September 19, 2019 | 47° F

Knights' first eight claims team's best time at Cup

The Rutgers rowing team competed last weekend amongst more than 50 collegiate teams at the Knecht Cup hosted by Villanova.

The first eight came home with a second-place medal, but the second eight and varsity four boats suffered disappointments in their races at the two-day regatta, held at the Cooper River in Camden, N.J.

"Coming into this competition, we knew there were a lot of crews with a lot of speed," said head coach Max Borghard. "We knew it was going be a tough weekend to race in, but they did very well."

Rutgers' first eight won its first qualifying heat with a time of 7:12.59, a six-second margin over Kansas and 10 seconds over Massachusetts. The Scarlet Knights also finished first in the semifinal with a two-second margin over West Virginia, qualifying their boat to race in Sunday's grand final.

Seniors Christine Hannigan, Helen Becz, Mary Gromolowicz and Janine Ford, as well as juniors Katherine Geithman and Kathleen Lai and freshmen Stephanie Ford and Raelyn Loiselle rowed for the first varsity eight with junior Katie Quinn as the coxswain.

Grand Valley closely edged the Knights in the grand final on Sunday, as Rutgers lost by a 27-millisecond margin. Rutgers placed second overall at 6:47.61.

"They really executed everything well," Borghard said. "In the finals, they got the lead and tried to control it, but Grand Valley made a nice charge at the end."

The second eight placed second to Delaware by a nine-second margin in their first heat, but came up short in their semifinal heat, which they raced all out.

"Everything we could possibly put out on the water, we did," said senior captain and second eight bow Samantha Steffier.

The Knights placed fourth, advancing only to the petite final to compete for seventh through 12th place.

Steffier and classmates Stephanie Nunziato, Whitney Armstrong and Ashley Mills, sophomores Laura Ford and Emily Nowlin and freshmen Katie Bakaj and Kara Trivolis raced the second varsity eight, with junior Ellie Kleiman as the coxswain.

"Ultimately, we weren't able to put together a fast enough race to make the grand final," Steffier said. "Once we placed into the petite final, our immediate expectation was that we had to win. If we didn't win, it would have been even more disappointing."

Rutgers bounced back with a solid race in the petite final on Sunday, racing with better execution than its initial race to place first at 7:11.10, edging second place Drexel by a boat-length.

"I'm hoping that all of the girls in the boat channel their upset and frustration into pushing even harder on the water," Steffier said.

The varsity four, manned by senior April Tobin, freshmen Ashley Cha, Amanda Dothe and Emilia Topp, and Hoan Kichen as coxswain, placed last in the qualifying race, finishing six seconds behind Philadelphia at 8:46.23.

"Two V was disappointing and for the varsity four, [the results weren't] what they wanted or expected. It was a bit of a slap in the face," Steffier said. "While we're getting faster, a lot of other schools are getting faster, so we just need to keep pushing ourselves harder."

The Knights plan to continue their rigorous practice drills in order to increase their strokes per minute and pick up speed.

"I thought we had a really strong weekend, and I'm proud of the team and staff," Borghard said. "Everyone's been working hard, and we're really starting to see the benefits of all that hard work."

The Knights are scheduled to race in Ithaca, N.Y., this weekend against Cornell and Pennsylvania, in one of the oldest continuous women's rowing races. The varsity eight teams will compete for the Raritan Cup, which the Knights last won in 2006 and that they hope to break a four-year streak by the Cornell Big Red.

Jovelle Abbey Tamayo

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