It’s nice to get away for a while.
The majority of competitions for Penn men and women’s rowing are relatively close and don’t require too much travel, but for a few exciting trips each year, the teams have the chance to leave the Northeast and compete far from home.
The trips provide the rowers with a break from the daily life at Penn and traveling with the team is a great opportunity to grow closer.
“When we take trips it’s really fun because those are the times we can really bond together,” sophomore Frances Kane said. “We get split up into hotel rooms, the upperclassmen and the freshmen, so we all get a chance to really know each other during that time. It’s just a cool experience because when we travel we’re separated from school, so all we have to focus on is rowing.”
Women’s coach Wesley Ng agrees, mentioning the excitement leading up to traveling.
“It’s usually a really good team bonding experience,” he said. “It’s sometimes a little bit challenging because people are always trying to balance their academic qualities while trying to focus on racing, but I think what rowers really look forward to is the chance to travel.”
Although the trips are a fun break for the teams, they have their own challenges. Among these are the transportation of the equipment, fatigue associated with travel, and the tougher competition at these events.
“Certainly your sleep schedule is a little bit adjusted, and anytime you fly you get more dehydrated, but those things can be mitigated through good preparation beforehand,” said Ng. “Certainly getting our equipment to Indiana is a pretty big challenge; our trailer has a 12 hour drive ahead of it and thankfully we have good support staff to help make that happen.”
For the athletes, traveling comes with its own challenges, especially during stressful times of the academic year.
“Definitely the school aspect of [traveling] is hard,” Kane said. “It’s hard to miss class and get caught up on all of our schoolwork, especially during finals period when we have a bunch of races at the same time.”
To Kane’s point, the women have a competition in Indiana on April 28, right in the middle of reading days before finals. Switching from the mindset of studying, to racing, and back to studying in such a short time is exhausting for the rowers. The week after finals, the team has a competition in Massachusetts.
However, the quality of competition at these far events provides tough challenges that the Red and Blue are eager to face. Earlier in March, the men traveled to San Diego and faced off against local schools. Although they did not place high, the caliber of their opponents was a good test of skill.
It’s not by accident that the coaching staff target attending these harder competitions.
“The leagues we are competing against are the Pac 12, the Big 10, the ACC, and the Big 12, so we look to overlap with them at contests out of our region and that’s how they determine who will attend the NCAAs at the end of the year,” Ng said. “We’re really looking to find competition that challenges us but also demonstrates the strength of the Ivy League.”
Despite the tougher opposition, the rowers enjoy the opportunity to travel and experience new locations and environments as a team.
In particular, Penn sends its athletes to places where they might not have the chance to go to if they were at another school.
“We’ve been some cool places: we went to Gainesville this past spring and rowed on an Olympic course, and we went to Sarasota this past winter, and that was where the world championships were, so it’s cool to get to experience what the top-level athletes are doing,” Kane said.
It’s safe to say that even though there may be stress with traveling, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. The tougher competition and chance to bond as a team mean the trips are worth the extra trouble, since they bring the teams closer as a result.
You could even call it a family vacation.