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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

SMOOTH RIDE: Princeton-area products Tony Hack, left, and Scott Mardy take a break from the rigorous training that saw them earn seats this spring on the Princeton University top freshman heavyweight boat. Hack played ice hockey at Princeton Day School for one year before transferring to Deerfield Academy where he took up rowing. Mardy was a starter on the Hun School boys' basketball team and rowed all four years in Hun's crew program.
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Princeton Native Hack's Diligence Earns Him Spot in Tiger Frosh Crew

By Bill Alden

In the spring of 2002, Tony Hack joined the crew program at Deerfield Academy as a way to stay in shape for ice hockey.

The Princeton native, who had played hockey for Princeton Day School before departing for Massachusetts, soon discovered that he preferred rowing to skating.

Upon coming home to start his freshman year at Princeton University last fall, Hack turned his athletic focus exclusively to the water as he joined the Tigers' crew program.

After putting in hours and hours down at the boathouse, Hack earned himself a spot at the bow position on Princeton's top freshman heavyweight boat.

For Hack, crew has become a labor of love. "I think a lot of people look at rowing as a sport that's about brute force," said Hack as he recently reflected on his freshman year.

"But when you watch a really good boat do a piece, it's a beautiful thing to watch. To be in that boat when everything is clicking is great."

Hack acknowledged that excelling at the college level has required some physical adjustments. "It's a different sport with the volume of work here," explained Hack.

"I've only really rowed in the spring so that whole fall and winter training thing was new. On top of that I had to learn what training hard is and what pulling hard is. It's a whole new sport."

Once the racing season started, Hack's indoctrination to the world of college rowing intensified as he helped the freshman heavyweight boat earn third place at the Eastern Sprints in mid-May and sixth in the freshman grand final in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championship regatta at Camden last weekend.

"We've learned throughout the spring," added Hack, whose goal is to ultimately earn a spot in Princeton's top heavyweight boat.

"Every race, win or lose, we've been able to build on that. We had a rough period losing to Penn and Harvard. We built off that and then we came back to beat Yale. I'm proud of the bronze we got at the Easterns."

The coach of Princeton's freshman heavyweight crew program, Greg Hughes, is proud of how Hack has progressed. "I didn't have a ton of expectations for Tony because he was making such a big jump," said Hughes, noting that Deerfield is not a power in high school rowing circles.

"I thought he could go either way. He really had to fight his way onto the boat. It's rewarding to see kids like that who work hard and now they get to go out and compete."

Hack, for his part, has certainly found his crew experience to be rewarding. "It requires a lot of sacrifice but at the same time you get a lot out of it," said Hack with a smile.

"My best friends on campus are the guys in my boat. It's hard to imagine my day without practice."

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