Penn rowing kicked off its season this past Sunday with all three teams — men’s heavyweight, men’s lightweight, and women’s openweight — competing at the Navy Day Regatta on their home waters of the Schuylkill River. The competition came one day after the opening of the Burk-Bergman Boathouse, an event that was long overdue for the Penn rowing program.
“It has been more than 950 days since the last time we boated off our own dock,” women’s rowing coach Wesley Ng said. “[The Boathouse] is going to help us in ways that we can’t begin to measure.”
Fresh off receiving a new home base, the women’s team collected multiple trophies with first and second-place finishes in the collegiate eights and a first-place finish in the coxed fours. The team's wins came in dominant fashion, with the A and B collegiate eights beating third place Temple by an impressive 45 and 20 seconds, respectively.
“I think this win demonstrates the work we put in during the summer,” Ng said. “I’m pleased with how much they’ve been supporting each other, and the production is evident of that.”
This victory is not only important for setting the tone for the rest of the season, but also important because it gave the opportunity for a freshman-heavy team to not only compete, but compete and win in the coxed fours.
“I'm really excited for those freshmen,” Ng said. “I would say we have more depth in terms of talent, and certainly more excitement for the work at hand. I think the team is really focused on having great performances.”
The next team on the water was the men’s heavyweight squad, who put four boats into the men’s collegiate eights competition and left with some impressive finishes, finishing in the first and third place slots. The victory comes as the first for newly appointed coach Al Monte, who rose to the head position just under a month ago.
“Definitely happy for all the guys who competed. They went out there, and they rowed hard and they rowed long, which is what we needed,” Monte said.
Similar to the women’s team, freshmen played a huge role in the heavyweight men’s success. The first-place boat had two freshmen, Cole Riedinger and Lars Finlayson, compete, which Monte felt strongly was the right decision.
“It doesn't matter if you're a freshman, it doesn't matter if you're a senior. It matters what you're able to produce,” he said. “I’m coming in on a blank slate, and I think those young guys stepping up is exactly what we need.”
The last team on the water was the men’s lightweight group, which came up short on its goal of first place, but were able to secure second and third place right behind Navy in an eight-boat finish.
This loss is a small disappointment for a team which is accustomed to placing first at this level of competition, but the performance overall spells out hope for future races.
With the first race of the year in the books, all three teams now look forward to their next race at The Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston. This next event will host some of the toughest competition they will see all year.
“We’ll be facing the Ukrainian national team, the Danish national team, and collegiate teams that finished top six in the country,” Ng said. “We will also see all of our Ivy league competitors.”