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In the last race before Eastern Sprints, Penn heavyweight rowing will look to break an eight-year losing streak to Cornell in the Madeira Cup.

Credit: Jashley Bido

Last one, fast one.

In their final cup race of the year, Penn heavyweight rowing is headed to Ithaca to take on Ancient Eight rivals Cornell and Dartmouth. The Red and Blue look to capture the Madeira Cup, a race which dates back to 1956.

The Quaker oarsmen are looking to continue the momentum they built last weekend at the Adams Cup, an 85-year-old annual showdown with No. 3 Harvard. The previously No. 13 Red and Blue (now ranked No. 10 after Saturday's result) had an incredible showing, as the First Varsity boat came within .5 seconds of the Crimson's oarsmen, and the Second Varsity was within 5 seconds of Harvard's second varsity squad. Both the First Varsity and Second Varsity defeated No. 11 Navy by comfortable margins.

This close result against a formidable Harvard squad is just a glimmer of what the Quaker oarsmen are capable of, as they rowed in fairly even lineups across both varsity boats. The result is even more impressive when considering that the Red and Blue chose not to race in their brand new Empacher shells, a piece of equipment that perhaps could have given the heavyweights the mere tenths of seconds they needed to edge the Crimson.

“All season we've been struggling to find the fastest lineup, and our 1-V and 2-V have been very similar speeds,” senior coxswain Jake Mendelson said.

“Though frustrating in a racing situation, it just means a deeper team than we had originally expected and more options. Though they're a lot of tough decisions to be made about lineups and a lot of intra-squad competition, having that significantly improves the speed of a team regardless of where it starts.”

Though Penn last captured the Adams cup in 1999, this was their first runner up finish since 2013. With clear steady improvement leading to impressive results, the Red and Blue crew looks like they've finally found their sources of speed sooner than anyone expected, even after a year of tough adjustments under new head coach Geoff Bond.

Facing No. 9 Cornell and No. 8 Dartmouth on the Big Red's home course will be no easy feat for the Quakers. The Big Red also had speedy results last weekend at the Carnegie cup against No. 1 Yale and No. 3 Princeton, where the Cornell first varsity eight was a mere five seconds back from the Bulldogs and three seconds behind the Tigers. The Big Green, coming off a loss against No. 11 Syracuse last weekend, will be eager to prove themselves in this weekend's race as well.

Though the Quaker's last victory in the Madeira Cup was in 2007, the crew hopes that history will be on their side this year, as they've won 35 of the last 59 meetings of the race. With the right lineups and the right mentality, the Quakers could retain their historical edge, and climb up the national rankings once again.

“We have to take our success from last weekend and capitalize on it," Mendelson said. "We can't stagnate, and have to take another step forward this weekend.”

The results of Saturday's race not only has implications for the Red and Blue's national ranking and confidence as a squad, but also has implications for the championship season. The Quakers will row at the Eastern Sprints championship on May 15, followed by the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship on June 3.

“Last weekend was our first competitive showing, so this one will not only reaffirm our increasing speed and performance, but will also show that we have much more speed to gain in entering the championship season”

The Red and Blue's results this weekend will effect seeding for the fast approaching Eastern Sprints Championship. 

Though this weekend will put the Quaker oarsmen to the test, the crew hopes that their hard work will pay off both this weekend and beyond, even with a heavier focus on their IRA and Sprints results than their regular season.

“This year we're taking a much more long term focus," Mendelson said. "Instead of treating cup racing season as the end all be all, we're using each weekend as training opportunities to get faster. Regardless of where people are boated and what that may mean, the guys have been really good about bringing it and competing at practice every day.”

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