It was just one of those days.
That’s all that needs to be said to describe Penn rowing’s performances this weekend. The women’s, men’s heavyweight and men’s lightweight squads all took encouraging — yet frustrating — second-place finishes in their respective regattas, putting their potential on display but leaving the Red and Blue searching for more.
Just looking at the final standings, one would assume the No. 10 Penn heavyweights should be satisfied with a second-place finish in the Varsity and Second Varsity 8 Races. However, diving a little deeper into the results shows that Penn was simply outclassed in both races by stronger Yale boats.
The first race of the day was the Varsity 8. They faced the unenviable task of defeating the No. 3 ranked Bulldogs while also trying to hold off a pesky No. 16 ranked Columbia boat. After coming within three seconds of beating Princeton at the Childs Cup, the rowers of Varsity 8 expected to stay stroke for stroke with Yale. However, Yale defeated Penn by a convincing ten seconds.
Luckily for Penn it still held Columbia at arms’ length defeating the No. 16 Lions by six seconds.
Penn’s losing to Yale is not surprising, but the margin of victory is perplexing.
“Practices were going well,” freshman Jay Hofmeister noted. “Everyone was confident going into the race, and we had a good warmup.”
However, that great practice didn’t translate into the race. Penn was not aggressive enough from the start, and Yale used that to pull away early, never looking back.
“We are looking to close the margin,” Hofmeister said referencing upcoming regattas with Yale at the Eastern Sprints and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships (IRA).
“Our goal for the season is to make it to the A final of the national championship or be the very top of the B final,” Hofmeister said.
However, even with the lopsided victory, it’s important to take Penn’s season with a grain of salt. Five out of a possible eight rowers are freshmen in the Varsity 8 boat. In almost every meet, Penn is the youngest and most inexperienced boat.
“There aren’t many expectations on us,” Hofmeister said. “We have nothing to lose, you go out there and try and ruin someone’s day.”
The next race of the day was the Second Varsity 8. This race was even more lopsided as Yale smacked Penn by 11 seconds. Like the race prior, the Second Varsity 8 stayed ahead of Columbia. Still neither team came close to dethroning Yale on its home water.
Both boats need to bounce back with Penn hosting the Adams Cup on the Schuylkill next weekend.
As for the lightweights, No. 6 Penn displayed even more potential, with the Quakers’ Varsity 8 boat going toe-to-toe with the national No. 1 group from Yale. But despite Penn’s upset efforts, the top-ranked Bulldogs closed out to top the Red and Blue by a mere two seconds over the 2,000-meter course, pushing Penn to an agonizing second place finish ahead of Columbia. The remainder of the competition held a similar theme, with Yale besting Penn in every race but the Third Varsity 8, where the Bulldogs were disqualified.
The story was eerily similar with Penn women’s rowing, which was also in a three-team competition and also found itself unable to best its rivals from New Haven. Though no races were as tight as the lightweights’ Varsity 8 battle, the Red and Blue women had essentially the same end results — besting a third party (Dartmouth, in their case) across the board but unable to pull off the upset over the juggernaut No. 7 Bulldogs.
Still, good teams always finds silver linings in losses. This week was an excellent test for Penn and although they came up short, the season still provides a lot of opportunity for the young Quakers to wreak havoc in collegiate rowing.