Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 30
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
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ACROSS THE POND: The Princeton University men's heavyweight crew blasts through the water during their superb 2006 season which saw the top boat win the Eastern Sprints and take the Ladies Plate Challenge at the Henley Royal Regatta in England. One of the members of that crew, recent Princeton grad Will England, is heading to Scotland this week to compete for the U.S. men's eight in the U-23 World Rowing Championships at Strathclyde, Scotland.

PU Crew Standout England Heading to Scotland Aiming to Help U.S. Men Prevail at U-23 Worlds

Bill Alden

In his first couple of years at the Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, Will England's main athletic outlets were soccer and lacrosse.

But at the urging of his older sister, Hannah, a rower at Princeton University, England decided to give crew a shot.

After hitting the water, it didn't take long for England to realize that his athletic destiny had been forever changed.

"I enjoyed it immediately," said England. "More so than any sport I had played, there was a direct correlation between the amount of work you put in and how good you can get. The fitness component is key, the better shape you are in, the better you get."

England's hard work led him to follow in his sister's footsteps as he joined the Princeton rowing program in 2003.

In his junior season, he helped the Tiger men's heavyweight crew win the Eastern Sprints, take second at the IRA national championship, and then prevail at the Ladies Plate Challenge prestigious Henley Royal regatta in England.

After the Henley triumph, he joined the U.S. national program and helped the U.S. eight to a fifth place finish in the U-23 World Championships in Belgium.

This week, recent Princeton graduate England will be in action for the U.S. where he will compete in the eight in the U-23 worlds at Strathclyde, Scotland.

In assessing his development into a national class rower, England points to his freshman year at Princeton as a key turning point.

"College rowing was a lot more intense," recalled England. "When I got here, that's when things really took off for me. We had a real good freshman coach [Greg Hughes] who was good at training rowers who wanted to work hard."

England certainly learned a lot about work ethic from rowing with the heavyweights' Class of 2006."The senior class was great, I latched on to them and I'm still close to them," said England.

"That whole year was great. We won the Head of Charles in the fall; we were the first college team to win that in a while. Everyone was expecting us to win every race that year; it was disappointing to lose at the nationals. We went over to the Henley and it was a lot of fun. That was a great way for those guys and the boat to say goodbye."

This past spring, England tried to set a similar example as he helped the program through a transition year.

"We had only two guys back and I was the only returning senior," said England. "We had a young group; you could say that we exceeded expectations. It was good and bad; there were some different experiences. It was an interesting balance, trying to get people to do what you want them to do but not have them resent you."

England has certainly not resented getting the chance to get exposed to the top U.S. eight as his U-23 boat customarily trains against the senior national team boat.

"It's like being the junior varsity boat," said England with a laugh. "It really helps, it simplifies things in a way. They show us the next level of speed. It's great to go against guys that have won an Olympic gold medal."

The U-23 rowers have certainly gotten the chance this summer to maximize their speed. "U.S. Rowing invited the college guys to a training camp in Hanover, N.H. and we spent two weeks in the woods and they picked the team," said England. "We came back to New Jersey 10 days ago. We have been going twice a day, spending two hours on the water in each session."

England is hopeful that there will be a direct correlation between that work and the boat's ultimate success in Scotland.

"We're going over to win," asserted England. "We definitely have the capacity to do it. It's a matter of whether we can put things together."

England has certainly shown a capacity for hard work and success since he turned to rowing.

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