Steeled by Tough Competition Down the Stretch, PU Men’s Lightweights Primed for Eastern Sprints
PULLING TOGETHER: The Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 churns through the water in a race earlier this spring. After ending the regular season by taking a close third behind Harvard and Yale in the annual H-Y-P regatta, the Tigers will be looking to make up the gap as they compete in the Eastern Sprints on May 14 in Worcester, Mass. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)
Over the last half of April, the Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 crew found itself under the gun every week.
On April 15, Princeton battled top-ranked Cornell tooth-and-nail, losing by 1.9 seconds to the Big Red in the race for the Platt Cup.
A week later, the Tigers came through in a tight race against Penn for the Wood-Hammond Trophy, prevailing over the Quakers by 1.4 seconds.
Facing Harvard and Yale on April 29, Princeton placed a close third in 5:59.9 with Harvard taking first in 5:55.6 and Yale coming in second 5:57.5.
Princeton head coach Marty Crotty harbors no illusions about what his rowers has faced this spring.
“I knew that we were up against some really good competition,” said Crotty.
“There happens to be four or five really good boats in the league this year, rather than one or two, so there hasn’t really been any easy weekends.”
In Crotty’s view, the Tigers didn’t display their characteristic mental toughness at the regular season finale against Harvard and Yale.
“They definitely came out fighting in the Columbia race (a 5-second win on April 1) earlier this season, they came out fighting in the Cornell race even though we ended up losing,” said Crotty. “I didn’t see the same attack mentality in this race.”
With the Eastern Sprints taking place in May 14 in Worcester, Mass. on Lake Quinsigamond, Crotty was determined to rekindle that fiery mentality, starting on the first day of practice after the H-Y-P regatta.
“It is just engaging in competition, throwing some even lineups out there and getting back to some inter-squad combat,” said Crotty.
“Exhibit No. 1 was this evening. We did some longer pieces at a low rating and the guys were just teeing off on each other. It was just what the doctor ordered. If they can bring the kind of competitive zeal that they did this evening in any race, I think we will be better off than we showed on Saturday.”
Over the course of the season, the Princeton rowers have fed off of each other.
“It is a good group to work with, they are very receptive,” said Crotty. “They are just like us; they are game for anything they think is going to make the team a little bit better. This year, more than any year, the guys have really been about team. It is a very unselfish vibe and guys are pushing each other really well.”
Pushing on a daily basis has led to improvement across the board. “Each individual has made gains,” added Crotty.
“We have spent a lot of time with guys in the tanks; we have spent a lot of time one-on-one. Guys have been really receptive to the training and the instruction they are getting and then they are taking it out on the water and showing that they are able to do it.”
Crotty, for his part, believes that his top boat will have to be aggressive in order to do some big things at the Sprints.
“To have any chance at all, we are going to need to get better,” said Crotty.
“We are going to have to get a little cleaner, a little more polished, and then we are just going to have to show more fight, more grit. We are going to show the willingness to take a risk and to attack the lead because it is very evident that this year if there are a couple of boats that get away, they aren’t coming back.”