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When legendary Penn rower and coach Joe Burk passed away in January, the current men's heavyweight crew team lost a valuable role model but gained insight into the legacy he left behind. Burk's passing set the tone for a successful off-season that emphasized personal development.

The off-season ends this weekend as the team casts off tomorrow for the first time this spring. The Quakers will cross the country to race in the San Diego Crew Classic.

The event, which will last until Sunday, is hosted by the Crown Point Shores Park at Mission Bay in San Diego, Calif. The Quakers will compete against teams from across the country.

Penn coach Fred Honebein sees the race as a gauge of the team's national standing.

"It's a good opportunity for us to check the speed of not only the teams that we're going to be racing on the East Coast," he said, "but also Washington, Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, Purdue - some of the other schools that are out there that we're going to be seeing later on in the season."

The team has been training relentlessly for this race since finishing the fall season in 15th place at the Princeton Chase.

Instead of focusing on races, coach Honebein emphasized the "individual development, improvement and execution" that Burk established at Penn. He taught Honebein that a coach's responsibilities transcend striving for a good record.

As a coach, "you're trying to win because winning is obviously part of sport, but you're also involved in the lives and teaching lessons to the athletes as well," Honebein said. "And I think that's the thing that Joe did extremely well."

Burk provided mentorship to his players off the water as well, and coach Honebein has taken the life development of his young rowers to heart.

In light of this individual emphasis, Honebein began the winter training program by meeting with each rower separately to discuss each athlete's individual goals and expectations.

A Penn graduate from the San Diego area will be hosting a memorial dinner tonight to honor Burk.

Tomorrow morning the team will cast away with heavy hearts, racing in honor of the man that meant so much to Penn rowing.

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