PHILADELPHIA - For the first time in 21 years, the University of Pennsylvania men's lightweight rowing team is in possession of the Matthews-Leonard Cup. No. 2 Harvard, a guest at the race, finished first. But Cornell, ranked No. 3 in the nation, was forced to forfeit Saturday's race on the Schuylkill River and handed over the Matthews-Leonard Cup for the first time since 1990.
On a sunny afternoon with just the occasional breeze, the Quakers were outpaced by No. 2 Harvard in the varsity race. Penn, who nearly claimed this cup last year before Cornell was deemed the winner in a photo finish, fell behind from the start and couldn't catch their Ivy counterparts. Harvard finished in 5:46.4, while Penn crossed at 5:55.1.
The freshmen won their first three races of the year and held an early lead against the Crimson on Saturday. But Harvard passed Penn and maintained its lead to the finish line for a six-second victory. Harvard finished in 5:54.9 to top Penn's 6:00.9.
The second and third varsity also fell to the Crimson. Harvard won with open water between the boats in each race. The second varsity crews finished in 5:53.7 and 6:06.9, while the third varsity crews finished in 6:03.9 and 6:20.9.
The second freshman four finished in 7:18.0, which was slightly behind Harvard's finish of 7:11.7.
This marks the first cup win of any kind for the Quakers since they claimed the Lev-Brett bowl for the third straight time over Rutgers in 2007. Penn has now won the Matthews-Leonard Cup on 28 occassions, while Cornell has won 39 times since the two Ivy schools began competing for the cup in 1938.
Cornell Head Coach Chris Kerber informed Penn and Harvard of the decision by the Big Red's coaching staff and administration to forfeit the race on Friday night.
In addition to regaining possession of the Matthews-Leonard Cup, the Quakers also celebrated the 60th reunion of one of the most successful boats in school history. The 1951 lightweights gathered at the boathouse on Saturday to commemorate the milestone anniversary of their EARC Sprints title and the school's first-ever victory at Henley. For more on the 1951 Penn lightweights, including a brief history, video and Friday's article in the school newspaper, click the link atop this release.
Up next is the first road regatta of 2011 for the Quakers. They travel to New England on Saturday to take on Columbia and Yale for the rights to the Dodge Cup.