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Vol. LXII, No. 21
 
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
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BRIGHT LIGHTS: Rowers on the Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity crew push through a recent workout on Lake Carnegie. Last Sunday, the Tigers finished second to Cornell in the Eastern Sprints held at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. The Tigers will conclude their season by competing in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta from June 5-7 at Cooper River in Camden.

PU Men’s Lightweight Crew 2nd at Easterns, Setback Intensifies Hunger for National Title

Bill Alden

Last spring, there were smiles all around as the Princeton University men’s varsity lightweight crew took third at the Eastern Sprints.

This past Sunday, top-ranked Princeton moved up to second at the Easterns but the rowers had a decidedly different reaction to their placing.

“There weren’t smiles, the guys have higher expectations,” said Princeton head coach Greg Hughes, whose top boat was edged by Cornell in the grand final. “They have set a higher standard and they are striving to achieve that.”

Getting in two weeks of training since taking first in the H-Y-P regatta on May 3 to end the regular season, the Tigers seemed poised to live up to their No. 1 ranking at the Easterns.

“We had some really good training leading up to sprints,” said Hughes, whose boat had fallen to Navy in the season opener on March 29 and then had topped its next six foes coming into last weekend.

“The guys were excited about their solid season and going into this as contenders. We were as ready as we could be.”

Hughes knew that two-time defending national champion Cornell, among others, would pose a formidable obstacle to his crew in the competition held on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass.

“When you get into the sprints, everybody knows each other and it’s six-lane racing,” said Hughes, whose boat had topped Cornell in the regular season.

“We knew we had our hands full with Cornell, they are the two-time defending national champions and they are really good. Our guys wanted to win it but they knew that in our league, the ranking moves around and the arrow was pointing at us after the last race.”

Princeton looked very much like the top-ranked boat as it beat Cornell by 1.8 seconds in the semifinal heat.

“In the heats, the races are tight enough,” added Hughes. “You have to qualify and you have to have your best race. You can’t just cruise at this level of competition. We had a good race in the heat and so did they.”

The Tigers gave it their all in the heat of the final. “It is a different feeling; there is so much emotion and excitement that goes into it,” said Hughes.

“The intensity at the beginning is something; the crews tend to throw it out there and see where the chips may fall. We all did that. Cornell took a look at what the others did and prepared a race plan that was strong. They had a big day.”

Princeton will be looking to have a big day as it competes in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta from June 5-7 at Cooper River in Camden.

“We’ll stay with what we have been doing, it has gotten us a long way,” said Hughes, whose top boat includes James Donovan at stroke, Taylor Washburn at No. 7, Solon Wayne Aposhain at No. 6, Tom Paulett at No. 5, Justin Teti at No. 4, Jack Leonard at No. 3, Dave Krueger at No. 2, Joe Vogel at bow, and Sarah Sherman at cox.

“It [the loss to Cornell] may be good for us like the Navy loss. It wasn’t our best race; the guys know they need to be better in that situation. You are never happy when you don’t come out on top but our guys realize that is part of the game.”

In Hughes’ view, last year’s satisfaction at Easterns could lead to some additional hunger as the boat gets ready for the IRAs.

“Last year we came away from sprints with third and we were happy with ourselves,” recalled Hughes.

“We underprepared for the IRAs. We have guys back who will remember that and they know we have to push harder. They know they have had a strong season and they are excited to have one last chance to show what they can do.”

If Princeton can push itself to a higher level at the IRAs, there will be smiles all around.

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