While his team was unable to reclaim the Madeira Cup from Cornell this year, Penn men’s heavyweight rowing coach Fred Honebein is hoping that the Quakers can follow the blueprint to success their rivals followed.
In its final home regatta of the season, the team lost every head-to-head race to the Big Red Friday on the Schuylkill River. While the cup — awarded annually to the winner of the varsity heavyweight race between the teams since 1956 — capped off an undefeated dual meet season for the Big Red, things have not always been so easy for Cornell rowing, according to Honebein.
“Their program back in the 1990s … was a program or a team that Penn didn’t necessarily have to worry about,” the third-year coach said. “It took time and patience and a vision to get it to where it is right now. They have superior numbers compared to us and they’re just in a different phase than we are. We are where they were in the 1990s.”
Cornell’s clear advantage over the rebuilding Quakers surfaced in each race. In the official race for the cup, the 2000-meter Varsity 8 race, the Big Red posted a time of 6:03, besting the Quakers’ time of 6:18. The second varsity team for Penn also finished at 6:18, but fell ten seconds short of Cornell’s time. In the final race of the day, the Penn novice team’s mark of 6:16 was not enough to top its opponent’s 6:07.
“I don’t feel we showed what were capable of,” Honebein said.
Citing Cornell’s rise to rowing prominence as an example, Honebein expressed hope that his program’s fortunes would turn in future seasons. According to their coach, Penn’s seniors established the groundwork for a successful future.
“The senior class has been through thick and thin,” Honebein said. “With the things that they did on the water and off the water, we’ve created a team that is one to be proud of.”
“What the seniors brought was a vision for the underclassmen of what it’s like to be a Penn rower and what the program can be. They did a lot of mentoring with the underclassmen … that makes it feel like a team again because that’s something that has been missing.”
The first step for Penn rowing will be reclaiming the Madeira Cup it last took in 2007. But as its cross-state rivals have shown, a complete turnaround can take a decade.