BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Following a successful fall season and winter training, the Lehigh rowing team begins spring competition on Saturday at the 30th annual Murphy Cup Regatta. The regatta will take place on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J. Under second-year head coach Brian Conley, the Mountain Hawks continue to raise expectations to new heights.
“The team has done a great job in the offseason to put themselves into competitive situations in races,” said Conley. “When you get yourself into the mix of competition, anything can happen. When we’re in those situations, the more we stay focused on our task and focused on our boat, the more we’ll be successful.”
Lehigh’s first race begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday with events running all day. The last race is set to begin a little before 6 p.m. The Murphy Cup is a good opportunity for the Mountain Hawks to race against some of the nation’s best crews.
“The Murphy Cup is a really tough race to start anyone's season; it typically includes a number of grand finalists from the Dad Vail,” said Conley. “I love it because it really lets us see what the competition is doing and see where we need to be at the end of the season. The heat, for the time being, is the most important race because if you don't make it through the heat, there is no reason to even think about the finals. We try to put a lot of emphasis on one race at a time.”
Last season, the Mountain Hawks put together a solid effort at the Murphy Cup, placing one boat in third while five others finished fourth.
Lehigh feels it’s ready for the spring after hard work in the winter.
“Our sport is the ultimate use of the word teamwork as it requires every single member of the crew to be an exact mirror image of the person in front of them to get the fastest speed out of the boat,” said Conley. “This winter, the team did an amazing job reaching new heights as individuals and developing as racers. The biggest thing that stands out to me with this group is that every member of the team has made themselves faster than they were previously. To have that happen on a team is rare, but it just shows the determination that this group has. It’s also made us excited to start racing.”
The Mountain Hawks have two new coaches on staff, who hope to continue the team’s progression - Ellen Sweet ’09 and Lyons Bradley. Sweet joins the program as the graduate assistant.
“We’re excited to have Ellen join the staff with her knowledge that success is possible here at Lehigh,” said Conley. “Ellen was a member of the silver medal crew at the Dad Vail Regatta in 2006. She knows where the program can be and will be helping with the fours to develop the talent to work their way up into the eights.”
Meanwhile, Bradley is a volunteer assistant who brings tremendous experience to the team.
“Lyons’ genuine love of teaching the rowing stroke is contagious and has truly helped the program right away with his calm and confident approach to the stroke,” said Conley. “His vast knowledge of rowing and technique, having coached at Connecticut College (his alma mater) and the University of Pennsylvania, has really had a strong impact on the crews. Lyons will be working mostly with the freshmen men and Coach Moorehead in developing the men's program into a Dad Vail contender.”
In the end, Saturday is the first of more than a half dozen races which runs through the Dad Vail Regatta on May 11.
“The first few races are always nerve racking because a lot of it comes down to seeing where the competition is in their speed relative to ours,” said Conley. “Our biggest obstacle is to have a much more solid race from start to finish. This has been our biggest struggle in the past and I think we’re starting to understand how to race a little better. Ultimately, we want to be faster each year, and be there when we cross into the last 500 meters, for people to be surprised how fast Lehigh is.”
Lehigh continues its spring season next Saturday (Mar. 31) when it heads to the Neuweiler Plate.