All was right early in the spring, as the Quakers dominated Duke and Georgetown on the Cooper River in Pennsauken, N.J. In those races, Penn won all five boats against both the Blue Devils and the Hoyas.
The team also made strides forward in its first Cup race of the 2011 spring. Facing Yale and Columbia for the Connell Cup, the Quakers won the varsity 4 race, and took second in the varsity 8. In that race, Penn finished less than four seconds behind Yale, a step forward after losing by at least 11 seconds each of the previous two years. The Red and Blue's performance in the Connell Cup pushed them into the CRCA/USRowing national poll at No. 17, the program's highest ranking during head coach Mike Lane's five-year tenure.
The highlight of the campaign came in the next race, the Orange Challenge Cup. Racing host Northeastern and Syracuse on the Charles River in Boston, Penn won the varsity 8 and second varsity 8 to take the Challenge Cup trophy for the first time since 1995.
Penn entered the Raritan Cup races with Cornell and Rutgers looking to bring home more hardware, but the Quakers could only manage a win in the varsity 4 with the Big Red winning every other race.
The Quakers faced a daunting task in the Class of 1984 Award Plaque races against No. 1 Princeton and Dartmouth. That task got no easier when the team arrived in Hanover; the races ended up taking two days due to the inclement conditions. The Red and Blue's best showing came in the varsity 4 and third varsity 8 races, where they placed second behind the top-ranked Tigers.
All those races were mere prelude to the EAWRC Sprints, which was contested for the final time this year on the Cooper River. Penn finished in sixth place in the Willing Points Trophy race, with 135 points. Penn's best finishes came in the fours, as the varsity 4 B took third in a nine-team field and the varsity 4 A met their seed with a fourth-place finish. In the eights, the third varsity made the grand final and placed sixth overall, while the second varsity won the petite final to finish seventh in their field. The varsity 8 concluded the day with a ninth-place standing.
At the end of the season, the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) handed out its awards. Senior Rebecca Donald received first-team All-Region honors in the Mid-Atlantic, while junior Kelly Burke earned second-team All-Region for the second year in a row. For Donald, it marked the first time she was a first-team All-Region selection, but it was her fourth time being named to an all-region team (she was second-team from 2008 to 2010). She becomes the first Penn rower to earn All-Region all four years with the program. Meanwhile, sophomore Cassi Henderson was named to the CRCA's National Scholar-Athlete list.