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Members of the women's rowing team compete in the Navy Day Regatta at Schuylkill River on Oct. 16, 2022. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

The sun shined brightly over the water, reflecting the burning aspirations of Penn women's rowing. With the sound of oars splashing and rhythmic chants of encouragement, the team gave everything they had on the river. The 2022-23 season featured a tapestry of emotions for the Quakers, from nail-bitingly close victories to heart-wrenching defeats. However, amidst the undulating waves of challenge, the team emerged stronger, more united, and with significant accolades under their belt. 

This past May, the Quakers had an exemplary performance at Ivy League Championships, securing an impressive third place. Following that performance, Penn earned a spot in NCAA Championships in June. Over that weekend, Penn accumulated 92 points, narrowly surpassing Brown's 91. 

Stanford emerged as the overall champion with 129 points, owing to their victories in both the Varsity Eights and Second Varsity Eights divisions. Washington took the second spot with 120 points, and Princeton followed in third with 113 points. Texas and Yale both secured 110 points, but Texas finished fourth due to their result in the Varsity Eights Grand Final. Penn ended up taking home sixth place overall.  

Even though the NCAA season was over, Penn kept competing. The Quakers went to the Island Challenge Cup in August, where they came tantalizingly close to victory, falling just one win short. This chase for glory had a challenging precursor in July when they squared off against the renowned rowing team of Oxford University. 

Throughout the intense race on Henley's 2,112-meter track along the River Thames, Penn took the initial lead, reaching The Barrier in 2:05. However, Oxford Brookes overtook Penn by the next marker, reaching Fawley in 3:31, and maintained their lead thereafter. While Penn trailed by approximately half a boat's length, they managed to close the gap slightly over the last 300 meters. Despite this effort by Penn, Oxford Brookes clinched the victory with a winning time of 7:18. 

Despite coming up short on a few occasions, Penn's late spring and summer spotlighted several shining moments that enhanced the team's reputation.

One of the most shining accolades was the crowning of coach Wesley Ng with the Ivy League Coach of the Year honors. Under his able guidance, the Quakers excelled throughout their season. Ng's unwavering dedication and strategic mastery provided the team with the direction they needed to suceed. 

“It was a true honor to have received an award of such leadership," he said. "It truly demonstrates the aura that radiates between competitive teams.” 

The individual brilliance of the rowers also cascaded into collective recognition. Four Quakers — recent graduates Josie Konopka, Samy Morton, and Sophia Poersch, and senior Catherine Moore — earned Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association All-American recognition. 

“There’s no way to really describe the euphoria of being bestowed something like this,” Morton said.

Away from the water, the Quakers proved that their prowess wasn't limited to just rowing. Fourteen team members were named CRCA Scholar Athletes, underscoring the dedication to both academic and athletic excellence throughout the team. 

The 2022-23 season for Penn women's rowing team was much more than the wins and losses. It was about resilience in the face of adversity, the unity that binds a team together, and the unyielding spirit that propels athletes to give their best, both in sport and in life. Going forward, with lessons learned, accolades earned, and a spirit unyielding, the Quakers will undoubtedly return, ready to row against the tide and chase new horizons.