Tiger Women's Lightweight Crew 2nd at IRA, Ending 5-Year National Championship Streak
By Bill Alden
The Princeton University women's lightweight crew entered last weekend's Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championship regatta as the five-time defending national champion.
The Tigers left the competition at Cooper River in Camden in the unaccustomed position as runners-up to new national champion Wisconsin.
Although Princeton failed to keep its title streak alive, the top boat kept intact its tradition of pushing itself to the limit.
"Any disappointment I have is secondary to the pride and excitement that our rowers maintained their aggressive and positive attitude," said Princeton women's lightweight head coach Heather Smith as she reflected on the team's performance at the IRA regatta.
"There is no dishonor in losing to Wisconsin. They were a great boat and they were faster than us. Winning five years in a row was a good run. We can't be disappointed with that kind of record."
Coming into the regatta, Smith knew her rowers faced an uphill battle since the Tigers had placed third at the Eastern Sprints in mid-May behind Wisconsin and Harvard-Radcliffe. In an effort to make up that gap, Smith juggled her lineup for the IRA competition.
"I made some changes to try to get some more speed, acknowledged Smith, who is in her seventh year guiding the Tiger women's lightweight program. "I think they had a big challenge facing Wisconsin and Radcliffe."
While it wasn't smooth sailing at first at the IRA with the new line-up, Smith was happy with how things came together as the competition unfolded.
"Our first race Friday morning was disappointing," said Smith. "We did well in the second race Friday and then in the grand final Saturday. They rose to the occasion nicely."
Smith was particularly heartened by how the displaced rowers reacted to being pulled out of the top boat. "The two people who were moved (Lu Lu and Uta Oberdoerster) showed a mature and positive attitude," asserted Smith, whose crew did beat perennial nemesis Harvard-Radcliffe by more than a second in the grand final.
"They kept team priorities first and didn't act selfishly. They really helped the boat set its sights on what it had to do."
In Smith's view, the boat's effort last weekend was emblematic of its approach throughout the spring. "The boat responded with a good attitude," added Smith. "It dealt well with adversity this season."
With a solid freshman class having learned the ropes this spring under freshman coach Linda Loyd, the future looks bright for the lightweight program.
"Linda Loyd did a tremendous job, not only coaching the freshmen but being very accommodating when we moved some of the freshmen to the top boat," said Smith.
"We have a whole crop of freshmen moving up. There could be as many as eight who make an impact. Next year should be good."