Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 29
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
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PERFECTIONISTS: Justin Teti, second from left, and his teammates on the Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity crew hone their technique in a training session this spring on Lake Carnegie. Earlier this month, Teti and the Tigers completed a dream season as they won the Temple Challenge Cup in the Henley Royal Regatta in England. The win culminated a perfect campaign for Princeton which won Eastern Sprints and Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) titles along the way.

Teti Ends PU Rowing Career on High Note; Helping Lightweight Crew to Henley Title

Bill Alden

Justin Teti didn’t get to stick around very long in his first appearance at the Henley Royal Regatta.

Rowing for Malvern Prep in 2005 as a high school senior, Teti’s boat was eliminated in the quarterfinals by a Dutch boat in the boys’ competition at the storied regatta held on the Thames River near London, England.

Earlier this month, Teti enjoyed the full Henley experience as the Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity boat rowed for the Temple Challenge Cup.

Culminating a perfect season, Teti and the Tigers prevailed in the head-to-head, single elimination competition, winning four races before edging the Brown University freshman heavyweights in the championship race.

Upon arriving in England, Teti got the feeling that the Tigers might have a fruitful stay.

“Greg [Princeton head coach Greg Hughes] was on top of things,” said Teti, who graduated from Princeton in June and enjoyed a senior season which saw the Tigers win the Eastern Sprints and Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) titles along the way.

“He made sure that we got here early, eight or nine days before the race started. We were practicing twice a day. We got to do a lot of pieces and work on our starts. We got to learn the landmarks on the course and figure out when to make our moves.”

Off the water, the Tigers were able to gain a comfort level as the team stayed with the Coleman family, which customarily hosts Princeton crews competing at Henley.

“It was our little corner of paradise,” said Teti, referring to the Coleman residence which is adjacent to a cricket club.

“We spent most of our time there; we didn’t spend much time in Henley village. We were there for the racing. We would practice at course and then come back to the Colemans. They were unbelievably accommodating; we had huge pasta dinners before races and the refrigerator was always open to us, which is not easy with 11 guys.”

It didn’t take long for Princeton to show that it wouldn’t be an easy out in the international competition.

The Tigers cruised through their first two races over the 2,112-meter course, beating the University of Bristol ‘A’ by 2 lengths and Newcastle University by 3 lengths.

In the quarterfinals, Teti and his teammates were pushed hard by a feisty boat from UC Dublin.

“The first big confidence builder was the win over the Irish boat,” said Teti, reflecting on Princeton’s 2 length victory over its Irish foes.

“They were very tenacious and very tough. Once we got up on them, they were still pushing. It was good facing a crew that attacked and attacked.”

The Tigers faced another major challenge in the semis when it took on an imposing A.S.R. Neurus crew from the Netherlands.

“They were the widest crew we faced; I didn’t realize how big they were until they got out of the boat,” said Teti of the Dutch crew which Princeton beat by of a length. “Our tallest guy is 6’2 and he was looking up at all of them. It was all about efficiency and racing savvy in beating those guys.”

Princeton needed all of its racing savvy to outduel the Brown freshman heavyweights in the championship race.

“We had an inkling that they were going to jump off the start and try to get the lead halfway and hold on with their guts and strength,” said Teti.

“We wanted to get a good start and draw them into a pace that was unsustainable for them. We got to the first barrier and they were up by a foot; I think they extended the lead to a seat or two. We took a push and got the lead and they were fighting us all the way. We took another push with 750 to go and they pushed back. I was thinking keep hanging in there, everyone in the boat was ‘hey we can win this thing.’”

After winning the title, Teti was hit with a flood of emotions. “It was too much to comprehend,” recalled Teti.

“I was so thankful; there were a lot of things that went into that. It wasn’t just about ERG scores or winter training. There were so many people working to help us, like the PURA (Princeton University Rowing Association).”

The group of people most responsible for the Henley win, though, were Teti and his senior classmates on the boat.

“It was a wonderful four years; we did it as a team,” asserted Teti. “All rowers look back and have memories of injuries or setbacks. We pushed through. Pushing through causes a little bit of pain but making that sacrifice and doing the right things, this was a super justification for those things.”

Although Teti and his classmates are going their separate ways, the bonds developed over the last four years will last a lifetime.

“I might not see some of these guys for a while but we will always have this season to look back on,” said Teti, who plans to take a short break from racing with an eye to eventually competing for the U.S. national program.

“No matter what, I know I can pick the phone up and we will be talking like we never left. I’ll definitely remain close to the guys, we had so much fun.”

Fun that culminated with a Henley trip that Teti will never forget.

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