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The women's Varsity Eight A boat overtakes Drexel in last season's Navy Day Regatta at Schuylkill River on Oct. 16, 2022. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Penn women’s rowing followed up its promising 2022-23 campaign with a strong open to its fall season. 

At the Navy Day Regatta, the Quakers started off in a dominant fashion. The team finished first in all three of the divisions it participated in. The Red and Blue raced against a medley of schools from around the East Coast, including Georgetown, Villanova, St. Joseph’s, and Drexel.

Junior coxswain Cami Edwards steered for the Quakers in the women’s collegiate 4+ race, while freshman Makeda Harrison, junior Sophia Pappano, sophomore Caroline Schuldt, and sophomore Silvia Harrop-Lopez powered Penn’s A boat to victory ahead of second-place Georgetown. Penn’s B boat finished 16th in this race.

Next up was the women’s collegiate JV 8+ race. Penn swept the top two spots on the podium, with its A boat taking home first place and B boat closely coming in at second. This impressive performance was followed by yet another first and second-place finish by Penn's A and B boats, respectively — this time in the varsity 8+ race.

“Getting a race under our belts highlighted the areas we needed to strengthen,” senior captain Simone Vorperian said. “We were very proud of all our boats performing the way they did”.

The Red and Blue, in many ways, were expected to have the fastest boats on the Schuykyll this regatta, given their impressive outings over the summer — the last time the team saw competition before this race. The Quakers competed at a national and international caliber, finishing sixth at NCAA Championships and second at the Henley Royal Regatta along the River Thames.

The program successfully used this regatta as an opportunity to establish continuity from last season. However, in its next race, the two-day Head of the Charles event unsurprisingly proved to be more difficult.

“Head of the Charles is a much more complicated course to steer, and the competition is much fiercer,” Vorperian said. 

In the Women’s Club Fours race, the Quakers got off to a strong start as Penn’s A boat finished third against 50 other schools. Freshman Cassidy McKee, freshman Georgia Sackrey, senior Clara Sutherland, sophomore Maya Spunberg, and freshman coxswain Mehreen Khan worked tirelessly to navigate the three-mile segment of the Charles. Roughly 12 seconds separated the Quakers from second-place Radcliffe, while Duke topped the results sheet with an impressive time of 17:46.122.

Penn went on to finish 15th in a field of 21 boats in the Women’s Championship Fours, with Ivy League rival Columbia finishing third. The same 4+ crew that led the Red and Blue to a first-place finish in the Navy Day Regatta competed against many of the top crews in the country this time around, as well as representatives from Ukraine and Canada.

“Our Club Fours fought hard. We are incredibly proud of the intention and intensity they brought to racing to place third in their event," Vorperian said. "Our [Championship] Fours fought well and stuck close with another crew the whole race, which made the course a bit trickier for them to get the fastest line on."

Next up, out of 33 total teams, the Penn B boat placed 18th while Penn’s A boat finished 25th in the Women's Championship Eights. Ultimately, the Quakers couldn’t creep into the top 10, dominated by three different U.S. Rowing Association boats.

“The [Championship] Eights event included multiple national teams; racing them is a unique opportunity that can’t be recreated elsewhere,” Vorperian added. “We have to trust our coach and each other more in preparation for our next race”.

With one final regatta in its fall season, Penn will again look to test itself against elite competition. The Princeton Chase will be the team’s final opportunity to showcase where it stands ahead of winter training and, eventually, the spring championship season.