Penn men’s heavyweight and lightweight rowing competed at the IRA National Championship Regatta on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J. this past weekend and performed admirably, but the lightweights stole the spotlight with a fourth-place finish.
All four of the heavyweight boats placed between 11th and 14th in their respective fields, with the Varsity Eight, Second Varsity Eight and Varsity Four making their petite finals. The Varsity Eight claimed 11th-place for the second consecutive year with a 5:58.280 time, and joining them at 11th was the Varsity Four, which clocked in at 6:51.260 in the petite final. The finish for the Varsity Eight was in line with their ranking — they were No. 11 in the most recent USRowing Collegiate Poll — although they finished ninth at the EARC Sprints in their last competition before the IRA Regatta on May 15.
The Second Varsity Eight finished 12th overall despite finishing sixth out of six in the petite final, and the Third Varsity graded out at 14th after a second-place finish in the third final. In last year’s IRA Regatta, Penn finished 10th for overall team performance and won the Clayton Chapman Trophy for largest improvement in team standings from the previous year’s regatta.
“If you compare us to any team in the last year I think we were one of the most improved and that’s a point of pride for me and the athletes,” lightweight rowing head coach Colin Farrell said.
Not in action for Penn this year was the Frosh Eight, which last year finished third overall for Penn’s first IRA medal since 2006, according to Penn Athletics, and was an important reason behind the Red and Blue’s placing.
On the lightweight side, the Quakers placed fourth overall in the Varsity Lightweight Eight, marking the first time since 1996-1997 the school made back-to-back appearances in the grand final. With a time of 6:00.30, the Red and Blue came in less than two seconds behind third-place Princeton, just missing a medal. Still, fourth place is Penn’s best finish since 2005. Columbia and Yale took first and second, respectively, in the grand final after Penn finished less than a second behind Yale in its heat.
“We came into the IRA ranked fifth and we were looking to beat that also knowing the rest of the league is only going to improve between the Sprints and the IRA as well,” Farrell said.
The lightweight four without coxswain finished second in its heat and then fourth in grand final with a time of 6:30.830, three seconds behind third-place Harvard. Also, the lightweight four with coxswain came in third in the petite final with a 6:55.900 time for a ninth overall finish.
“The guys in all three boats all raced really hard and really well,” Farrell told Penn Athletics. “In every boat we were better than last year and that’s a big achievement – all the work we put in this year was productive and the team is going in the right direction. At the same time, for any athlete, fourth place in unsatisfying and we definitely want to improve upon what we did today when we return next year.”
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