It was a season of tremendous growth for the University of Pennsylvania women’s rowing team. The Red and Blue had an undefeated crew in the women’s bay for the first time since 1980 and all Penn crews finished in the top-eight at the EAWRC Sprints.
“I can say with certainty that we have found a system that will help us begin getting ahead of the growth curve in women's rowing,” Head Coach Barb Kirch Grudt commented. “If this year’s student-athletes embrace next year’s freshmen class and show them how close we are to making the Grand Finals in all events, I believe you can expect to see another very strong performance from Penn Women’s Rowing next year.”
The 2004-05 campaign opened on Oct. 16 as Penn hosted the Navy Day Regatta. The Quakers enjoyed a solid day on the Schuylkill River capturing the college fours and the novice eight. The Red and Blue rowed well in the college eights but Navy was victorious by.09 seconds. Penn then traveled to the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Mass. a week later and had a solid day on the Charles River. The varsity eight was the only boat to compete placing 17th out of 42 crews in the Women’s Championships Eight. The Quakers improved 10 places from 2003 and finished two-tenths of a second behind Stanford, while defeating several Ivy League foes.
Penn returned home one week later for the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta in which the Red and Blue captured the Championship Eights. The Quakers finished first in a time of 14:30:95, edging Navy (14:36:27) by six seconds. The Red and Blue had two boats compete in the novice eights, with Boat “A” finishing 14th in a time of 16:41:76, while Boat “B” clocked a 17:28:05. Princeton took the event in 15:11:86.
The varsity wrapped up the fall season at the Princeton Chase where they posted several top finishes. The women’s open four “A” boat clocked an 18:09.23 to finish ninth out of 51 boats, while the “B” boat rowed an 18:58.62 and the “C” boat clocked a 19:07.94. In the women’s open eight, Penn “A” finished 13th (17:16.62) while the “B” boat posted a 17:53.90 and “C” posted an 18:45.90.
The Quakers opened the spring season on the Housatonic River on March 26 battling Yale and Columbia for the Connell Cup. Despite a straight head wind and slightly choppy waters, the Red and Blue captured the varsity four with a time of 8:05.7. Penn’s second varsity eight finished second in a time of 7:03.7, behind the Elis who placed first with a time of 6:53.2. The varsity eight took third with a time of 6:58.5, while the novice eight finished third in 7:22.8.
The Red and Blue then traveled to Boston, Mass. for the Orange Cup against 15th-ranked Syracuse, Northeastern and UMass. Despite a tail wind, the Quakers finished second out of the four teams and had a solid performance on the water. Rowing with a tail wind, the Quakers clocked a time of 6:33.0 to finish as the runner-up behind Syracuse in the varsity eight. Penn led at the 500-meter mark by two seats with Northeastern and Syracuse tied and UMass trailing by a length. At 1000, Penn had four seats on Syracuse but by the 1500 mark, Syracuse had tied Penn and both had open water on Northeastern and UMass. Syracuse broke the tie with 30 strokes to go to win its fifth Orange Cup. In the second varsity race, Penn was the runner-up with a time of 6:46.2, just two seconds off the pace of Northeastern (6:44.2). Syracuse took third (6:53.0) while UMass placed fourth (7:12.4). Penn swept both varsity four races on the day. In the varsity four A’ race, the Quakers edged Northeastern for second with a time of 7:46.8, while Syracuse (8:02.9) and UMass (8:37.2) finished third and fourth respectively. The Red and Blue also beat Northeastern in the varsity four B’ event. Penn clocked a time of 7:48.9 while Northeastern finished with a time of 8:03.5.
It was a photo finish in the challenge for the Class of ’89 Plate as Cornell squeaked by the Quakers by eight-hundredths of a second on April 16 in Ithaca, N.Y. The Quakers would go on to take three out of four additional races on the day. In an extremely tight varsity eight race, Cornell and Penn jockeyed for position throughout the event, but it was the Big Red who would come out on top by clocking a time of 6:40.77 while the Red and Blue posted a time of 6:40.85. Penn was also the runner-up in the second varsity race finishing with a time of 6:55.38 while Cornell was victorious with a time of 6:50.2. The Quakers captured both varsity four events and also picked up a win in the second novice eight. In the first varsity four race, Penn (7:34.23) beat out Cornell (7:38.24) byslightly more than four seconds for the win. In thevarsity four 'B'race, Penn dominated Rutgers in the victory as the Quakers posted a time of 7:47.5, while the Scarlet Knights notched a time of 8:04.6. Penn, who did not race a novice eight boat, took the top spot in the second novice eight with a time of 7:51.07.
Penn wrapped up the regular on April 16 as they challenged Dartmouth and Princeton for the Award Plaque in Hanover, N.H. It was there that the varsity four “A” beat both the Tigers and the Big Green to complete a perfect season. The varsity four posted a time of 6:41.7 to win the event finishing five seconds ahead of runner-up Princeton. In the varsity four "B" race, Penn posted second and third-place finishes with the "B" boat taking second in 7:02.9 while the first novice four placed third in 7:12.3. The Tigers rowed a winning time of 6:55.1. The second varsity eight, ranked seventh in the nation at the time, finished second with a time of 6:16.1 while Princeton’s third-ranked second varsity posted a time of 6:00.5 in the win. The 11th-ranked Big Green finished about nine seconds behind Penn, recording a mark of 6:25.0. In the varsity eight, Penn was leading Dartmouth by a few seats until the 1100-meter mark in which the Quakers got caught up in some wake for the last half of the race. Princeton finished first with a time of 5:51.2, while Dartmouth edged out Penn for second place with a time of 6:01.0 and the Quakers finished third with a time of 6:02.2.
The Red and Blue closed out the 2005 season on a high note as all Penn crews finished in the top-eight at the EAWRC Sprints.
The varsity eight won the Petite Final for the first time since 1989 with a time of 6:31.30 to finish seventh overall. The Petite Final proved to be one of the more exciting races on the Cooper River as the Red and Blue edged Northeastern (6:31.90) by less than a second. The Huskies led the whole race, with a qualifying time five seconds faster than Penn’s, but the Quakers rowed through them in the last 5 strokes.The Quakers also avenged some earlier season losses along the way. In-season, the Quakers had lost to Columbia by 8.8 second, but managed to beat out the Lions at Sprints by a margin of 5.3 seconds. Against Cornell, Penn was edged by .08 seconds but overtook the Big Red by a margin of 9.6 seconds. Against Dartmouth, the Quakers fell by 1.2 seconds but defeated the Big Green by a margin of 12.1 seconds.
The second varsity eight, with five freshmen and four sophomores in the boat, finished second in the Petite Final and eighth overall with a time of 6:48.30, coming back from sixth place earlier in the race.
The varsity four (w/coxswain) “A” consisting of two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, captured a bronze medal with a time of 7:21.00, while the varsity four (w/coxswain) “B” won a silver medal with a mark of 7:32.50 behind the talents of three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior. The novice four also had success finishing fifth in the Grand Final with a mark of 8:05.90.
The 2004-05 version of the women’s rowing team has built the foundation of success with strong performances all season long. With the core of the team returning next year, Penn has the potential to repeat and surpass expectations.
-Written by Kelly McCarthy, athletic communications assistant