Cornell Lightweights Have Had Tough Road to Semifinals in Temple, and Face Toughest Competition Yet Saturday

The Cornell lightweight men have shown poise throughout the first three rounds of the Temple Challenge Cup, but will all these tight races take a toll heading into the semifinals?

If there's one crew that can do it, it might just be Big Red, coached by Chris Kerber. After all, they entered Henley Royal Regatta this year as undefeated U.S. national champions for the second year running, and there's nothing like EARC lightweight rowing to get you ready for close finishes and dramatic battles on the water. While John Hill, commentating on the above race (the first round), seems to find the Cornell release less than satisfying (maybe just finding something to say mid-race, but a curious remark nonetheless), Big Red's technique and control have been key components to their success at home, and in England so far this year.

And, while each of their races have been close, there is the sense, in all three, that they are in control—it's impossible to know from the outside whether they are putting their foot on the gas all the way down, or simply being clever enough with their rowing to get a slight edge, which allows them to then control the race from the front. If it's more than former than the latter, that may show in today's race against a very strong A.S.R. Nereus crew that is coming off an impressive victory over Temple Challenge Cup holders from 2014, Oxford Brookes (a contest that came down to a canvas yesterday).

Still, despite the close victory for Nereus yesterday, the first two rounds for this Dutch crew were relatively easy, as they won Round One over Manchester by 4 1/2 lengths, and then Round Two over Algemene Amsterdamsche Studenten Roeivereniging Skøll, Holland by 3 1/2 lengths. Also, the wind direction is supposed to be SW at the time of their race (2pm, just after the Luncheon Interval), which would mean headwind/cross-headwind conditions on the course—another factor for which Cornell will have to try to compensate with fitness and technique.

The final of the Temple in 2009, which saw a similarly undefeated Princeton lightweight crew defeat the Brown frosh by 3/4 of a length in flat conditions, came early in the day on Sunday—had it been later, the crews would have been facing a gusting headwind up to roughly 20mph. Would it have played out the same way? Perhaps not.

Like life, there's nothing fair about Henley. But then, that's what makes this regatta unique, and uniquely fascinating. That must be why it feels so good when you win that little red box.


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