Tiger Men's Heavyweight Crew 2nd at IRAs, Summons Up Gutsy Effort in Pushing Harvard
By Bill Alden
It was a momentous effort that could have depleted the Princeton University men's heavyweight crew both emotionally and physically. Meeting defending national champion Harvard last Friday in the semifinals at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championship regatta at Cooper River in Camden, Princeton came within a whisker of finally overcoming their archrival and recent nemesis.
After losing to Harvard by more than six seconds in April and then closing the gap to 1.1 seconds in the Eastern Sprints in May, the Tigers came within 0.19 seconds of the Crimson.
Hitting the water a day later in the grand final, it would have been understandable if Princeton was a little drained and not at its best.
Instead, the Tigers summoned up the energy to battle Harvard tooth-and-nail one more time, leading the Crimson halfway through the race before getting edged by one last time this spring. Harvard covered the course in 5:31.68 while Princeton clocked a time of 5:32.94. In taking the silver, the Tigers outraced such crew powers as Cal and Washington.
Princeton head coach Curtis Jordan marveled at his boat's powers of recovery in the wake of Friday's near miss.
"Once you've poured your guts out, it's easy to back off and say I can't hurt myself again like that," said Jordan. "It is such a physical effort, they know that there is going to be a lot of discomfort. I think they raced great."
In Jordan's view, the four-round series with Harvard forced both crews to dig deep. "It says something for both boats," said Jordan.
"There was a lot of pressure on Harvard. If they had lost the final, that would've marred their outstanding season. For both boats to come out like that and race like they did showed a tremendous level of courage and commitment. To be able to repeat that effort as many times as required is great."
Princeton saved its best for last. "I thought we had a complete race," asserted Jordan, whose novice boat made its grand final at the IRA regatta and finished fifth.
"We had been working on some things and we accomplished them. Even after the semis, we made some adjustments. We had been behind Harvard at 1000 meters in the semis and we wanted to be ahead at that stage in the final. We did that but they responded with an outstanding third 500."
With Princeton producing its best effort, Jordan's hat is off to the Crimson.
"It takes real skill to execute that speed on demand," explained Jordan, whose top boat outraced every boat it faced this spring other than the Crimson. "Everytime we raced, they produced that speed. Harvard is just one second faster."
With seven out of nine members of his top boat returning, including a corps of standout juniors, Jordan feels his top boat can make up that second.
"I have high expectations," asserted Jordan, whose juniors won the Temple Cup title at the Henley Regatta in England in the summer after their freshman season. "Every team is different though. I have that core coming back. Harvard has its core coming back and Cal has some outstanding freshmen. It all depends on how we put things together."
After coming so close to a national title, the returning rowers should have a special motivation as they prepare for next season. "They'll be fuelled by that disappointment," said Jordan. "They want that gold medal. They will start working on that this summer with their training."
In going for that gold next season, the rowers would be wise to emulate the mentality developed by this spring's top boat.
"You can have the bodies and the preparation but it depends on how a team develops its psyche," added Jordan. "This year's group had a great outlook. It worked well together and developed a strong camaraderie."