Moments after the Princeton University women’s open varsity 8 crossed the finish line in the semifinal at the NCAA Championships last Saturday, the boat members realized they had missed making the grand final by an eyelash.
Some of the rowers slumped forward in the boat in disbelief while others buried their heads in their hands as they sat on a corner of the 2,000-meter race course at the Eagle Creek Reservoir in Indianapolis, Ind.
Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny acknowledged that her Ivy champion 8 was heartbroken by the result.
“There were some people moving in the third 500 meters but we knew that would happen,” said Dauphiny, whose boat finished fourth in 6:30.54, with Michigan taking third place and a spot in the finals by .23 in a time of 6:30.31.
“What was really hard was going into the last 500, having led the race and then having boats moving. It was so tight. Brown and Stanford got the upper hand, they had a half a seat. Our coxswain was looking at the Michigan cox; they were level. It was really tough, it was a punch in the gut. No one wants to get aced out in the semis for a spot in the finals but it was by a whisker and so you start thinking about what you could have done differently.”
A day later, another Princeton crew, the second varsity 8 had an entirely different reaction after they placed second in their grand final. The rowers raised their arms in exultation and hugged across the boat.
“They really felt like they were getting stronger,” said Dauphiny, referring to her second 8 which posted a time of 7:02.03, trailing only Ohio State, which came in at 6:59.43.
“They fell short at the Ivies and it was great to get some redemption. They were very eager to get another chance. They handled it with maturity and seemed to get more and more confident over the weekend.”
The varying reactions of the crews reflects Princeton’s fortunes this spring. “We had some ups and downs,” said Dauphiny, whose program finished sixth of 22 schools in the team standings at the NCAA regatta. “It feels good when the kids finish up and feel they did the best they could. It was a season of development.”
The varsity 8 went out on Sunday and finished up in style, winning the ‘B’ final to place seventh in the nation.
“I thought it was a show of character, heart, and integrity,” asserted Dauphiny, whose top boat clocked a time of 6:51.80 in winning the race. “I was so proud of them, they felt like they redeemed themselves a bit.”
Dauphiny was certainly proud of her second varsity as they earned Princeton’s highest finish in the NCAA regatta in that classification since 1997.
“We wanted to capitalize on some of the things we had done in the semis; we wanted to have a sprint,” said Dauphiny of the boat.
“The 2V hung together from the beginning of the season to the end. It was good having the presence of two seniors, Kathryn Irwin and Maggie Cochrane, in the boat.”
The Princeton varsity 4 hung in there, taking fifth in its ‘B’ final to place 11th overall.
“It was a learning experience and extremely valuable for the depth of the program,” said Dauphiny, noting that the boat added a rower for the NCAAs who hadn’t competed since opening day due to injury.
“They handled adversity and they did their best to deal with it and move forward. They ran out of time; there was a lot of great competition out there and some really fast boats.”
Over the course of the spring, the Tigers displayed a great competitive spirit.
“The senior class did a nice job of making an impact,” said Dauphiny. “There are a number of people coming back and I am excited about that. I want them to learn lessons about being resilient and dealing with adversity.”