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The Penn lightweight crew team ended a tumultuous time recently when it hired Mike Irwin as the new coach. Former coach Bruce Konopka, an 11-year veteran of Penn's program, retired at the end of last season. [Ryan Shadis/DP File Photo]

Penn's search for a new lightweight crew coach ended yesterday with the hiring of Mike Irwin.

The Quakers had been without a lightweight crew coach since Bruce Konopka ended his 11-year run as coach at the end of last season.

Irwin comes with 11 years of coaching experience, having worked as an assistant coach for Trinity College, Yale's freshmen squads and the U.S. National Team.

Though Penn's lightweight team has struggled in recent years, Irwin has taken the job with an eye on Penn's legacy.

"There is a strong history of success at Penn that the athletes and I are eager to uphold," Irwin said.

But will Irwin's leadership propel the Quakers to glory?

"Our goals for this year are to be none less than champions in the Ivy League and at the IRA Championships," Irwin said.

The appointment of Irwin ends a tumultuous period for the lightweight crew program.

Former freshman heavyweight crew coach Larry Connell was awarded the position over the summer, but after protests by the team's members, he was reassigned to an assistant spot on the heavyweight crew team.

Irwin held his first official practice yesterday, but came in on Wednesday to meet the team. He made his presence felt immediately.

"Coach Irwin told us that he expects us to win," freshman rower Michael Schwartz said. "We have 12 recruits and the entire team is working really hard."

One week ago, the Quakers' began season practices not only without a head coach, but also apparently without the necessary funds to ink a top level head man.

Irwin was all too happy to help the Quakers out of the bind.

"I've worked for 11 years with the goal of becoming a head coach," he said. "I've waited for this opportunity that is finally here."

And Penn should be more than happy to have him. Irwin brings a winning tradition to Penn, having lead eight teams to medals in the past decade.

Tevis Jacobs, a four-year veteran and the captain of Penn's lightweight team, is optimistic about the upcoming year.

"Any change is good, because otherwise we'll continue to get the same results, which is not what we want," Jacobs said. "I think that Coach Irwin will really help the program, and hopefully we'll post some victories this year."

But Irwin is not alone in trying to guide the Quakers to success. John Fife, who graduated from Penn in 2002, is the assistant coach and will be training with the freshman lightweight squad.

Together, Irwin and Fife hope to lead the Quakers back to the winning ways of the past.

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