Lightweights Announce 10 in Class of 2018

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PHILADELPHIA - Fresh off the program's first gold medal at Sprints in 38 years, the University of Pennsylvania lightweights announced the next incoming freshman class on Wednesday. The Class of 2018 will feature 10 new Quakers with each boasting extensive rowing experience.

“We are thrilled about the addition of this group," said assistant coach Colin Farrell. "I think this class has strong character, a passion for rowing, and it’s also a group of winners. I’m personally excited to see them come in and get us started on the next era of Penn Lightweight Rowing.”

At EARC Sprints on Sunday, the Penn freshmen won gold for just the second time in program history. The novice boat also won at that regatta in 1967. The last Penn boat to win at Sprints was the varsity in 1976. Under Farrell, the Quakers' freshman boat has now medaled in back-to-back years after a 23-year drought.

The newest class of lightweight rowers comes to Penn from seven different states, including three from the home state of Pennsylvania, two from neighboring New York and on each from Ohio, Maryland, Florida, California and New Jersey.

Below is an in-depth look at each of the 10 soon-to-be Quakers.


Natalie Burke
Height: 5’0
Hometown: Bronxville, N.Y.
High School Team: Pelham Community Rowing Association
High School Coach: Guy Monseair

Rowing Highlights: 2013 New York States gold ... Re-qualified Women’s Youth 8+ at Head of the Charles ... NYSSRA scholar athlete.

Why I chose Penn: “I chose Penn to become a part of the 150 years of rowing history on Boathouse Row, and the 250 years of academic excellence Penn has to offer.”

What I love about rowing: “With hard work and dedication, there’s a place for everyone in rowing, whether you’ve been an athlete all your life or you’ve never thought of yourself as one.”

Favorite professional athlete: Mary Whipple


Dillon Chen
Height: 5'10

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
High School Team: Cincinnati Junior Rowing Club
High School Coach: Greg Hull

Rowing Highlights: Won the Founder's Day 1st Four as a senior.

Why I chose Penn: “The urban campus and awesome education couldn't be beat."

What I love about rowing: “It's the ultimate team sport.”

Favorite professional athlete: Roger Federer


Jackson Connor
Height: 6'1
Hometown: Wayne, Pa.
High School Team: Malvern Preparatory School
High School Coach: Craig Hoffman

Rowing Highlights: First at 2013 Philadelphia City Championships Lightweight 4x ... First at 2013 SRAA Nationals Lightweight 4x ... First at 2013 Mid-Atlantic Championships Varsity 2x ... First at 2013 Navy Day Regatta Varsity 4x ... Second at 2013 Head of the Schuylkill Regatta Varsity 2x.

Why I chose Penn: “Penn is a great fit for me both academically and athletically. I love the location and feel of the campus. I look forward to the opportunities that Penn will provide me. Also, the appeal of Boathouse Row and being able to continue rowing on the Schuylkill.”

What I love about rowing: “The extreme competitiveness with a strong sense of community. Hard work, dedication, and working together as a team in order to accomplish a single goal...winning. I love spending time on the water.“

Favorite professional athlete: LeSean McCoy


Joseph Ebner
Height: 5'11
Hometown: Buffalo, N.Y.
High School Coach: Tom Flaherty

Rowing Highlights: Second in Freshman 8+ at Scholastic Nationals ... 15th place at Head of the Charles in Men's Youth 4+ ... Second place at Canadian Schoolboys in Men's 72kg 8+ ... 1st in B Final at Youth Nationals in Men's Lightweight 8.

Why I chose Penn: “Since my earliest thoughts of college, Penn and the city of Philadelphia have always been a dream of mine. After visiting campus and experiencing just a small piece of the school, my choice was solidified. The value of learning, overwhelming sense of community, and school pride are just a few of the many reasons why I love Penn.”

What I love about rowing: “Out of all the sports I have played, rowing embodies the phrase "you get out what you put in" more than any other. The simplicity of the stroke makes the motion of rowing all the more beautiful. Some of the most exhilarating moments in my life have been in a set, gliding, and perfectly moving boat, and the search for more of these moments is what keeps me coming to practice every day.”

Favorite professional athlete: Dominik Hašek


Ethan Genyk
Height: 5'11
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.
High School: Germantown Friends School (no team).
Rowing Team: Penn A.C. Rowing Association
Coaches: John Riley, Patrick Rufo, and Margaret Gordon

Rowing highlights: Gold at 2012 USRowing Club Nationals in Junior B 8+ and bronze at same regatta in Intermediate Lightweight Men's 8+ ... Bronze at 2012 Canadian Henley in U17 8+ ... Bronze at 2011 City Championships in Freshmen 2x.

Why I chose Penn: "I was born and raised in Philly, and I have a long family history there (that includes rowing), so I wanted to continue the tradition."

Why I love rowing: "Rowing provides me the deepest sense of happiness and satisfaction when done right."

Favorite professional athletes: Lebron James, Isaiah Thomas, Claude Giroux, Maurice Jones-Drew


James Konopka
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.

High School Team: Episcopal Academy
High School Coach: Molly Konopka

Rowing Highlights: Won Philadelphia City Championship Varsity 4+ in 2012 & 2013 ... Third place at Stotesbury Regatta in 2012 & 2013 ... Second place at SRAA nationals in 2012 and won SRAA nationals in 2013 in the varsity 4+ ... Placed fifth at Youth Nationals in Youth 4+ in 2012 and placed 7th in 2013 ... Finished 10th overall in the Youth 4+ at Head of the Charles in 2012 and finished 22nd in 2013 ... Placed fifth at Canadian Henley in Junior 4+.

Why I chose Penn: “I chose Penn because I loved the closeness that the lightweight team seemed to show. Also, I was excited to join a program that is on the upswing. Thirdly, I wanted to receive a great education which Penn provided, and have the opportunity to meet plenty of new people, which Penn allows.”

What I love about rowing: “What I love about rowing is the team dynamic of the sport. This is one of the few sports where you truly are only as strong as your weakest link. Also, this is a sport where you get rewarded for putting in work.”

Favorite professional athlete: Chase Utley


Leo Pratt
Height: 6’1
Hometown: Los Gatos, Calif.
High School Team: Los Gatos Rowing Club
High School Coach: Jaime Velez and Evan Bainbridge

Rowing Highlights: 2013 USRowing Youth National champion in Lightweight 8 ... 2013 San Diego Crew Classic champion in Lightweight 8 ... Second place at 2013 Southwest Regionals in the Lightweight 8 ... 2014 Southwest Regionals champion in Lightweight 4.

Why I chose Penn: “I chose Penn because of the expanse of opportunities available to me at one of the top universities in the nation. I also really enjoy the atmosphere of the city of Philadelphia, and I think it will give me the chance to experience something new and different.”

What I love about rowing: “I love to compete, and there is no better feeling than having your bow ball cross the finish line before everyone else. There is no other sport like rowing that truly awards the amount of hard work you put into it. I also really enjoy the importance of teamwork within the sport where winning is impossible without the dedication of everyone in the boat.”

Favorite professional athlete: Buster Posey


Mark Roberts
Height: 5'11
Hometown: Kensington, Md.
High School Team: Gonzaga College High School
High School Coach: Marc Mandel

Rowing Highlights: 2013 Stotesbury Cup Gold.

Why I chose Penn: “Penn gives me the opportunity to do incredible things both in academics and athletics.”

What I love about rowing: “The amount of time and training put into achieving perfection in one single motion makes it unlike any other sport.”

Favorite professional athlete: Tom James


John Lewis Smallwood Jr.
Height: 6'2

Hometown: Shrewsbury, N.J.
High School Team: Christian Brothers Academy
High School Coach: Scott Belford

Rowing Highlights: Second at Head of Schuylkill in U-17 4+ ... Third at SRAA Nationals JV 4+ ... Sixth at CRASH Bs in 2014.

Why I chose Penn: “I chose Penn because I felt that it will provide me with the best oppurtunities in rowing, an education, and a career. “

What I love about rowing: “I love the camaraderie of the sport, and also the correlation between work and results that is so apparent.”

Favorite professional athlete: Lindsey Vonn


Miguel O. Zaldivar-Giuffredi

Hometown: Coral Gables, Fla.
High School Team: Belen Jesuit Preparatory School
High School Coach: Yunian Cabrera

Rowing Highlights: Won gold at 2014 Southeast Junior District Championship Regatta in men’s lightweight 8+ ... Won gold at 2013 and 2014 Florida State Rowing Association Sweep Championship Regatta in men’s lightweight 8+ ... Won silver at 2013 Scholastic National Championship Regatta in men’s lightweight 8+ ... Finished third at 2013 US Rowing Youth National Championship Regatta in men’s lightweight 8+ B Final.

Why I chose Penn: “The uniqueness of the Huntsman dual-degree program in international business combined with the opportunity to cox for one of the best collegiate rowing programs in the nation.”

What I love about rowing:“I was once told, “Rowing is not fun; rowing is fulfilling”. No rower or coxswain will tell you about how fun their last 10k was, or about how fun waking up at 4 a.m. for morning practice was. Nevertheless, rowers and coxswains put up with the daily grind because of its pay-off: a victory and self-improvement. The reason why I love rowing is because of the sense of achievement that it provides.”

Favorite professional athlete: Marcus McElhenney