He was a great guy and we all loved him…He instilled in us to keep pushing and always strive to be better and that’s kind of what our team culture has developed into.”
After competing in the Madeira Cup, where they had a tremendous weekend, sweeping Holy Cross and Oregon State and won three of the four races against Penn, the team has one more regatta before heading to the IRA National Championship in June.
“It’s our final culminating regatta. Our goal is to make the top six A final,” McGowan said. “More importantly than that, it’s just to develop a culture that is able to propel our team to a final this year and every year after that.”
Lucas Corea is a Sun contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected].
Correction, May 8, 8:26: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the rankings of the Ivy League rowing teams and misspelled Coach Tom Dilliplane’s name. The Sun regrets these errors and the article has been corrected.