After a season of change in 2004, the Penn women's rowing program looks to build on it's adjustments, and continue to make improvements as it heads into 2005. The Quakers have made enormous changes in how the program is run, throwing out the ideas of two traditionally separate varsity and novice programs, and allowing all student-athletes to push each other and compete for their seats in the top boats. Head Coach Barb Kirch Grudt hopes that these changes, along with continued dedication and teamwork, will make this year's team true contenders in the Ivy League.
"The year's goals are not unlike past seasons'. We would love to finish in the top half of the Ivy League as well as make the Grand Finals of the Eastern Sprints with the Varsity Eight boat," Grudt said. While we were close to that goal last year, my hopes are that a more experienced and more competitive squad will be our keys to success this year."
Finishing in a somewhat disappointing 13th place at Eastern Sprints last year, Grudt's hopes for this season are that the rising sophomores will continue to fill in the holes on the team and push their teammates to a more intense competitive level.
Leading the team this year will be once again senior Megan Keane and fellow classmate Catherine Hunt. As Grudt pointed out, "it's obvious that both of these athletes like to work hard, and they truly want to see Penn crew succeed." Their ability to lead by example should be extremely beneficial throughout the season.
Although the program lost five seniors, Grudt doesn't expect the team to take too much of a hit. "Every graduating class leaves an emotional hole, but this year's senior class is very strong; they'll provide good leadership and they have a great work ethic which will help to fill the emotional void more quickly than in past years. We will certainly miss the girls we lost but with any luck we will be able to pick up where we left off."
Not only will this year's seniors provide leadership for the team, but Grudt hopes that this years sophomore's will once again play a vital role in the success of Penn rowing. After becoming an instantly important part of last year's team, it is hoped the girls will continue to push their veteran teammates to work harder, in order to raise the standards of the Penn Rowing program.
"We ended last year's season with a much deeper team than we had in the past. Last year's freshmen really filled in the holes, and we hope that as sophomores they will continue to make the team more well rounded, and competitive in all aspects of racing. As we enter the season with a better sense of how our new system works, I expect the end results to reflect the strength of our current team."
The Quakers will once again use the fall season to integrate the freshmen with the upperclassmen and establish a tone for the year. "We will work on our conditioning and technique in the fall, and lay a groundwork for the remainder of the year." Grudt commented. With a lot of practice in the fall and winter, the Quakers hope to set themselves up for a successful spring season.
Joining the Quakers this season are a very large contingent of 21 freshmen who are expected to once again make an immediate impact on the program. With newcomers from 11 different states and two foreign countries, it is hoped that the wide range of experience these girls are bringing to the program will help move the program forward. "I'd like the freshman to step up from day one and challenge the upperclassmen for all seats. With such an eclectic mix of height, strength and experience, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact these new additions will have on the program as a whole."
As they adapt to and improve from last season's program changes, the Quakers hope to continue to push themselves to new levels of competition. With a number of strong returning members and a diverse incoming class, the Red and Blue have the drive to be great and will put it all on the line in 2005.