With her family history, Alex Morss seemed destined to end up at Princeton University.
Both of her parents are Princeton alums along with her grandfather, an aunt, and an uncle.
But as a star soccer player and rower at the Groton School (Mass.), Morss had mixed feelings about following the family tradition. “Initially I didn’t want to look at Princeton because everyone had gone there,” said Morss.
Morss had a chance to attend Williams College where she could compete in both soccer and crew or she could come to Princeton and just do rowing.
“I visited Princeton and I realized that I would really like it,” said Rassam. “I really liked the lightweight crew coach Paul Rassam and the team.”
In the end, Morss added to her family legacy, deciding to attend Princeton and focus on rowing. Morss emerged as a star and captain for the Princeton lightweight program.
Last Sunday, she ended her Tiger career by helping the varsity 8 take fifth in the grand final at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta on Lake Natoma in Sacramento, Calif.
In reflecting on her Princeton years, Morss views her rowing experience as a major highlight.
“I think that the boathouse and crew had been one of the fantastic parts of my Princeton years,” said Morss, whose father Stephen, was a lightweight rower for the Tigers.
“I really enjoyed being in the 8. It is one thing to be fast on the erg (ergometer), it is another thing to have eight people working together, getting connected.”
Coming in as a freshman in 2009, Morss worked hard to make an impact. “They had given us summer workouts and I did everything,” recalled Morss.
“I was in pretty good shape when I got to Princeton. I felt like it was a pretty smooth transition.
Things went very smoothly in Morss’ sophomore year as the Tigers won the Eastern Sprints and placed second at the IRAs, narrowly losing to Stanford in the grand final.
“I learned how to scull that summer and having a complete year under my belt gave me a better idea of the college scene,” said Morss.
“We went to the Head of Charles and had a good race. The workouts were harder; the boat had a lot of speed. Winning sprints was so great. The great thing was the a day before the final someone had to leave the boat and we had a new lineup. We had one day to practice with the lineup. The seniors were such great leaders; they made sure that we still raced well.”
Morss’ junior campaign didn’t go so well as the Tigers underwent a rebuilding season, taking fifth in both the Eastern Sprints and the IRA regatta.
“That was really hard; I had an injury and was out most of the fall; another captain had an injury and was out most of the fall,” said Morss.
“We pretty much had to start over in the winter. The attitude and determination was there. It took a little time. We only had eight people but we were still pretty competitive. We kept getting faster, no one gave up. A lot of it was attitude, the season could have been a disaster. We only had three returners and we had a novice cox. We kept fighting.”
Last summer, Morss took her fighting spirit to the international stage as she competed at the U-23 World Championships in Trakai, Lithuania in the U.S. women’s lightweight single sculls.
“That was a lot of fun, I wasn’t even planning on trying out for the team,” said Morss, who placed 15th overall at the regatta.
“I was working in Princeton last summer and my high school coach said I should try out. I borrowed a single and I went to the trials. I was able to get a couple of weeks off from the lab to compete.”
While Morss would have preferred to finish higher at the U-23 competition, the experience proved to be great preparation for her final college campaign.
“It was competing at a whole new level,” said Morss. “You know the other teams in college and the boats aren’t so deep. You see the top people in the world and you see how good they are and how hard you have to work. I am so glad I did that and randomly went to the trials. I was motivated to get to a higher level. I saw how important technique is. People are pretty similar physically but good technique can save you seconds.”
As the team captain for Princeton this season, Morss tried to pass on her experience to her younger teammates.
“I thought about other captains and what worked and didn’t work for them,” said Morss.
“I am always someone who works hard. I am not loud, I try to set a good example. I wanted to work hard right from the start in the fall. I know people can get overwhelmed so I try to make sure that everyone is on the same page.”
The Tigers were on the same page this spring, opening the season with a win over perennial power Wisconsin and going on to finish second in the San Diego Crew Classic, third at the Invitational Lightweight Cup, and second at the Eastern Sprints before the fifth place finish in the national championship regatta.
“I could feel something but you never know until you race,” said Morss, reflecting on the boat’s progress this season.
“The improvement came over winter and on spring break. I think we are definitely improving. The starts have gotten better; we are working on all aspects of the race.”
As Morss leaves Prince
ton, she is not ready to stop racing. “I am going to keep rowing; I am going to the U-23 camp and I would like to be on a boat with others,” said Morss. “It got a little lonely last summer.”
No matter where Morss’ rowing takes her, she has certainly added a special chapter to her family’s Princeton tradition.