Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 29
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
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WORLD CLASS: Madeline Davis, middle, strokes through a training session this spring with the Princeton University women’s lightweight varsity eight. Earlier this month, the recently graduated Davis made the U.S. Team for the FISA World Rowing Under-23 Championships in Racice, Czech Republic from July 23-26. Davis and Lindsay McAlpine of Brown will be competing in the lightweight doubles at the U-23 world regatta.

Overcoming Disappointing PU Crew Finale, Lightweight Star Davis Makes U-23 Worlds

Bill Alden

Things didn’t end on a high note for Madeline Davis as she rowed in her final regatta for the Princeton University women’s lightweight crew.

Competing in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta in Sacramento, Calif., senior captain Davis and the Tigers finished sixth in the grand final.

Although Davis was looking to end her career with a national title, she was able to find positives in Princeton’s journey to the IRA.

“It was bittersweet; despite the result it was a fantastic crew and a great year,” said Davis, the stroke of the first varsity eight. “I think we needed more power, the competition was tight.”

The West Chester, Pa. native, though, had another competitive outlet left this year as she had been invited to try out for the U.S. U-23 lightweight sculling program at a camp being held at the Vesper Boat Club on the Schuylkill River.

“I wasn’t ready to end on that note; we got back from the IRAs on Sunday and camp started the next Friday,” said Davis.

“It was nice to be back there; it was my high school boathouse. I was going back to my old stomping grounds; I was used to the location and used to the river.”

Combining with Lindsay McAlpine of Brown, Davis put the disappointment of Sacramento behind her as the pair won the lightweight doubles trial on Mercer Lake to qualify for the FISA World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Racice, Czech Republic from July 23-26.

For Davis, the victory in the trials which saw her and McAlpine come from behind to beat Emily Boucher and Liz Euiler proved to be memorable.

“It was one of the most challenging and most rewarding races I have ever had,” asserted Davis of the trials win which saw her boat win by 2.85 seconds after trailing halfway through the 2,000-meter race.

“They were ahead of us at 1,000 and the conditions were tough. There was a headwind and a real chop; it took a minute longer than we thought. Every move counted; if you had a bobble you would lose ground. We maintained our speed over the last 500; the whole margin came in the last 500. Our fitness carried us through; it was the best I have ever felt after the race. I was so excited, it was oh my God, I am on the U.S. national team.”

The team of Davis and McAlpine came together quickly. “I was sculling in the quadruple the first week of the camp and Lindsay was in the single,” recalled Davis, noting that the rowers were undergoing two-a-day sessions on the water at the camp.

“We tried a bunch of different lineups. We did some seat racing; we rowed together and we seemed to naturally blend.”

Despite the boat’s instant chemistry, Davis wasn’t overly confident coming into the trials.

“We were hoping that we had a good shot but we had only been together for a week and change,” said Davis.

“We didn’t have too many timed pieces together. We had watched videos with the coaches and we looked good. We were feeling good but we had no way to know how fast we could go.”

Now that Davis and McAlpine have shown they have good speed, they will get a chance to further bond as they prepare for the U-23 world championship regatta.

“The real training is starting now; we are doing a lot of pieces,” said Davis, whose Vesper club is helping raise funds for the boat and its international competition by accepting donations through its website at fundraising.php. “It is great to have the lineup set and really focus on getting faster.”

The boat will have to go faster if it is to make an impact in the world of sculling, the discipline where the rowers use two oars as opposed to sweep which sees the athletes employ one oar.

“We know what the results were last year; the U.S. double got 12th of 15th,” said Davis.

“We would like to continue to improve. U.S. sculling lags behind sweep, particularly at the U-23 level since so many college rowers are involved and it is hard to change in two weeks.”

But for Davis, competing for the U.S. at an international championship is the culmination of a process that has taken years.

“I have been in camp for a month and there is only so much progress you can make but I have really been working for this for eight years,” said Davis.

“Whether it is in the front of your mind or not, every practice and every training session helps you toward that dream.”

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