As the sunlight glistened brilliantly on the Schuylkill and the sound of cowbells filled the air on a beautiful fall afternoon, Penn rowers raced with incredible synchronization and intensity toward the finish line.
On Saturday, the crew teams participated in the Navy Day Regatta, and from the outcome, there is much to be optimistic about for this upcoming season and beyond.
The Quakers claimed the top-two positions in the pairs race and placed third in three other races. However, one of the main highlights of the day was the second-place finish of the Collegiate 8 heavyweight team, a race in which the team took third last fall.
The Red and Blue were clearly one of the two dominant teams involved in the race, along with Navy. The Midshipmen only edged out the Quakers boat in the Collegiate 8 race by a narrow 2.24 second margin.
“Our first race in the fall is really building off of some momentum that we got at the end of last season,” senior Matthew Jackson said.
The lightweights and heavyweights also took the one-two spots of the Freshman 4 race respectively, defeating Navy in the process.
“Right now this is a good sign,” coach Greg Myhr said. “There’s plenty we need to do better. We’re not out of the woods, but it’s building.
“[Navy’s] been faster than us for a while. We were very close to them by the end of this last season, but we still never caught them,” he added, referencing Penn’s victory over the Midshipmen in the freshman race.
Saturday’s results were potentially indicative of the future.
“I think it’s safe to say that Penn historically has been one of the top teams in the country. The Ivy League takes rowing very seriously,” Myhr said. “But we’ve been down. We’ve been slowly crawling back. Last spring was our best season in 10 years.”
Myhr sounded cautiously optimistic about the direction the program is headed. Even though Penn had been down for a few years, the upside of this year’s sophomores will be an important piece of this team going forward.
“According to the coaches, the freshman team is looking a lot better. But we have a lot of work to do,” freshman Evan Bayless said.
Next weekend, the Quakers will compete at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, one of the most prestigious and largest rowing events in the world. The Red and Blue look to continue their improvement on one of the country’s largest stages.
Saturday’s results are an important first step in potentially regaining Penn’s status as a national powerhouse.