Competing at the 2012 NCAA championships at nearby Mercer Lake, Molly Hamrick and her teammates on the Princeton University women’s varsity open 8 were hoping for some home cooking.
Instead, Princeton ended the regatta burning with frustration as it placed fourth in the grand finals, finishing 7.18 seconds behind champion Virginia.
“It was disappointing, it was lackluster,” said Hamrick, reflecting on the 2012 NCAA competition.
“It gave us motivation for this season. It fired us up to work. We had to start working hard in the summer; we all kept in contact even though we were all over the country.
That hard work paid dividends earlier this month as the Tiger varsity 8 won the grand final at the Ivy Championships. Princeton clocked a time of 6:29.961 over the 2,000-meter course on Cooper River in Camden, N.J. with Yale second in 6:36.859 and Radcliffe taking third in 6:41.108.
“All seven other Ivies were absolute contenders; we had no expectations,” said senior stroke Hamrick.
“If we rowed our race and put together our best piece of the year, we could win and that is what we did.”
This weekend, Hamrick and the Tigers will be looking to put together some more good racing as they compete in the 2013 NCAA championship regatta in Indianapolis, Ind. from May 30-June 1.
Hamrick brings some championship experience to her final college regatta as she helped Princeton win the NCAA grand final in her sophomore season.
“I remember there were a lot of nerves and lot of excited energy,” said Hamrick, recalling the 2011 NCAAs.
“We knew that we needed to keep our cool and row our race. Cal made a move on us but we were able to hold them off. We were very excited for the seniors, they had worked so hard and seen such improvement.”
For Hamrick, a native of Tampa, Fla., an important step in her improvement as a rower came when she first competed for the U.S. junior national program.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Hamrick, who helped her Plant High crew win 2009 Florida state title and the Southeast Regional championship.
“I went to China after my sophomore year in high school. It was awesome to be surrounded by people who loved the sport as much as I did. It takes a lot, you spend your entire summer rowing and you are practicing three times a day.”
Hamrick also learned a lot about perseverance from the national experience.
“We came in third in China,” said Hamrick. “We were disappointed, we thought we could do better. We stayed in touch with each other over the year. We got the gold in Austria the next year. It showed when you set your mind to something and absolutely work as hard as you can, you can accomplish it.”
Applying that work ethic upon her arrival at Princeton in 2009, Hamrick moved up to the varsity 8 by the spring of her freshman year.
“Making the varsity boat was something I hoped to do as a freshman,” said Hamrick.
“I rowed in the 2V in the fall. Our captains Sarah Hendershot and Ariel Frost were great leaders, they took the freshmen under their wing and taught us about working hard, mental toughness, and perseverance.”
Now that Hamrick is a team captain along with classmates Heidi Robbins and Liz Hartwig, she is looking to emulate Hendershot and Frost.
It has caused me to always think about my actions and be a role model for the team,” said Hamrick, reflecting on being a captain. “It has great being captains with Liz and Heidi, we have helped each other.”
In Hamrick’s view, the senior class has helped the program collectively. “I think all eight seniors have a sense of urgency,” said Hamrick, whose classmates include Nicole Bielawski, Gabby Cole, Sarah Kushma, Astrid Wettstein, and Sarah Wiley in addition to Hartwig and Robbins.
“We want to make every stroke and every practice matter. There are eight different personalities but we all click. The team would not be where we are without the seniors.”
Now the team is hoping to build on its Ivy success as it competes in Indianapolis. “I think that win was definitely a confidence builder,” said Hamrick.
“We know that Indianapolis will be a new ballgame. We need to refine things, and never be taking off a stroke. We have to keep the positive mentality. We have to keep our cool, stay confident, and row our race. We are excited to get out there on the course and see where we stand.”
Hamrick, for her part, is excited to continue rowing after she graduates from Princeton.
“I have been doing this for eight years,” said Hamrick, who was recently chosen to take part in the USRowing Under 23 national team selection camp.
“I don’t see myself quitting any time soon. I want to see where this will play out. I see myself as a person who when challenged will happily accept that.”