The Penn women's rowing team proved once again that its dedication and drive would be the necessary factors for improving the program. With a lot of new talent and the guidance of a few veterans, the 2004 team was able to revamp the Penn rowing program and set the stage for many exciting seasons to come.
While most teams use the fall season to get back into shape and allow the underclassmen to get to know each other, the Quakers used the fall season to push each other to work harder and challenge each other for their positions. With freshmen taking positions in the varsity boats, the team was able to put together the best possible crews and use the fall season to become acclimated to each other.
Opening the season on the Schuylkill River, the Red and the Blue were able to capture two of the day's races at the Navy Day Regatta. The Penn B boat in the college fours won in convincing fashion as it topped 12 other crews, crossing the line a full 33 seconds ahead of the second-place team. In the novice eight, the Quakers captured the top-two positions in a field of seven. In the varsity eight, the Red and the Blue took a close second, finishing only one second behind the winner, Navy.
Going against some of the toughest competition in women's rowing, the Quakers took 27th out of 40 crews at the Head of the Charles. The women finished ahead of cup racing opponents Navy, Columbia and Rutgers, and were able to gain insight into the type of competition they would see throughout the year.
At the Princeton Chase, the Quakers showed the depth and talent of the entire team, as the Red and Blue finished two crews within three places of each other in the open eight. The real story at Princeton came at the Belly of the Carnegie where the Quakers' novice eight beat Princeton and took first place for the first time in program history.
With a strong showing in Princeton to wrap up the fall season, the Red and Blue traveled to Tampa, Fla. for their annual training trip. After a lot of hard work, practice and team bonding, the girls returned to Philadelphia, ready to start the spring season.
The team opened the spring season in style with a victory over Georgetown on the Schuylkill River. The varsity eight boat finished first while the varsity four was also able to defeat the Hoyas.
The following weekend at the Connell Cup, the Quakers had another great day on the water. "It was a pretty exciting day," Quakers' Head Coach Barb Kirch Grudt said after her women's squad placed second in all four races against Yale and Columbia on the Schuylkill River. As Grudt pointed out, "Yale was ranked third in the country and all of our boats were :07 off Yale, which is pretty exciting and showed the depth of the team."
The excitement and success of the team continued at the Class of '91 Plate race as the Quakers were able to defeat Navy on the Schuylkill River in all five races. Penn's Varsity Eight bested the Academy by over 10 seconds. This was the 13th-consecutive year the Quakers claimed the plate.
At the Orange Challenge Cup versus Syracuse and Northeastern, the race of the day for Penn came in the Second Varsity Eight, as the Quakers won by over nine seconds. The Red and Blue were also able to capture the highly competitive Varsity Four, as only four seconds separated the first place and last place boats.
One week later, it was again Penn's Second Varsity Eight that led the team, scoring wins over Cornell and Rutgers, at the Class of '89 Plate race. As the season continued to progress and the freshmen proved they would be an integral part of the team, races such as these showed the depth and true talent that comprised all aspects of the Penn crew.
Although the Quakers ended their last cup race of the season, the Award Plaque, with a loss to Princeton and Virginia, they were able to out-row Ivy League rival Dartmouth.
At the EAWRC Sprints, held in Camden, N.J., the Quakers ended the 2003-04 season in 13th place, falling a little short of the team's goal. "Unfortunately, the end results don't necessarily reflect all the great things these student-athletes accomplished this year," Coach Grudt commented. "I couldn't be happier with how our new system worked this year. The upperclassmen did a great job of acclimating the freshman to our program, and the underclassmen did a great job of pushing the upperclassmen to work harder for their spots. We really have achieved an open team dynamic where all athletes have access to all coaches as opposed to the traditionally separate novice and varsity programs. This year we were able to raise the training standards of the program which will be seen in the successes of the years to come."
The Quakers were able to finish the 2003-04 season with confidence and familiarity with one another that will certainly prove to be beneficial in years to come. After months of dedication, hard work and change, these women have proven they are willing to do anything and everything possible to make the Penn rowing program the best it can be.