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The women's and men's heavyweight rowing teams practice in the early morning on the Schuylkill. Credit: Amiya Chopra , Amiya Chopra

In a sport as physically demanding as crew, rowers learn to roll with the punches.

But the Penn crew teams may be rolling with their biggest punch this winter, as the indoor space they typically occupy in Hutchinson Gymnasium is currently under construction.

“It’s definitely been inconvenient for us, and we’ve really had to adapt and be flexible,” women’s coach Mike Lane said. “But I think the team not only performed well under the circumstances, they really embraced the fact that we’ve had to work a little harder to be even on the same level as the teams that have fancy facilities for their fall season.

“They took that to heart, and it made them better.”

The renovations displaced the women’s team from its normal indoor practice facility, forcing the squad to split time with the men’s programs in Hollenback and sometimes even at Franklin Field.

But coordinating use of the smaller practice spaces with the two men’s teams hasn’t been a serious impediment to the team’s mentality or its performance in the fall season, Lane said.

“It brought us together as a team and as a rowing program in general,” he said. “I think it made them realize how much we had to make the most out of every practice.”

The women’s team finished its fall season well, in Lane’s assessment. The varsity four had a first place showing in the opening fall race, the Navy Day Regatta, and the novice eight and novice four boats swept their categories as well. The Quakers placed 13th out of the college programs and 18th overall at the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta on Oct. 21. The women will finish their fall season at the Rivanna Romp in Charlottesville, Va., this weekend.

“We did fine. The fall season is about building a foundation for the spring, and I think we accomplished that,” Lane said.

What’s more important, Lane believes, is the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Not only will the Hutch renovations create better locker rooms, but it will also add both central heating and air conditioning, which will drastically improve the general practice experience in the gym. It will also leave open the possibility for one day adding moving-water indoor rowing tanks, which most of the top competitive programs already have.

“Basically, it’s inconvenient now, but what we’ll have waiting for us next year is going to make it all worth it,” Lane said. “It’s a bummer for the senior class, but for all the underclassmen and for every future rower that comes here, this will really be something special.”


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