PARRISH -- About 45 members of the University of Pennsylvania men's heavyweight rowing team wrapped up a week of training at the Fort Hamer facility Sunday, making the Quakers the latest Ivy League team to train in Manatee County.
Members of the Philadelphia-based Penn team gave Fort Hamer high marks, despite being kept off the water Saturday afternoon by heavy rains accompanied by lightning that swept through the area.
"It's been really good. There is a nice long stetch of water to row on," said team captain Conor Davenport, 21, a graduate of Pine View High School in Sarasota.
Teammate Jake Mendelson, 21, of Jacksonville, called Fort Hamer "exactly what we need. It allows us to take care of business. It's been beautiful."
Shortly after the Fort Hamer facility opened in 2011, legendary Harvard rowing coach Harry Parker brought 180 members of the Harvard-Radcliffe rowing team to Manatee County to train there, and many other teams followed to
take advantage of the ice-free southern waters.
Even though Saturday afternoon was a washout, Geoff Bond, who was named head coach of Penn's men's heavyweight rowing in July, put his team through an intensive workout on land.
"If it's not feeling like work, you're probably not doing it right," Bond told his team, as they did a series of exercises inside the Fort Hamer boathouse.
Bond focused on precision, and striving for perfection in the technique for each exercise.
"We're working on the posture and the ability to stabilize the core," Bond said at one point, explaining that there was a direct correlation to rowing.
While the Penn team was in Manatee County, it stayed at the Ellenton Hampton Inn, just a few miles from Fort Hamer.
Fort Hamer complements Nathan Benderson Park on the Manatee-Sarasota county line, which will be hosting the the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Rowing Trials in 2016, the World Rowing Championship in 2017, and the World Rowing Masters Regatta in 2018.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.