Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 23
 
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
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ENGLISH CLASS: Princeton University women’s lightweight senior star and captain Caroline English pulls her way through a recent training session on Lake Carnegie. This weekend, English will be looking to end her Princeton career in style as the second-ranked Tigers pursue the national title at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championship regatta on Cooper River in Camden.

PU Women’s Lightweight Walk-On English Hoping to Ride Out With IRA National Title

Bill Alden

After competing in lacrosse, volleyball, and swimming in high school, Caroline English arrived at Princeton University in 2004 knowing that she wasn’t going to play any of those sports at the college level.

Having not been recruited by any Princeton coaches, English had the option of enjoying a little free time in the afternoons. But the prospect of being idle scared English.

“I was used to having that 4 o’clock slot taken up,” said English, a native of Atlanta who attended the Lovett School. “I was nervous about not having anything to do at that time.”

Seeing that the Princeton crew program was recruiting walk-on candidates during freshman registration, English decided to take the plunge and went out for the PU women’s lightweight crew.

Once she hit the water at Lake Carnegie, English was more concerned about staying out of the way of the program’s more accomplished rowers.

“You have some of the top recruits in the nation,” said English. “I didn’t want to slow them down at the same time we were learning the sport.”

English proved to be a quick learner, making the program’s top boat by the fall of her sophomore year. As a junior, the neophyte turned into a hardened competitor who helped Princeton finish second in both the Eastern Sprints and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta.

This spring, English has served as the lightweight captain, leading Princeton to an undefeated regular season and a second place finish to Wisconsin at the Eastern Sprints.

Having graduated this Tuesday, English will look to cap her Princeton career this weekend at the IRA on Cooper River in Camden by turning the tables on Wisconsin as the second-ranked Tigers pursue the national title.

English knows that she wouldn’t be in position to contend for a national title without the encouragement she got from last year’s seniors.

“We had a great group of seniors last year, they had helped mold me,” asserted English. “They were my role models and they were great rowers.”

It didn’t take long for English to realize that Princeton had some great rowers in this year’s top boat.

“Right off the bat we were surprised with the speed that we had in the fall,” said English, who has rowed in the boat’s No. 6 seat this spring.

“In the spring, we started taking off. We were encouraged a lot by our practices. We were breaking records for the 1,500 meters and two miles. We realized this group of athletes is faster than the boat last year.”

Princeton head coach Paul Rassam realized right off the bat four years ago that English had what it took to be a special rower.

“Caroline was a really natural talent,” said Rassam. “I think it was the combination of sports she had played before; she was a volleyball player and a swimmer. She had hand-eye coordination and endurance; she took to the sport right away. She had the intangibles. She has boat feel, a sense of flow, and the ability to make a boat feel good about itself.”

English has also brought special leadership qualities to the top boat. “She is a great listener,” added Rassam.

“She knows how to separate whether someone is tired or frustrated or whether they have a legitimate gripe. Her teammates are confident that she will listen to them and give them good advice.”

Handling her captain’s duties has come naturally to English. “It’s been awesome; it’s not really a hard job,” maintained English.

“We have a very dedicated team; the biggest thing is to keep in touch with everyone. People move in and out of different boats; you have to be a liaison between the rowers and the coaches and make sure to not take things too personally. We have five other seniors; they are leaders too.”

English and her classmates are doing everything they can to lead the way as Princeton prepares for its IRA title shot.

“We are racing as much as possible within the team and also against the men,” said English.

“Wisconsin beat us in the last five strokes so we are looking to have a complete 2k and lay everything on the line. It is definitely bittersweet; four years of dedication to rowing comes down to this. We are excited to see what we can do.”

Rassam, for his part, is excited to have a rower and leader like English in his top boat.

“Caroline has been to a couple of IRAs; she has the experience and knows what it takes,” said Rassam.

“At the IRA, it’s about being game on race day and not being afraid to take it out hard. You can be too tactical and conservative and then find yourself behind.”

In Rassam’s view, English and her classmates have helped change the game in their sport.

“Caroline and her fellow seniors have helped the sport of women’s lightweight crew not just at PU but across the board,” said Rassam.

“Their lasting legacy is the speed that is now required to win. In the last race, Wisconsin had it but these seniors have been pushing the envelope.”

While English will be disappointed if her class doesn’t add a national title to its legacy this weekend, she has no regrets about her decision to spend her college afternoons on Lake Carnegie.

“The boathouse is my home away from home at school,” asserted English who will be working with Moses Ma Group Partners (MMGP), a New York City financial consulting firm and is shooting to run in the New York City marathon this fall.

“I have come to the realization that if we get second, you can’t let that be overwhelming. You think about the friendships and how rowing has helped you in your life to balance activities. I can’t imagine my Princeton experience without rowing, I’m blessed to be at a school where they encourage walk-ons. Every time you put on the uniform with the ‘P’ on your back, it is a great thing.”

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