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Penn men’s heavyweight rowing kicked off their 2023-24 season with the Navy Day Regatta and Head of the Charles Regatta. Credit: Weining Ding

After numerous early morning practices and grueling afternoon lifts, Penn men’s heavyweight and lightweight rowing opened their seasons by making a splash at their first two regattas this fall. The Quakers competed at the Navy Day Regatta on the Schuylkill and the famed Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston to kick off the 2023-24 season.

The Quaker's heavyweight A boat blew the other boats out of the water at the Navy Day Regatta, winning the event and beating the next-fastest boat by seven seconds. Penn ultimately brought the Collegiate Eights title home to the Burk-Bergman boathouse for the second year in a row, reinforcing their dominance on the home waters of the Schuylkill. The B and C boats were not far behind, placing seventh and ninth respectively out of 30 total boats in the Men's Collegiate 8+ Final. 

Soon after, Penn's lightweight rowers had their time to shine at the Navy Day Regatta. They rowed an impressive race, placing second, third, and fourth in the Men's Collegiate Lightweight 8+. Additionally, in the Men's Open 8+, the lightweights finished with a comfortable victory, cruising through the finish line 16 seconds ahead of the competition.

“We're all gritty. We have a chip on our shoulder,” senior lightweight rower Dominick Richiuso said following the Navy Day Regatta. “We're ready to come together, and win this thing.”

Following their successes at home, the Penn crews traveled to Boston to compete at the Head of the Charles — the largest regatta held in the United States. The impressive performance by both men’s teams on the historic Charles River led to the Quakers adding three more silver medals to their collection. 

“To walk away with a medal from the Head of the Charles is very significant,” heavyweight rowing coach Al Monte said, adding that it “hasn't been done by the heavies in a long time.”

Led by junior heavyweight rower Gianluca Foschi Walko in the stroke seat, the Red and Blue rowed a formidable race in the Championship Fours division. The Quakers boat quickly overcame most of the competition to win the silver medal by less than 0.4 seconds.

“We ask a lot of them,” Monte said, “and they have been really great about just knuckling down and getting what needs to get done, done.”

Penn lightweights also made their mark on the Charles, with both their coxed four boats and coxed eight boats earning silver medals. These races showed their improvement as a team, jumping five spots from last year's finish in the lightweight Coxed Eights event. 

“I think over the course of the season, it was just kind of honing in on the small little intricacies so we can move together as a boat,” Richiuso said.

The lightweight program has been consistently successful in the past, having been in the IRA Grand Final seven out of the past eight years — a first in Penn lightweight history. Its races so far this fall have proven that the crew is ready to fight for another appearance in the Grand Final this spring.

“We certainly talk about winning,” lightweight rowing coach Colin Farrell said. “We're not shy to say that that's what we're about.”

Overall, the two teams combined have earned eight top-three performances in the last two weeks, collecting hardware in a way the program has not seen in years. The teams even earned the most team points at both these regattas, winning the MacMahon Cup Points Trophy at the Head of the Charles, beating Princeton by eight points. 

“I think the team has worked really hard to create a culture that will help them go fast and work hard and be a fighting unit together,” Farrell said.

Looking forward, the heavyweight team will race at the Head of the Schuylkill this upcoming weekend, and both teams will race in the Princeton Chase the weekend after that, facing tough competition both back on the Schuylkill and on Lake Carnegie.