This weekend, the Quakers need to explode out of the gate.
Roughly fifty strokes, or 500 meters, will be the main focus of the Penn women’s crew team when it takes on St. Joseph’s and George Washington this Saturday on the Schuylkill River in the first race of the spring.
“St. Joe’s coach Gerry Quinlan teaches a really fast first 500, and he really gets those kids off the line,” Penn coach Mike Lane said. “I got to tell you, I’m really excited to test that against us. I think if we can get off the line with them, we’re going to be in really solid position.”
Though the programs train and practice on the same river, it’s been a while since the Quakers have stroked it against the Hawks. The last time the two met, all the way back in 2008, Penn beat St. Joe’s 2,000 meters down the course in four out of five races — all but the novice eight.
Penn hasn’t raced George Washington since 2007, when its varsity eight also rowed to victory over the Colonials.
It’s been a long winter for the Quakers, who haven’t hit the water for competition in over four months.
“First race of the spring really is just an opportunity to gauge where we are,” Lane said. “It’s an opportunity to put everything we’ve been working towards to the test.”
Though Lane has organized the top eight women to form the varsity eight this weekend, the decision as to who would actually be in the boat wasn’t made until Tuesday of this week. But the lineups are far from set in stone for Lane, who often likes to shuffle seats around until he believes he’s found the right combination.
“We’ve had a couple days now to work in that boat, so it’ll be exciting to see what we can put together,” Lane said. “It’s still very early on in the season — we’ve only been on the water for about three weeks now, so we still have a lot to learn and a lot to work on.”
The contest will be the first of three straight weekends at home on the Schuylkill for the Quakers.
“It’s definitely a great way to get the season started and bring the momentum as we move to mid-April and our championship in the middle of May,” Lane said.
The heavyweight men, meanwhile, will also open up their spring season just across the Ben Franklin Bridge on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J. against Georgetown. The Hoyas bested the Quakers in the main event, the varsity eight, a year ago on the same course.
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