While Lori Dauphiny was excited to see her Princeton University women’s open crew compete at the NCAA championship regatta last weekend, there was a tinge of sadness as the program’s seniors wrapped up their college careers.
“The senior class brought tremendous leadership, much of it by example, especially senior year,” said Princeton head coach Dauphiny, who is in her 17th year guiding the program and led the varsity 8 to national titles in 2006 and 2011.
“They had ups and downs and put issues aside and were united as a group. They decided they were going to lead and that started in the fall. I am really appreciative of what they did.”
That positive group dynamic paved the way to a superb performance at the NCAAs as Princeton took third in the team standings, trailing only champion Ohio State and runner-up California in the regatta held at the Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Ind.
“I am really proud of the team coming in third; we were the only Ivy team in the top 4,” said Dauphiny of the competition which included two varsity 8s and a varsity 4.
“That is something they had been shooting for. I am pleased with that; it just shows that everyone put something into the team being better, even those who were not there at the national championships. Even though not every boat was in the grand final, everyone performed at their best at the critical times.”
The senior-laden first varsity 8 performed well throughout the regatta. The top boat cruised to a win in its opening heat on Friday, topping runner-up UCLA by more than five seconds. In the semis a day later, Princeton encountered some rough water but finished in a strong second behind Ohio State, easily booking a place in Sunday’s grand final.
In the race for the gold, the Tigers didn’t waste any time showing their intentions as they led at the 500 and 1,000 meter marks. Cal made a move in the third 500 and edged ahead of Princeton. The Golden Bears were able to hold on for the win with a time of 6:21.43 over the 2,000-meter course, edging the Tigers by 1.17 seconds.
“It was awesome, it was courageous, it was bold,” said Dauphiny, reflecting on the grand final.
“I was extremely pleased and proud of them. It was hard to not come out in first but there is no doubt that it was their best race and they poured it out.”
Dauphiny acknowledged that she was taken aback by her top boat’s blazing start. “It was not our plan to be that far out,” said Dauphiny of her top boat which was spearheaded by a quartet of seniors in Gabby Cole, Molly Hamrick, Liz Hartwig, and Heidi Robbins and also included juniors Annie Prasad, Kelsey Reelick, Angie Gould, and Kathryn Irwin together with freshman Erin Reelick.
“We thought we could have a good first 500 and build on our base speed. It is not unusual for that boat to start like that. They notched it up a level.”
The second varsity (2V) had to take things up a notch in the semis as it edged Virginia at the finish line to take third and earn a spot in the grand final.
“The 2V had an amazing race,” said Dauphiny, reflecting on the semi which saw the Tigers clock a time of 6:55.26 with Virginia coming in at 6:55.52.
“It was dead level with an exchange of boats and no one boat really taking the lead. It was a photo finish and we were lucky we took that last stroke and got our bow ahead of Virginia. That was their best race of the competition.”
In the grand final, the 2V faded to sixth, posting a time of 6:33.46, nearly six seconds behind champion Ohio State.
“They were disappointed but they did their best,” said Dauphiny, assessing the 2V’s final performance.
“It was the product of the dynamics of their race. They were on the edge on lane 1 and it was a challenge to not be in the middle. They did a nice job. They had a very difficult go at the Ivies. Bouncing back from that and turning it around going forward wasn’t easy.”
The varsity 4 had a tough time in its semifinal, missing third by an eyelash as Washington State edged the Tigers by 0.21. Princeton bounced back with a solid effort in the petite final as it took second behind Cal.
“The V4 needed another 10 meters,” said Dauphiny, reflecting on the semi. “They really poured it on in the last 300 meters. It was just not far enough for them. They were disappointed to be in the petite final but they had a good race.”
Dauphiny credits her Class of 2013 for pouring everything it had into their last weekend and hopes that effort will inspire those who follow.
“This senior class is really special,” said Dauphiny, noting that seniors Sarah Wiley and Astrid Wettstein competed in the 4 last weekend while the 2V included their classmate Sara Kushma.
“They are really going to be missed. It was a fantastic end. They gave everything they had. I am not sure what we are going to do without them. We have a good freshman class coming in but they haven’t done anything yet.”