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The Penn men's heavyweight crew team took its No. 8 preseason ranking to San Diego last weekend to face much of the country's best. The Quakers finished behind only No. 1 Cal and No. 4 Washington. (Angie Louie/DP File Photo)

When given a chance to measure itself against the top teams in the nation this past weekend at the elite San Diego Crew Classic, the Penn men's heavyweight crew team proved to itself and the country that it is more than equal to the challenge. The Quakers showed they are worthy of their lofty No. 8 preseason national ranking by finishing third at the prestigious Copley Cup Championship, the final varsity race of the Classic. Penn finished the race in a time of 6 minutes, 14 seconds. California (6:01), ranked No. 1 in the country and a two-time defending national champion, won the Copley Cup by a comfortable margin. No. 4 Washington (6:10) placed second, and the Quakers finished two seconds ahead of No. 5 Wisconsin (6:16). "It was a good finish, but we're definitely pissed off -- we've got to chase down Washington and Cal," Penn captain Keith Sutter said. "New we have a little something to think about for the next two months." Rounding out the finishers were No. 14 Yale (6:18), No. 16 Oregon State (6:19) and No. 15 Navy (6:23). It was certainly a good omen for a team plagued by three one-second losses a year ago to edge out a higher-ranked Wisconsin boat for the final medal. "We'll see where the polls bring us out after this weekend," Sutter said. "We'd like to be No. 5." During Saturday's preliminaries, the Quakers not only had to contend with being placed in the same qualifying heat as California, but also with what Sutter called "the worst weather I've seen" in his three years competing in the event. Despite these obstacles, the Red and Blue still placed second in their qualifying heat with a time of 5:46, a scant three seconds behind the Golden Bears' 5:43 finish. The Quakers' junior varsity eight also finished in third place with a time of 6:27 in their final event. The boat finished behind only Washington (6:11) and Cal (6:15). Depth, which was a weakness in last year's disappointing campaign, now appears to be a strength for the Penn program. Last season the Quakers were barely able to fill out their second boat -- now they're contending on a national stage. "We don't expect any less out of our JV boat than we do out of varsity," Sutter said. The Quakers hope that the impressive start in California can propel them to success in the Ivy League -- judged by many as the toughest conference in the country. Penn opens its Ancient Eight schedule this weekend in New York City, as it competes against No. 3 Princeton and No. 18 Columbia for the Childs Cup.

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