For Jamie Hamp, getting cut from the U.S. Under-23 team in 2012 after his freshman year with the Princeton University men’s heavyweight rowing program proved to be a blessing in disguise.
“I was on a pair that didn’t make it, we were second to the boat that went on to get fourth in the worlds,” said Hamp.
“I got coached by Justin Farrington, he knew a lot about the pairs. It improved my skills and helped me move the boat faster. The experience in small boats really helped me as I went into my sophomore season.”
During his sophomore campaign at Princeton, Hamp made the varsity 8 and helped the Tigers make the grand final (top 6) in both Eastern Sprints and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championship regatta.
That summer, Hamp tried out again for the U-23 squad and stuck around this time, getting picked for the men’s 8 and earning a silver medal at the World Rowing U-23 Championships.
As a junior, Hamp helped the Tigers earn a bronze medal at the Eastern Sprints and last month he medaled again at the U-23 worlds, competing for the U.S. men’s 8 that earned bronze at the competition held in Varese, Italy.
While the U.S. boat didn’t match the silver earned in 2013, Hamp was proud of the boat’s effort.
“Any medal at world championships is tough to get,” said Hamp. “There were six fast boats in that race. New Zealand and Australia both had great races and good boats. We led the race at 500 meters. I am proud that we went for it. We threw it all out there.”
Hamp, a native of North Tonawanda, N.Y., threw himself into rowing from the time he started the sport in his freshman year at Canisius High.
“I wanted to go and do something in the spring to stay in shape,” said Hamp.
“I talked to the coach and he said he thought I could be good. I enjoyed rowing a lot. We won nationals as a freshman; that was pretty fun. I rowed high school in the fall, winter, and spring and did West Side Rowing Club in the summer.”
It didn’t take long for Hamp to start thinking about rowing at the college level.
“I didn’t know much about rowing when I started, especially college rowing,” said Hamp, who also played kicker for the Canisius football team.
“As a sophomore, we had a lot of senior guys who were good and getting recruited. I talked to them and learned what was going on.”
As Hamp got into the recruiting process himself, he eventually realized that Princeton was the best fit. “I wasn’t so high on Princeton in the beginning,” said Hamp, who also considered Harvard and Cornell.
“When I did my official visit at Princeton, I really had a good time and liked the guys. Princeton was third at that point but after I did my official visits, I did a lot of thinking. I also really liked the academics at Princeton.”
Upon arriving at Princeton, Hamp relied on the more experienced guys on the team to help him adjust to college rowing.
“You have to learn to keep a level head through the season,” said Hamp, crediting teammate Will Gillis, a U-23 star himself and team captain this past season, with being a stabilizing influence.
“There are a lot of ups and downs. You can be really fast one day and then have a bad day. It was a lot of learning from the other rowers.”
Hamp had plenty of good days in his sophomore year, moving up to the varsity 8.
“I was familiar with the system and the workload,” said Hamp “I understood the course load and was better at time management. I knew what to expect.”
The Princeton top boat was better in 2012, advancing to the grand final in both the Eastern Sprints and IRA regattas.
“I felt we had some good speed and we were confident going into sprints,” said Hamp.
“We made the final and got fourth. At IRA, we were seeded seventh and got sixth. It was good to make the grand final but there was a little bit of frustration. We thought we were faster than the years before and we didn’t do that much better.”
This spring, Princeton redoubled its efforts to become even faster. “I think we made a lot of progress, I give a lot of credit to the coaches for being willing to make changes and really push us,” said Hamp.
“We had a great group of seniors. We have changed the culture, we are not holding back in the training. We are going for it more in the training.”
That training paid dividends as the Tigers placed third at the Eastern Sprints and fourth at the IRAs.
“We were happy to get a medal,” said Hamp, reflecting on getting the bronze at the Sprints.
“It is a great event; it is an emotional day. We were seeded fifth at the IRAs and we got fourth. It was the best finish for the varsity since ’06. I think it was a huge stepping stone for us going into next year.”
The strong finish, combined with Hamp’s experience this summer at the U-23 worlds, has him brimming with confidence as he looks ahead to his senior year with the Tigers.
“As far as racing, we want to continue what we started last year,” said Hamp.
“We have turned the corner, we have a group of guys who want to work hard and win. I think we want to improve from the sprints and IRAs. I want us to improve as a team. We are headed in the right direction.”