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PHILADELPHIA -
The 18 best heavyweight rowing crews in the country are set to converge upon the Cooper River in New Jersey this weekend for the 2012 Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Championship Regatta, with Penn sending another strong contingent to challenge for a national title.

Rowing begins on Thursday with heats and repechages, continuing through Friday with semifinals all the way to Saturday's finals. The Quakers will enter a varsity eight, second varsity eight, freshmen/novice eight and an open four in the regatta, looking to improve upon a finish of 16th in the varsity eight last season and an overall finish of 14th in the regatta.

The Red and Blue enter the weekend as the No. 14 seed in the varsity eight and seeded No. 11 in the 2V. The novice boat is seeded 14th, giving Penn an early opportunity to move up upon 2011's finish as a squad.

The Quakers arrived in Cherry Hill with knowledge of which boats await them in Thursday's heats, and the Quakers will start the regatta off in a highly-anticipated varsity eight heat. Penn will be joined in the first heat of the regatta - at 8 a.m. - by second-seeded Brown and fifth-seeded Wisconsin as well as No. 8 Syracuse and No. 11 Yale with No. 17 Gonzaga rounding out the six-boat field. Only Gonzaga will be a new crew for the Red and Blue to row against this spring, as Penn competed against Brown and Syracuse in the heats of Sprints to go with individual races with Yale and Wisconsin.

For the 2V, Penn is slated for a 9 a.m. start in the second heat of the JV boats, matched up with second-seeded Wisconsin and fifth-seeded Princeton as well as No. 8 Cornell and No. 14 Dartmouth. The Quakers have rowed against Wisconsin and Cornell just last weekend and have seen Princeton as well in Cup racing this season, also boasting a 6.4-second better finish than Dartmouth at EARC Sprints three weeks ago.

The frosh will wait until the third heat of the novice races to get started (10 a.m.) and will have to deal with No. 2 Harvard and No. 5 Cornell along with No. 8 Navy, No. 11 Dartmouth and No. 17 Drexel in an Ivy-dominated heat. The Open Fours finish heats for the Quakers in the second heat along with Cal, Drexel, Cornell, Syracuse and Northeastern.

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