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  • Hannah Garcia

Hickey Has Hope

March 11th, 2020 at 3 p.m. all of the Ivy League sports headlines read along the lines of “Ivy League To Cancel All Athletic Events Through The Remainder Of The Spring.” That announcement confirmed the worst for spring athletes.

For some, that meant losing their whole season, their chance at trophies, or any progress they had made so far. For junior varsity eight bowman Andrew Hickey and the Men’s Lightweight Rowing Team, it meant losing all of the above. While many people had questions about what life would look like, Hickey fully understood the impact of the cancellations.

Right away the rules were pretty clear – the boathouse is closed and we won’t be getting out on the water any time soon. But everyone was in pretty good shape from our winter conditioning so we were still doing a lot of cardio on our own – running, bike rides, workouts on the indoor rower.

While most people had the luxury of turning to bread-making and binge-watching in lockdown, Cornell’s athletes needed to train and stay in shape for the next season. To achieve this end, the rowing team invented a creative way to virtually work out together.

As a team, we created a Strava group so guys could send each other workouts while quarantining apart. This was especially helpful on race weekends, because guys would say “Hey, this was supposed to be the 57th anniversary of our race against Princeton, let’s do a 57-mile bike ride” and we’d have guys all across the country doing workouts like that. It softened the blow of not racing a little bit.

Of course, lockdown can get monotonous. Like most of the country, Hickey resorted to binge-watching shows and movies to alleviate his boredom. His preferred show is Survivor, which he said filled the void left by the lack of live sports. So, if you see Hickey on Survivor Season 50, don’t be surprised.

For Hickey and the rowing team, the cancellation of the 2020 season deprived them of an opportunity to add to their trophy case. Last season, Big Red scored the Matthews Trophy, the Geiger Cup, Platt Cup, and Harriet Trophy. They also won the IRA (Intercollegiate Rowing Association) National Championship, the highlight of Hickey’s Cornell career.

Winning the IRA National Championship in 2019 was far and away my favorite moment. As a high school rower in New Jersey, I watched Cornell win on my home course in 2014 and 2015 and thought that I wanted to one day be like those guys. When we pulled it off in 2019, it felt like I was finally fulfilling a goal many years in the making.

Despite the disappointment of losing a whole season, Hickey does not see the setback as a total loss. While no one knows what Cornell could have won if the season had continued uninterrupted, the Big Red squad is full of ambition and talent that will serve them well leading into next season

I can’t really put into words how proud I am of our team’s work this fall and winter. Our senior class made clear what we value on this team: work ethic, coachability, and a drive to help each other succeed. Our freshman and sophomore classes really bought into that and elevated us.

The future is certainly bright for Hickey and his team. In his final year with the Big Red, he hopes to win the Jope Cup, an honor that would be bestowed on the whole team, not just one Big Red boat.

My biggest goal for the team is for us to capture the Jope Cup – the award given to the best team performance at the Eastern Sprints Regatta. Not everyone gets to compete at IRAs, so Sprints is the biggest representation of the entire team. Winning the Jope Cup would show my class that we built something special as Seniors, but it would also show that the team is in good shape for the future.

With only one year left to make his mark on Big Red Rowing, Hickey believes that creating a legacy of success is imperative. For him, relying on a few-stand out players is impractical. Rather, to ensure the success of the team in the present and the future, they must look to the whole squad.

The top priority for the team going forward has to be creating a system of maintained success… As a senior class, we’re constantly asking ourselves: “What will the team look like a year after we graduate? What about in three years? Five?” Rowing has never been about individuals, and in a few years, people on the Cornell Lightweights won’t know who we are. But if those guys are still relentless in their training and in their commitment to each other, we can rest easy that the team is still on a path to success. Leaving behind a winning culture needs to be our legacy.

The Ivy League just announced the cancellation of all fall sports, but there is hope for the spring season. For all of the uncertainty, one thing is definite: when Hickey returns to campus in the fall, the reunion with all of his teammates will be extra special after so much time apart.

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