Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 31
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
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(Photo provided courtesy of the Hun School)

JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT: Jason Elefant rows this spring in his final season for the Hun School crew team. This week, Elefant will be representing the U.S. as an alternate at the 2011 World Rowing Junior Championships in Eton, Great Britain. Shortly after his return from the U.K., Elefant will be starting his college career for the Princeton University men’s lightweight team.

Hun Alum Elefant On U.S. Team for Junior Worlds, Getting Special Preparation for PU Rowing Career

Bill Alden

Although Jason Elefant spent just a few weeks at the 2010 selection camp for the U.S. Junior National rowing team as a last-minute fill-in, he gained a lot from the experience.

“I got to understand how the system works; I got used to the sheer volume of work and the intensity of practices,” said Elefant, a recent Hun School graduate who will be starting his college career for the Princeton University men’s lightweight team this fall.

“Everyday, you could get seat raced. In high school or club, you may seat race once or twice in the beginning of the season and then you have your seat. You had to be on your game everyday and go all out.”

Utilizing that knowledge in this summer’s selection camp, Elefant raced his way on to the squad, getting chosen as an alternate to represent the U.S. at the 2011 World Rowing Junior Championships which will be taking place in Eton, Great Britain from August 3-7.

“I did good work in the identification camp; I was proactive, reaching out to the coaches,” said Elefant

“I just wanted to have a shot at making the team. The training was held at the Kent School in Connecticut. It was good because we had the river to ourselves and more time between the practices to recover. It was an overall better experience for me. I knew people from last year. I was born in 1993 so I was one of the older guys there.”

While Elefant may have been one of the senior members of the team, he faced a challenge as one of the smaller rowers on hand.

“I am 6’2, 165 pounds,” noted Elefant. “Some of the guys are 6’5, 200 and some guys are 6’2 185 and then you have me.”

Elefant acknowledged that he was initially less than thrilled to be named as an alternate but he quickly realized that he plenty to be happy about.

“I was a little bummed at first because I wanted to be on one of the boats but it is too good an opportunity to pass up,” said Elefant.

“I get to train with the team; it is great to be integrated into the team. Last year, I followed the team from a distance, this year I get to stay. I talked to Evans [Hun crew coach Geoff Evans] he told me if I say no, I will never have a chance to row but if I say yes I might have a chance.”

Elefant’s adaptability helped give him the chance to make the squad. “A lot of it has to do with my versatility, I can jump into any boat,” added Elefant who is the portside substitute for the U.S. contingent which will include an eight, a coxed four, a straight four and a pair. “The other alternate and I row as a pair in the daily practices.”

Elefant jumped at the opportunity to get into rowing early in his Hun career. “I started in the spring of my freshman year at Hun in 2008,” recalled Elefant.

“In the winter I was doing intramurals and doing weightlifting. I had some friends from soccer who were training for crew and doing their preseason conditioning. I joined them and it was fun. It looked like a good team thing.”

Crew turned to be fun from the beginning for Elefant. “At the start, I was doing well on the ERGs (ergometer rowing machines) in comparison to the other guys,” said Elefant. “The first row on our spring trip that year was a big thing for me. I thought this was awesome.”

The influence of head coach Evans played a big part in Elefant’s development as a rower. “He was more than a coach; he was a college counselor and an advisor,” said Elefant.

“In terms of being an actual coach he was great, he really helped me technically. At Hun we don’t pull the biggest ERG scores, we have to row really well to beat some of the big teams that we have beaten. He never let me settle for anything less than my best.”

For Elefant, a Presidential Scholar and National Merit Finalist as well as a star rower, Princeton turned out to be the best college choice.

“In the fall of my junior year, Chris Callahan at Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) asked me why I hadn’t reached out to colleges yet,” said Elefant, who competed for MJRC in Hun’s offseason as a junior and a senior.

“He told me to go on line and start filling out the recruiting forms to get my name out there. We had a lot of success that fall season and I realized that I was getting pretty good and I liked rowing at a high level. I took four visits; I went to Cornell, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. The easy transition and familiarity of Princeton made it feel like a natural fit.”

Elefant got a chance to familiarize himself with his future surroundings as the U.S. team wound up its training in Princeton.

“We were at the Kent School for 40 days then we moved to Princeton,” said Elefant. “We have been training on Lake Carnegie and staying on campus. We did a final 2k test and we had our fastest times. The coaches are confident. It is the first time I have been out of the eastern time zone so I am really excited.”

As Elefant looks forward to his freshman campaign at Princeton, he and his classmates are bringing plenty of confidence.

“We want to win the freshman 8 at Easterns; we have been communicating on Facebook all summer,” said Elefant.

“We want to be good from the get-go. I am only one on the junior national team but some of the guys were in club nationals and Canadian Henley.”

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