Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 19
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
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(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

OPEN SEASON: The Princeton University women’s open crew first varsity boat heads to victory in action earlier this spring. Last Sunday, the top-ranked and undefeated Tigers remained perfect as they won the Eastern Sprints title. Princeton will look to run the table when it competes in the NCAA Championships from May 27-29 in Sacramento, Calif.

Learning From Last Year’s Disappointment, No. 1 PU Open Crew Wins Eastern Sprints

Bill Alden

Last spring, the Princeton University women’s open crew first varsity boat ran the table in the regular season, posting a 12-0 record.

Bringing a No. 2 national ranking into the postseason, the Tigers were disappointed with how things ended up, though, as they took second at the Eastern Sprints and third in the grand final at the NCAA championship regatta.

The 2011 regular season turned into a virtual carbon copy of last year as the Tigers have gone 13-0 and risen to No. 1 in the national polls.

Coming into last Sunday’s Eastern Sprints on Cooper River in Cherry Hill, Princeton was looking to honor its ranking.

“We learned some lessons from last year,” said Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny. “It was one of the best; it was filled with victory and defeat.”

Those lessons were burned into the souls of the first boat’s seniors. “I think the senior class provided leadership,” said Dauphiny, referring to team captain Michaela Strand together with Lauren Wilkinson, Emily Reynolds, and Ashton Brown.

“I really credit last year’s senior class. Our captains, Sara Hendershot and Ari Frost, instilled a sense of overall team where everyone feels they have a role in the success of the group and it is important to do well at many levels. This group learned that.”

This year’s group outdid its mentors, taking first in the Eastern Sprints, cruising past nemesis and runner-up Brown by more than four seconds.

With the experience of 15 seasons at the helm of the Tiger women’s open program, Dauphiny wasn’t taking anything for granted coming into the grand final.

“When you get into the championships; it is a whole new ball game,” said Dauphiny.

“I didn’t know what to expect in the final. We posted the same time as Brown in the heat. We hadn’t seen them in a while and we knew they had improved their speed. It looked like Yale, Dartmouth, and Radcliffe were better. I have a tremendous amount of respect for our competition; it is part of the reason that we have gotten faster.”

The first varsity showed its speed as it covered the 2,000-meter course in 6:20.48, well ahead of the 6:24.61 posted by runner-up Brown.

“The margins of the season don’t apply to the championships,” said Dauphiny. “I figured it would be tight, I was surprised by the margin.”

Dauphiny was surprised by the dominance displayed by her rowers across the board as Princeton also placed first in second varsity eight, third varsity eight, and varsity four grand finals.

“It meant a lot to the varsity and the whole team,” said Dauphiny. “I think 2002 was the last time we won a team title.”

The success from top to bottom results from a special chemistry among the rowers.

“We knew that if the team was strong, the varsity would be strong,” said Dauphiny.

“They are supportive even as they are competitive with each other. There is a very good team attitude; I couldn’t be more proud of how they handled things last weekend and all season. A tremendous amount of the credit has to go to my assistant coaches, Helen Betancourt and Kristin Haraldsdottir.”

The Tiger first varsity will now be looking to end their tremendous season with victory in the NCAA Championships which will be held from May 27-29 in Sacramento, Calif.

“Right now, the focus is on getting through final exams,” said Dauphiny, who guided her 2006 first varsity to an undefeated season and the NCAA crown.

“I am glad that we are No. 1 but the rankings don’t mean much. We have proven that we are the best in the east but crews out west like Cal and Stanford are good. Some of the eastern boats went out there earlier in the season and didn’t fare well. This crew is special; we have a good mix of experience and youth.”

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