Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 23
 
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
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(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

LEADING LIGHTS: The Princeton University men’s lightweight first varsity crew hits high gear on its way to winning the Eastern Sprints last month. This past weekend, the Tigers completed a title double for the second straight season as they won the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta at Cooper River in Cherry Hill. Princeton posted course-record time of 5:36.07 for the 2,000-meter lay-out as it held off Navy and Harvard to win the national crown.

PU Men’s Lightweights Peak at Right Time; Setting Course Record in Winning IRA Again

Bill Alden

PU Men’s Lightweights Peak at Right Time; Setting Course Record in Winning IRA Again

When the Princeton University men’s lightweight first varsity crew lost to Harvard in its regular season finale on May 1, the defeat snapped the Tigers’ 20-race winning streak.

But at the same time, the setback lit the fire for another superb postseason run by defending Eastern Sprints and national champion Princeton.

“It was a good trigger; it was a natural motivator for the next six weeks,” said Princeton first-year head coach Marty Crotty. “It gave the guys some extra energy; they made something out of it.”

Two weeks after the loss to Harvard, Princeton showed energy and grit in beating the Crimson by more than two seconds to win the 2010 Eastern Sprints.

“We went back to the drawing board instead of moving ahead,” said Crotty in reflecting on the triumph in the Eastern Sprints. “The sprints wasn’t our cleanest race but we showed lots of passion.”

Last Saturday at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championship regatta at Cooper River in Cherry Hill, the Tigers cleaned everything up and defended their title in style, setting a course record of 5:36.07 as they held off Navy and Harvard to win the national crown.

“You see things in the IRA that you don’t see the rest of the season; you get rid of some clunkinesss and hit the level of speed you can only reach for a little while,” said Crotty, whose top boat’s title extended the Princeton athletic program’s streak of having at least one team or individual national champion to 24 straight years.

“You let them rest a little bit to give them the opportunity to do their best and hope they take the opportunity.”

With the IRA race format for the lightweights which features just a final and no heats, the Tigers had no room for error.

“I think it just comes naturally to these guys,” said Crotty, reflecting on the one-shot deal at the IRA competition. “You have to get it right the first time. You don’t have the ability to have a shaky heat and then correct mistakes. We talked about focus and staying relaxed.”

In an unusual move, Crotty had his team focus on a time as he told them before the race that clocking a 5:36 over the 2,000-meter course would give Princeton the national title.

“I thought with the perfect tailwind and the right lane, that’s the fastest we could go,” recalled Crotty.

“I had a number in my mind; if we go 5:36, no one is going to beat us. For that to actually happen is amazing. You don’t usually talk about times. I got to the awards dock after the race and someone told me the time and I couldn’t believe it. You never see that.”

Crotty certainly liked the execution he saw from his boat in the race. “It shows that they got out of the blocks well, you have to do that to reach a top speed faster than you have gone all year,” explained Crotty.

“Then you have to maintain it. We put some tactics in there to keep that speed going. We had a nice third 500; that gave them space enough to hold off Navy.”

In formulating his championship tactics, Crotty cited the influence of the other coaches in the Princeton boathouse.

“I have a great support network; Greg Hughes is an unbelievable mentor,” said Crotty, a former Tiger crew star who joins heavyweight coach Hughes as one of the few in their sport to win national titles as a rower and a coach.

“Coming into this year, no one stayed at arm’s length. All the head coaches and assistant coaches are helpful. Our final was the very last race of the year and we all really shared in it.”

Crotty was happy to see senior stars Jack Leonard and James Donovan earn a title in their final college race.

“Jack was an excellent captain and a great leader,” said Crotty, whose top boat also included juniors Michael Perl, Robin Prendes, Christian Klein, Barrett LaChance, and Nick Donald together with sophomores Gianthomas Volpe and Alex Rubert. “Donovan gave the boat a ton of juice and natural ability.”

In Crotty’s view, the boat might have the juice to achieve an IRA three-peat.

“I am already thinking about what’s coming up and how the guys developed this year,” said Crotty, whose program will be sending a four to England later this month to compete in the Henley Royal Regatta near London. “We have some good rising seniors and juniors. I am really excited.”

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