Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 19
 
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

PERFECT STORM: The Princeton University men’s lightweight top varsity boat powers through a training session last week on Lake Carnegie. Last Sunday, the top-ranked Tigers remained undefeated this season as they won the Eastern Sprints championship regatta on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. Princeton will next be in action when it competes in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta in Sacramento, Calif. from June 4-6.

PU Men’s Lightweights Get Redemption, Overcoming Wind, Foes to Win Easterns

Bill Alden

The wind was howling across Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. as the Princeton University men’s lightweight crew competed in the Eastern Sprints last Sunday.

“There were tough conditions with winds of 30 m.p.h.,” said Princeton lightweight head coach Greg Hughes.

“It was intense. One of the tough things about our sport is that it is outside and you can run into things you can’t prepare for. It was a direct cross wind, wrapping around the boats and pushing them around the course.”

But after finishing second in last year’s Easterns and producing its second straight undefeated regular season, Princeton’s top varsity boat was not going to get pushed off its course for post-season glory.

“I think they were excited to have a second chance,” said Hughes, a former Princeton lightweight rowing star who is in his fourth year at the helm of the program.

“They knew how close they came last year and that they didn’t do everything they wanted to do.”

The top-ranked Tigers served notice that they wanted to do something special as they won their first heat by 2.14 seconds, clocking a time of 5:48.76 over the 2,000-meter course with Georgetown next at 5:50.90.

“It was a good start,” said Hughes in reflecting on the win in the heat. “We were in play, that’s all you can hope for. It’s a big race and there is a lot that goes on.”

Princeton came up with a big race in the final as they posted a time of 5:41.43 to take the title, the program’s first since 2003. Harvard placed second in 5:43.99 with Georgetown third at 5:48.39.

“It was a great race for those guys; they really executed their plan,” said Hughes, in assessing his top boat’s performance in the grand final.

“Every boat they raced against had their best effort so they had to race hard; they are good racers.”

With the Easterns being a six-boat race as opposed the dual-meet format of regular season competition, the Tigers had to employ their racing savvy to come out on top.

“In dual meets, it’s act and react to the opposition because it’s one-on-one,” explained Hughes.

“When you get to this racing, you have to change the approach. If you are reacting all the way down the course, you won’t go your fastest. They had to put in the blinders to get going as fast as they needed and they still picked up on the moves from the other boats.”

Hughes was moved to see his rowers follow in his footsteps and experience the thrill of winning the Easterns.

“It was one of my proudest moments in coaching; I felt like I had come full circle,” said Hughes, who rowed on an Eastern championship boat in 1996 and noted that his first phone message on Sunday came from his former coach and predecessor Joe Murtaugh.

“I came to Princeton for the opportunity to get something like that. To see these guys come to Princeton and row for me and get the same thing was great.”

The team’s senior rowers have maximized opportunity in their final college campaign.

“It exemplifies the impact they have had on this program and boathouse,” added Hughes, whose group of seniors features Justin Teti, Tom Pawlett, Dave Krueger, Alex Dillon, and cox Dave Cleveland.

“It shows what four years can do for a rower. As a freshman coach, I wouldn’t think about that. I would try to get as much as I could out of my rowers that year. This was the first experience for me having a class start with my program and seeing how they can mature and develop. It is rewarding to see that. After last season, it is really special. It is not an easy result to get.”

Princeton will go after one more reward in this special spring as it competes in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta in Sacramento, Calif. from June 4-6.

“It is fun to have some time and get back to basics,” said Hughes. “During racing season, you are doing a lot of preparation. We can go back to training and log some miles. It is good old fashioned rowing.”

Hughes knows it won’t be easy for his rowers to fashion one last triumph this season.

“It would be great to come up with a result,” said Hughes.

“We know everyone is getting closer. They are jelling and getting faster and we have to improve.”

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