2010-12-02 / News

Experience not necessary: Archer shines for Cornell crew

By Geoff Campbell

Cornell University’s Leigh Archer (far right) and teammates stand proud at the award ceremony at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston. The Jamestowner was part of the Women’s Four that won gold with a time of 17:48.071, a full 10 seconds ahead of runner-up Brown University. Cornell University’s Leigh Archer (far right) and teammates stand proud at the award ceremony at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston. The Jamestowner was part of the Women’s Four that won gold with a time of 17:48.071, a full 10 seconds ahead of runner-up Brown University. Leigh Archer’s plan was to walk on to the Cornell University women’s crew team as a freshman in 2009.

Having never rowed before, she was surprised when a request for information regarding the walk-on process resulted in the program’s pursuit of her as a recruit. As Leigh tells it, “I was recruited for height.”

Standing 6 feet 1 inch tall then, and recently stretching the official tape to 6 feet 2 inches, Leigh spent her freshman year with the other new recruits in a season that provided time to overcome the learning curve for those who were new to the sport and for those who were making the transition from high school crew to Ivy League crew, Cornell style.

In spite of her inexperience, Leigh, who is now in her sophomore year, was part of the second varsity-8 during her rookie season and was selected to participate in the U.S. National Team Freshman Camp.

According to Archer, the week spent in Iowa last summer at the camp was for athletes who were new to rowing or new to collegiate rowing and served as an introduction to the concept of a national team.

She also said that she was particularly appreciative of the opportunity to “row with different people,” experience a variety of coaching styles and to meet athletes from all over the country.

The U.S. Rowing Identifi- cation Camp, which was held on Nov. 14, is a step closer to national-team participation as the invitees had to meet specific criteria in order to attend. The next steps for a rower seeking to advance onto the national stage would include developmental and U-23 camps, Archer said.

As sophomores, the Cornell women are members of varsity team boats and unlike the men’s vessels, there is no distinction between light and heavyweight boats.

Archer explained that crew is a year-round program, and Ivy League rules only require 49 non-consecutive days off from training or competing. At Cornell, December accounts for the bulk of those required days and the remaining days are interspersed outside of the NCAA spring season.

The fall season does not count in the NCAA standings but Archer was quick to add that the competition is no less intense. Archer’s boat won the Championship 4 division race at the Head of the Charles Regatta this fall. The Head of the Charles Regatta is a premier race for all levels of rowing.

Winter training, which will begin in January, includes a trip to Central Florida. The two-houra day practices and the twice weekly weight training sessions will continue through the winter and into the spring season which begins on March 26 at Ithaca University with a non-conference event.

The fall season features 5k racing and the spring races are 2k in length. Last year, Cornell’s women’s varsity team was ranked No. 18 in the NCAA and the team is striving to achieve a 16th-place regular season finish or better, in order to advance to the national tournament.

While crew is relatively new to Archer, athletics is not. Living full time in Jamestown through the third grade, her mother’s work took the family to St. George’s where Archer’s mother, Deborah Foppert, serves as director of studies and is the chair of the history and social sciences department. Her father, Eric, is a lawyer in Jamestown.

Attending St. George’s meant mandatory participation in activities outside the classroom, six days a week, every day for four years. Archer was a three-year varsity athlete in cross country and ice hockey and she also lettered in varsity lacrosse for four years. She was honored as an Academic All-American in lacrosse as a senior in 2009.

Growing up in a family with three brothers, Archer started playing ice hockey when she was about 6 or 7 years old, she said. Although not the oldest, and with a smile in her voice, Archer said, “I can keep them in line.”

Over the years Archer played hockey on the Rhode Island Panthers, the Newport Whalers and on teams in the Newport Recreational League. She stayed with it, in part, “Because I felt cool.” When asked about joining women’s ice hockey at Cornell, Archer responded, “I think that they are No. 1 in the nation.”

Crediting getting involved and trying new things to the approach of St George’s, Archer believes the transition to a new sport in college was made easier because of her experience in high school. She added that she was also used to traveling and to the work involved.

Entering the second semester of her sophomore year, she is currently majoring in international agricultural and rural development, a commitment that she will put to the test this summer when she interns at an organic farm in Costa Rica.

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