After the Princeton University women’s open crew varsity 8 lost to Brown and Virginia in the first two weeks of the season, Lori Dauphiny decided to do some tinkering.
“The lineup did shift,” said Princeton head coach Dauphiny, whose top boat finished 3.0 seconds behind Brown in the opener on March 29 and the same 3.0 second margin behind Virginia a week later.
“It was the same personnel as in the first race against Brown but the seats shifted. We were clicking better and the individuals within the boat all improved as the season went on. It was important to know that we had to improve. We got to see our weaknesses, as painful as that was.”
The Tigers shifted into top gear over the last month of the regular season, going undefeated and posting victories over Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Dartmouth, Penn, and Clemson.
“We were making progress,” added Dauphiny. “I did get a sense in the last two or three weeks that we were making big strides. We were homing in on race preparation. We were working on all aspects of the race. They had more racing experience. They have more savvy as a boat and had learned to handle different conditions. This boat has shown resilience.”
The Tigers knew that they would have to be resilient as they competed last weekend at the Ivy League championships on Cooper River in Pennsauken, N.J.
“The competition was pretty deep; Brown was ranked No. 1 and was the favorite,” said Dauphiny.
“We knew the other boats were gaining speed. Harvard made changes. Dartmouth did well in its heat, it clearly improved. The schools further north tend to gain more speed so the speeds were unknown.”
Apparently, Princeton gained the most speed over the last few weeks as it roared out to an early lead in the final and never looked back, getting open water on its foes, posting a winning time of 6:15.412, more than four seconds better than runner-up Brown at 6:19.722.
The effort set a course record in Ivy and Eastern Sprints competition at the venue and earned the Tigers the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Championship regatta which is slated for May 30-June 1 at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Ind.
“It was our best start ever,” asserted Dauphiny, whose varsity 8 included junior Faith Richardson (bow), senior Angie Gould, senior Susannah Shipton, sophomore Meghan Wheeler, freshman Georgie Howe, sophomore Erin Reelick, senior Margy Bertasi, senior Kelsey Reelick (stroke), and senior Annie Prasad (cox).
“I didn’t know what would happen after that. I didn’t know the charge the other boats would make. I am always nervous. I did feel a little better after the heat. I thought this boat could do something good.”
In reflecting on the record-breaking performance, Dauphiny acknowledged that the top boat exceeded her expectations.
“It was an amazing performance,” said Dauphiny. “I didn’t realize it was a course record for the EARC and Ivy until I was on the awards dock. That is outstanding. I didn’t anticipate that at the beginning of the season. It is a nice surprise and a testament to their hard work.”
The hard work of the rowers throughout the program was on display as the Tigers finished second in the team standings at the regatta to Brown, earning a slew of medals.
“The accomplishments of the top boat are the accomplishments of all the rowers,” said Dauphiny, whose second varsity 8 and varsity 4 each finished third with the third varsity 8 and fourth varsity 8 each placing first and the varsity 4B taking second.
“Each girl who raced on Sunday had a medal around her neck. They push each other and support each other. It is a nice environment. It takes a team.”
The 2V and varsity 4 each produced efforts to build on as they will be joining the varsity 8 at the NCAA regatta.
“The 2V fell short of what they wanted to do but I am pleased that they did their best,” said Dauphiny, noting that assistant coaches Kate Maxim and Steve Coppola have played an integral role in getting the boats up to speed.
“They got a medal. The lineups change and the speeds of the boats are unknown. The varsity 4 went through a lot, they made big strides; they had a lot of lineup changes and handled that well.”
Looking ahead to Indianapolis, Dauphiny is hoping that her rowers can make even more strides.
“We plan to keep working on it,” said Dauphiny, whose program is one of three programs, along with Brown and Washington, that have qualified for every championship regatta since the inaugural event in 1997. “We want to maintain our form.”