Seeing his Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 crew go to Brown in its regular season finale gave Greg Hughes confidence heading into the Eastern Sprints.
“There were a lot of things that we were working on that we executed well in that race,” said Princeton head coach Hughes.
“It was a boost. We built off a lot of things from that race in our preps for Sprints.”
Posting the fastest heat on Sunday morning at the Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. was another boost for the Tigers.
“We saw that we had the speed to compete at the top,” said Hughes. “We also saw that the league is pretty wide open, there was not one crew that stood out. Whoever put up the best race on the day could win.”
While Princeton didn’t win the final as it took third behind champion Harvard and runner-up Brown, it did produce some good racing.
“It was a tight, competitive field and the conditions were really quick,” said Hughes, whose boat clocked a time of 5:32.411 over the 2,000-meter course with Harvard coming in at 5:27.277 and Brown at 5:28.998.
“In a race like that you have got to get into the race. We were in the pack in the first 750-1000 meters. We established ourselves. We had a good battle on our side with Harvard and Northeastern. Brown did a great job on the other side; they had a really good piece.”
Moving up to the medal stand was a great step forward for the Tigers, whose varsity 8 had taken fourth at the Sprints the last two years.
“It was a solid race for our guys, we wanted to do a little better,” said Hughes.
“We know what we need to work on for the IRAs (the Intercollegiate Rowing Association national championship regatta). For a lot of the guys, it was their first medal in a varsity race and for others it was their first medal at sprints. To go into a race that competitive and step up and be strong and fast enough to get a medal when you are not at your best is a major stride forward.”
The Tiger second varsity 8 showed its competitive fire, taking second, an eyelash behind winner Northeastern.
“That was arguably the race of the day,” said Hughes, whose 2V clocked a time of 5:38.837 with Northeastern coming in at 5:37.781.
“It was just an awesome race; all of the boats were within five seconds. You could have been second or sixth just as easily and they found a way to be second.”
While the third varsity 8 didn’t medal as it placed fourth, Hughes was proud of its effort.
“That was their best piece of the year,” noted Hughes “In the regular season we were dealing with some sickness and injury and that trickled down through the boats. Guys were moving up. They raced a lot of different lineups and I was happy they built their speed and had a race like that.”
With the IRAs scheduled for May 30 — June 1 at Mercer Lake, Hughes is looking for his rowers to keep building their speed.
“I think it is more of the same; the work we have been doing has helped us technically,” said Hughes.
“We need to develop race skills and race mentality. That was a tight 6-boat racing last weekend, particularly in the final. That was the first time we saw that this season. We will be more capable of doing that for three days straight when we are in the IRAs.”
Hughes believes that competing at the nearby venue should spur a big final effort from the Tigers.
“We are definitely looking forward to it; it is close to home and close to our fans,” said Hughes.
“It is a good venue for racing, the athletes will feel like they are at a national championship. We saw that in Sacramento last year, they created an awesome environment for the athletes and I am sure it will be the same at Mercer Lake. It is some of the most exciting rowing racing in the world. The college crews are evenly matched, there is very little between them. It highlights the sport and what is so great about it.”