June 5, 2019

After Suffering Disappointment in NCAA Semis, PU Open Crew Rebounds in Final Day of Action

By Bill Alden

Heading to Indianapolis last week to compete in the NCAA championship regatta, the Princeton University women’s open crew was primed to excel on the national stage.

“I thought our practices were going well between the Ivies and Indy,” said Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny, whose varsity eight, second varsity eight, and varsity four had each placed first at the Ivy regatta on May 19 as the program qualified for the NCAA competition.

“We finished finals; it is always a delicate balance and I felt like we handled it very well. We were ready for Indy when we left.”

After a solid first day at the competition on Friday that saw the varsity 8 take first, the second varsity 8 take third and the four come in third in the their heats to advance straight to the semifinals, the Tigers didn’t handle things well a day later.

None of the three Princeton boats gained the top-three finish in the semis necessary to make the grand finals and compete for a national title.

“We expected more,” said Dauphiny. “When we went through the semis, I think all boats had hoped to make the grand final but especially the first varsity, they had the best chance. To fall short was challenging.”

The top boat, which had been undefeated this spring and was seeded second coming into the regatta, was particularly disappointed to not make it into the top six.

“I am not exactly sure what happened but it was not a fast race for us,” said Dauphiny, whose crew finished fourth in the semis, one place away from earning a spot in the grand final.

“I think the athletes gave their best. There was no lack of effort. When they finished the race, they felt like they laid it out there and did everything that they could. But I don’t think it was one of our best races.”

Wrapping up the competition by competing in the petit, or ‘B’ final, Princeton’s top boat gave its best as it pulled away to victory to finish seventh overall.

“It is really hard to come back so I was extremely proud of them for winning the petit final and they did it with a real statement,” said Dauphiny, whose top boat posted a time of 6:11.53 with Yale taking second in 6:14.34.

“I think they led from the beginning. They just charged it. It is easy to feel sorry for yourself and they did not. They just stepped right up. I think we had a little moment of wondering and feeling bad and then we had to turn it around and they did, it was really nice to see.”

Noting that the second varsity eight went on to place second in its petit final while the varsity four took first, Dauphiny saw the heroics on Sunday as a fitting end to a special spring. 

“I told them no one can take the season away from you, the season that you had was exceptional,” said Dauphiny, whose program placed seventh overall in the team standings at the NCAAs.

“There is no doubt about it, how we all peaked at Ivies and how all of the boats won there and even at nationals when none of the boats made the finals, they all turned around and just stomped it on Sunday.”

Dauphiny credited her senior group with making an exceptional contribution to the program.

“The seniors had tremendous impact on our team, they were leaders and they have been for some time, especially this year,” said Dauphiny.

“They led by example.They were always team players. They never separated themselves from the rest of the team or the group. Sometimes seniors kind of move on.”

Two of those seniors, co-captains Claire Collins and Emily Kallfelz, separated themselves, earning prestigious individual honors. Collins was named the 2019 winner of the C. Otto von Kienbusch Award as Princeton’s outstanding senior female athlete while Kallfelz has been recognized by USRowing.

“It is a huge honor and it is rare; rowing is one of those sports that not everyone understands, it is hard to calculate the value of a rower,” said Dauphiny reflecting on the award received by Collins and noting that Lauren Barnard of the second varsity eight was awarded the Class of 1916 Cup, given to the senior letter winner who achieved the highest academic standing at graduation.

“They are both amazing, Emily was the U23 Athlete of the Year with USRowing this year and then Claire received this award.”

Looking ahead, Dauphiny believes that valuable lessons passed on by the seniors will benefit the program in the years to come.   

“The younger group really looked up to the senior class and the seniors taught them what it takes,” said Dauphiny.

“I look forward to next year. There is talent in the group and, even more importantly, there is enthusiasm in the group.”