Getting Back on the Winning Track is Lightweight Crew's Goal for the 2003-04 Season

Eight members of last year's Varsity 8 boat return for Head Coach Mike Irwin's second season as head coach.

Sept. 11, 2003

Getting back on the winning track is the goal for the Penn lightweight crew in 2003-04. With eight members of last year's varsity 8 boat returning this season and a year of experience at Penn under Head Coach Mike Irwin's belt, the members of the team are highly anticipating a strong upcoming season.

"We won't be a veteran group out there, but we won't be rookies either," Irwin said. "Last season everything was new to us - a new coaching staff and a new group of athletes. We made steady progress last year. We were able to grow up and gain more experience with each race. I think that will help us this year as well."

The Quakers will have something in 2004 that they did not have last year - depth. "We have several sophomores who can compete for spots in the varsity boat, which adds depth and competitiveness to the program," Irwin added. "When everyone is competing for seats in the varsity and second varsity boats, it makes the squad stronger across the board."

Irwin is also excited about the return of senior captain Justin Arena, who missed all of last season with an injury.

"Justin did everything he could last season to be with the team as much as possible. I think that says a lot about his character and the amount of respect his teammates have for him to elect him captain despite missing all of the 2003 season.

"Justin has a presence that everyone feels very strong about. He has overcome great adversity to be with us this year and will have an even greater impact this season when he can be in the boat everyday," Irwin said.

Also returning for the Quakers is junior Mike King who will serve as Commodore for the upcoming season.

The Quakers are still a young team, but this season they will have five seniors to provide leadership. Mark Albert, Arena, Scott Barbash, Jon Macknin and Bowen Posner have the drive and talent to take this program to the next level right away.

"It was difficult last year with only two seniors on the team," Irwin said. "I think these five guys can be great leaders. They have already made an impact on this program, they know the role they are being asked to play and what better way to accomplish your goals than by giving it your all in the last season," Irwin said.

The junior class has seen the most success at Penn. As freshmen, the Quakers won five races in 2002, including dual-meet wins over Rutgers, Princeton, Cornell, Harvard and Columbia and a trip to the finals of the freshman 8 at the Eastern Sprints. They look to continue to be a cohesive unit as they move up into the upperclassmen ranks this coming season.

"To get 11 members of the junior class back at once says a lot about this group of young men," Irwin said. "These guys have a special bond between them. They have a desire to win and are all in it for the long haul. We want them to build upon their chemistry and with the experience they've gained we hope to channel that energy and use it in a positive way." For the sophomores this season, it will be their first opportunity to compete at the varsity level. Coach Irwin feels that several members of the sophomore class are ready to vie for a spot in the varsity 8 boat.

"The eight members of the sophomore class will be able to provide much needed depth to our squad," Irwin said.

Irwin and the Quakers are continuing their theme of making progress. They will use the fall season to gauge where they are among the competition and use that feedback to prepare themselves for the upcoming spring campaign.

With a deeper squad and more balance among the classes in 2004, Irwin feels that the talent is there to take the program to the new heights.

"If each student-athlete on this team can fill their roles from top-to-bottom, we can catch people's attention and take this program to new levels."