Inside the East Park Canoe House on the Schuylkill River, banners hang in the rafters, signifying the victories of Temple’s past crew teams.
Senior Cassidy Lorenz, junior Nina Sponheimer and sophomore Olivia Morris are all invested in raising another banner to the rafters once the Dad Vail Regatta, the largest regatta in the country, rolls around in May, they said.
Lorenz, Sponheimer and Morris are the only women on the men’s team. They serve the important role of the team’s coxswains. They stir the boat, give instructions to the rowers and communicate with officials at races. The person in this position must be lightweight, which is why teams often have women in this spot.
Other Philadelphia schools, like Saint Joseph’s University and the University of Pennsylvania, also have female coxswains.
All three athletes learned much of what they know from Caseyann Sweeney, a 2019 accounting alumna and former coxswain at Temple.
“[Sweeney] was the who one told me that girls could be in the varsity eight,” said Sponheimer, a junior engineering technology major. “She encouraged me and [Morris] to work together and introduced a sense of camaraderie among the girls.”
It’s still difficult to be the only women on the team, they said.
“I almost felt like I had to overcompensate for how tough I had to be,” Sponheimer said. “You don’t take any crap from anyone, and I felt like I had to be harsher in the beginning.”
Now, Sponheimer now prefers to row with the men’s team because they are faster, she said.
“Ever since I started [coxing] for men’s teams as a sophomore in high school, I didn’t really want to go back,” Sponheimer said.
It was more difficult for Lorenz because she had previously only worked with women’s rowing teams and needed some time to adjust, she said.
“For women, you try to tell them to use their upper body more to finish a stroke, whereas with the men, you try to tell them to use their legs more to start,” said Lorenz, a communication studies major. “It’s almost like a different world between the two teams.”
Morris, a psychology major, has a different perspective.
“There was no real issue for us joining the men’s team,” Morris said. “You earn respect based on the kind of coxswain you are, not your gender.”
The Owls will compete next at the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta on Oct. 26.