Vol. LXI, No. 14
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)SETTING A STANDARD: Members of the Princeton University men's heavyweight crew cruise through the water in action last season. The heavyweight rowers in the Class of 2006 left an indelible mark on the program's storied history as they helped Princeton win two titles at the Henley Royal Regatta and take second twice at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championships. This year's top boat made a nice start in following that legacy as they cruised to a 14-second win over Navy last Saturday in their first race of the spring.
Combining talent and intensity, the men's heavyweight rowers in the Class of 2006 left an indelible mark on the program's storied history.
The class members got their college career off to a roaring start in the spring of 2003 as they went undefeated in the regular, winning the freshman national title in the process. Not content to dominate in U.S. collegiate circles, the group went to England that summer and won the Temple Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta.
The special group, which featured Princeton native Alex Hearne, Sam Loch, Pier DeRoo, Bill Mongan, Mike Gottlieb, and cox James Egan, helped the top varsity boat go undefeated last spring in regular season competition. The Tigers' dream season ran into a bump as they finished second to Cal in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championship race. Undaunted, the seniors went back across the pond and ended their careers with one final triumph as they won the Ladies Plate Challenge at the Henley event.
As longtime Tiger heavyweight head coach Curtis Jordan deals with life after his Class of 2006, he senses an enthusiasm in this year's rowers as they get their chance to shine.
"Last year's senior class was a dominant class in a lot of ways," said Jordan, who is entering his 17th year as coach of the heavyweights, having led Princeton to national championships in both 1996 and 1998.
"They were a big class to come through here; we don't have a major class like that. The guys here this year are excited to step into those big shoes; they know how far they have to go."
The top boat took a nice first step on that journey last Saturday as they opened 2007 with a victory over Navy, covering the 2,000-meter course on Lake Carnegie in 6:04.3, some 14 seconds ahead of the Midshipmen.
The void left by the seniors has prompted Jordan to take a more hands-on coaching approach this spring."I'm more engaged in the process," asserted Jordan, who has guided the Tigers to second place finishes at the IRA in each of the last two seasons. "Last year, I just tried to not get in their way. This year, I'm more involved; it's been fun."
As a result, Jordan believes his lineup this spring may be changing as the spring goes on. "We've changed training and selection due to the make-up of the team," explained Jordan. "We're working on basics and learning how to race. No group of guys has really separated themselves. We'll be moving guys from boat to boat, it will be a dynamic situation."
Princeton has been getting some dynamic leadership from its veteran holdovers, senior captain Chris Richbourg, classmate Will England, and junior Glenn Ochal.
"They have been doing a great job as leaders in an enthusiastic way," added Jordan. "They've taken themselves where they want to be and they've worked well with the younger guys."
In Jordan's view, starting the season with Navy was a good way for the rowers to get their feet wet. "The Academy is getting better," said Jordan. "Both of us are testing the waters, it is a good matchup."
While Jordan expects his team to hit some rough water this spring, he believes they'll ultimately be better for the experience. "The key is getting better as the season goes on," said Jordan, who sees plenty of help on the horizon due to the recruiting and coaching efforts of freshman coach Marty Crotty.
"You have to keep getting better each week; every week you have to learn. It's a young boat and they will have a disappointing race at some point. The key is how they respond; they can't let that hold them back."
Jordan, for his part, is confident that his top boat will develop into something special. "We have enough guys in each class to have a representative boat," said Jordan, whose team hosts Rutgers on April 7. "They are Princeton guys; they have no interest in being also-rans or being in the middle of the pack."
And if they can emulate some of the intensity displayed by last year's seniors, the Tigers could find themselves in their accustomed position at the front of the pack.
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