June 20, 2012

STEPPING AHEAD: University Radiology’s DeQuan Holman drives to the hoop against SMB in action last Monday in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Former Princeton High star Holman scored 19 points as defending league champion. University Radiology hung on for a 51-47 win over SMB and improved to 2-1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the University Radiology team was seeded second entering the playoffs last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League, many thought the team wasn’t ready for a title run.

With a lineup featuring recently graduated Princeton High hoops s tars Skye Ettin, Brian Dunlap, A.J. Dowers, and DeQuan Holman, University Radiology didn’t have the experience and maturity that has characterized past champions.

But growing up in a hurry, the squad advanced to the best-of-three title series and took down Winberie’s 2-1 to earn the crown.

As University Radiology begins its title defense this summer, star guard Holman recognizes that some see last year’s championship as a fluke.

“We feel a little pressure because people don’t think we should have won it,” said Holman. “They think it was a down year last year and all that type of stuff. We weren’t expected to win.”

Holman knows that there is a bull’s eye on the backs of University Radiology.

“We are looked at as a good team now and teams are pretty much gunning for us,” said Holman.

“We have a tough Ivy Inn opponent; Winberie’s is still pretty strong. The league is pretty good this year, there are no slouches this year.”

Last Friday, University Radiology got shot down as they fell 60-58 to a hungry PA Blue Devils team.

“We kind of beat ourselves in that one,” said Holman, reflecting on the loss to a Blue Devils team that features some Division III performers.

“We have other people who are joining the team and we have to get our team chemistry together. We are just trying to get our flow together.”

On Monday, University Radiology rebounded from the setback, edging SMB 51-47 to improve to 2-1 on the summer.

“At first, Skye and I were penetrating and we were passing well,” said Holman, who scored a game-high 19 points on the evening with Ettin chipping in 17.

“We were moving the ball a little bit and then we got stagnant in the second half. We were going one-on-one too much and that got us in a little trouble. We were able to get through it. We won the game. At the end of the day, that is what we wanted to do.”

Other winners in Monday night action included Dr. Palmer, who got 18 points from Charles Cooke, as it posted a 55-38 victory over the Clinton Kings and Ivy Inn, who topped Team TB 37-23 as Mark Aziz led the way with 14 points.

In Holman’s view, University Radiology has the pieces in place to successfully defend its title.

“We think we have what it takes, especially once we get everybody and get our chemistry together,” asserted Holman, who is attending Florida Atlantic University and is planning to try out for the FAU men’s hoops team this fall.

“When we play enough together, we’ll be fine. We are confident every time we step out there. It is just competition; it is fun.”

FINISHING KICK: Acasio Pinheiro edges Jeremy Taylor last Wednesday in one of the five heats of the second annual Princeton Community Mile held at the Princeton High track. Pinheiro clocked a time of 5:59.7 to take sixth in the heat with Taylor coming in at 6:00.7 to place seventh. The event, which was sponsored by the Princeton Athletic Club (PAC), drew more than 60 runners. Princeton resident Michael Fonder set an event record with a time of 4:27.2 in winning his heat. (Photo by Andrew Servis, Courtesy of Princeton Athletic Club)

The mile run is an event that has captivated athletes since the 1700s when it came into vogue as a distance for wagered running contests in England.

Roger Bannister’s 1954 feat of running the first sub-four minute mile ranks as one of the great moments in track history.

Last Wednesday evening, the allure of the mile was evident as more than 60 local runners turned up at the Princeton High track to take part in the second annual Princeton Community Mile.

The event, sponsored by the Princeton Athletic Club (PAC), drew participants ranging in age from 8-to-65 with runners grouped into five heats so the the athletes were matched with those in a similar pace range.

“The weather was great, 75 degrees and sunny, and we had a great turnout,” said Princeton Community Mile event director David Kimmel.

“There were people who participated for the second year in a row and also a lot of new faces. It was also great to see families sign up and run.”

Princeton resident Michael Fonder set a new Princeton Community Mile record with a time of 4:27.2 as he competed in the fifth and final heat. Chris Sallade finished second in 4:45.3 and Steven Sipprelle third in 4:47.8.

The race of the night took place in the third heat where Princeton resident Antonio Pinheiro clocked a time 5:35.4, closely followed by Jeremy Cohen in 5:36.7 and Richard O’Brien in 5:43.7.

The top finisher in the first heat was 12-year-old Princeton resident Gus Binnie in a time of 7:21, followed by Ethan Jones in 7:28.6 and Luke Wingreen in 7:36.1.

In the second heat, Lawrenceville resident Tim Christian finished first in 6:35.7, followed by Armand Meyer in 6:45.3 and Angela Pinheiro in 6:49.

Skillman resident Fraser Marlow won the fourth heat with a time of 5:22.4, with Jeff Knoll next in 5:25.3 and Chuck Hetzler third in 5:26.9.

Jen Found of Hopewell recorded the fastest female time of the evening in 5:36.8.

The Princeton Community Mile is the first of three running events being sponsored by the PAC this June. The PAC is a nonprofit running club that organizes group runs and sponsors several running events for the community each year. It is a member club of the USA Track and Field New Jersey and Road Runners Club of America.

Next up in the Wednesday evening series is a June 20 Cross County 5k and youth mile at Rosedale Park in Pennington and a June 27 All-Comers Track Event (3000 meters, 100 meters, 800 meters, 4×400 relay) at the PHS track.

For more information and to sign up online, log onto www.princetonac.org.

June 13, 2012

INNKEEPER: Bobby Davison of Ivy Inn heads up the court against the Ballstars last Monday night in opening night action of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Davison and Ivy Inn cruised to a 64-30 win as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 campaign. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last decade, the Ivy Inn team has established itself as a consistent championship contender in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

The squad, formerly known as George’s Roasters, won four of six league titles between 2005-2010.

But last summer, the proud unit fell on hard times, going 3-6 and getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

Team manager and star forward Bobby Davison acknowledged that 2011 was a nightmare.

“Last year was an unbelievably disappointing year with Scott [Findlay] being hurt and Mark [Aziz] playing overseas,” said Davison, a former hoops standout for Princeton High and The College of New Jersey. “We were pretty much just playing six guys every game. It was tough.”

Coming into last Monday’s season opener against the Ballstars, Ivy Inn boasted plenty of manpower. In addition to Davison, Aziz and stalwarts Shahid Abdul-Karim, Kyle Burke and Buddy Thomas, the team added Davon Black, Tommy Soulias, A.J. Rubin and longtime Winberie’s star Chris Hatchell.

“We have got our nucleus; it is great having Mark back from Egypt and Scott is coaching,” said Davison, a former assistant coach for the PHS boys’ hoops team who is working as a patrol officer for the East Windsor Police.

“I think he is going to get the bug around week three; his knee is healthy. We picked up Davon; that is huge, I coached him a couple of years. I coached Tommy in AAU; he is from Spotswood. We picked up A.J. and a big pick-up was the addition of Hatchell. He wanted to play with another team. It is nice playing with him and not playing against him like I did for so many years.”

The team came together quickly in the game against Ballstars, jumping out to 34-5 halftime lead on the way to a 64-30 win.

“I think it adds a real nice dynamic with our wisdom of basketball and knowledge and their intensity and athleticism,” said Davison, reflecting on the teams blend of experience and young legs. “You know what, they are hungry; they want to prove something.”

In other action Monday, Winberie’s edged SMB 44-41 in overtime as Evan Johnson scored 18 points for the victors while the PA Blue Devils topped the Clinton Kings 52-29 behind 15 points from Kevin Janowski.

For Ivy Inn, stifling defense paved the way to its rout of new league entry Ballstars.

“We talked about it on our pregame; it was first things first, let’s take our time on offense but we have got to get stops on defense,” recalled Davison.

“I think that has been the key for so many years in this league, we have always been able to stop guys. So we talked about going man-to-man right from the gate and just stop them and when we get the ball, let’s be patient and run our offense through Mark. It is the first game and we have to get everyone acclimated with one another.”

Based on the opening night effort, it looks like Ivy Inn could be poised for another good run this summer.

“It was very good,” said Davison, reflecting on a night in which Ivy Inn was led by 16 points from Soulias with Aziz adding 12 and Hatchell chipping in nine.

“The first thing that has helped us for so many years is we are a really unselfish team. We try to add something to the puzzle every year. No matter who we add with these young guys, the older guys are going to welcome them with open arms and instill a little bit of their knowledge and put them right on the team.”

NO SHIRT REQUIRED: Mahesh Sambasivam heads to the tape at Princeton University’s Weaver Stadium last Sunday on his way to winning the Princeton Healthcare 10k. Pennington resident Sambasivam clocked a time of 33:27 to outlast runner-up ­William Washer of Ogdensburg, N.J., who finished in 33:36. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For marathoner Mahesh Sambasivam, running against the clock, not his opponents, is his main focus when racing.

When the Pennington resident toed the starting line last Sunday morning at the Princeton Healthcare 10k, he had a number in mind.

“I was shooting for a 34:30,” said Sambasivam, 45, a veteran of several Boston and New York City marathons.

“I usually run my own pace; first place or second place, it doesn’t matter to me. I go by time.”

The wiry Sambasivam outdid himself on Sunday, running a 33:27 to easily achieve his main goal, and in the process, got a bonus as he placed first of 550 finishers in the 34th annual installment of the race,

Sambasivam outlasted runner-up William Washer of Ogdensburg, N.J., who clocked a 33:36 and was in sight of the winner as the runners hit the track at Weaver Stadium for the home stretch of the race. Kathy Rocker of Metuchen was the top female finisher, taking 23rd overall in a time of 40:10.

In reflecting on his win, Sambasivam credited Washer with pushing him to his superb time.

“It was that guy, he set the pace,” said Sambasivam, motioning to Washer across the track. “I let him go until mile five. Getting in the 33:20s, I am ecstatic.”

For Sambasivam, getting into running some 14 years ago has led to moments of ecstasy over the last decade.

“I started running in 1998; my boss at a previous company was a runner,” said Sambasivam, a native of India who works for ConvaTec.

“I have been hooked on it. I always wanted to get involved in sports and this is a way of getting back into it.”

Sambasivam has taken his involvement in the sport to a high level. “When I don’t train for a marathon, it is 50 or 60 miles a week,” said Sambasivam.

“When I am training for a marathon it is 80 a week. I have been at 40 or 50 recently because I have been very busy at work.”

While Sambasivam may be focused on time targets, placing first was a nice payoff for his diligence on the road.

“It is very motivating,” asserted Sambasivam. “The effort I put in pays off. I am a serious runner; I work my butt off.”

THE REAL MCCOY: Princeton Day School senior baseball star Sean McCoy gets ready to hit in a game this spring. The leadership of senior tri-captain McCoy helped the Panthers go 12-9 this season, a marked improvement on the 4-14 record the program posted in 2011. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the spring, Ray O’Brien thought his Princeton Day School baseball team had the pieces in place to have a big season.

“We were so shorthanded and inexperienced last year,” said PDS head coach O’Brien.

“I thought we had a good combination this year. We had some good seniors and a really good freshman class.”

O’Brien’s analysis proved correct as the Panthers went 12-9, a marked improvement on the 4-14 record the program posted in 2011. A major feather in the cap for PDS was its success against Prep A foes Peddie, Blair, Hun, and Lawrenceville.

“I think it was the first sweep of the Prep A teams ever in one season for us,” said O’Brien.

“We beat Hun and Lawrenceville by 10 runs; it was nice to beat them like that.”

It was nice for the team to end the season with a 1-0 victory over New Hope-Solebury.

“It was our senior day and Jacob Eisenberg had a big last game,” said O’Brien.

“He pitched a three-hit shutout and hit a grounder to knock in the winning run. It was a good group of seniors; it was nice to see them go out like that after the way we struggled last spring.”

Senior tri-captain Sean McCoy’s upbeat attitude gave the group a lift. “McCoy gave us leadership beyond his numbers,” said O’Brien of the Pomona College-bound McCoy who hit .273 this spring with 16 runs scored.

“He was a vocal leader. Some guys are quiet and he speaks up. A lot of people talk about being a team player but he lives it. He is always asking me ‘coach where do you need me to play?’ He is the most self-less and team-oriented player I have coached.”

Williams College-bound senior shortstop and tri-captain Beau Horan raised the level of his play this spring. “Beau put things together this year,” said Horan. “He had a good year at the plate and in the field. He was fifth in the team in hitting (.355 batting average) and tied for the team lead in extra-base hits (13).”

In addition, Matt Cook and Eisenberg produced big years in their final PDS campaigns.

“Cook and Eisenberg gave us good pitching. Eisenberg pitched the most innings and won four games,” added O’Brien.

“Cook was versatile. He played in the outfield. He hit well (.302 batting average) and he won three games on the mound. He pitched very well in a 3-2 win over Peddie.”

Freshman first baseman J.P. Radvany played surprisingly well, emerging as the team’s top batting threat.

“Radvany had a really good season, especially for a freshman,” asserted O’Brien, noting that Radvany was a first-team All-Prep B pick with Horan, Rob Colton, and B.J. Dudeck getting named as second-team performers and Eisenberg and Jake Alu earning Honorable Mention.

“He led the team in hits (30), tied for the lead in extra-base hits (13), and led in batting average (.484), RBIs (32), and slugging percentage (.806). He was really consistent all season. After the first game, I moved him to fourth in the order and left him there. He is a big kid with power. Having him and B.J. Dudeck (.379 batting average, 16 RBIs) coming back gives us two big boppers.”

The other freshmen, Alu, Cole McManimon, and Ross Colton, also made an immediate impact.

“Alu (.358 batting average) had a great season, playing outfield and third,” said O’Brien.

“McManimon pitched really well; he had a tough loss to Notre Dame and beat Hamilton West. Ross had a good year; he played well at second. We added five good players with the freshmen and [junior transfer] Rob Colton (.454 batting average).”

The team’s coaching staff also came together, setting a positive tone. “The coaches were a big help,” said O’Brien.

“Kevin Schneider was the pitching coach and he did a really good job. He really settled the kids down, working with pitchers and calling games. Matt Russo worked with the hitters. Brian Dudeck also helped out. It was an enjoyable season all around.”

O’Brien is looking forward to more enjoyable moments in the future. “I think we are getting back on track,” said O’Brien. “I am really excited about next year; we have a lot of kids playing this summer and in the fall.”

TRUE GRIT: Princeton Day School senior boys’ lacrosse star Garret Jensen heads to goal in action this spring. Playing through knee and ankle injuries, Jensen scored a team-high 44 points to help the Panthers advance to the state Prep B semifinals and the Mercer County Tournament championship game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Garret Jensen and his teammates on the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team sensed they could do some big things this spring.

“Going into the season we knew we had a young team but we thought we were really talented,” said senior attacker Jensen. “We wanted to make the Mercer County and Prep B finals.”

Some three games into the season, it looked like Jensen might not be around for any postseason play.

“I got hurt in the Pennington game,” recalled Jensen. “I tore the IT band in my leg. It really stunk. I missed three games and worked really hard with our trainer.”

Throwing away his crutches, Jensen returned to action in late April and played like a man on a mission.

“Every time I was on the field, I knew I couldn’t give 75 percent, I had to give 110 percent,” said Jensen, who also dealt with a sprained ankle later in the season. “Our whole team felt like that.”

Once playoff time rolled around, the Panthers showed that kind of intensity. In the Prep B tourney, they rallied from a 6-3 halftime deficit to top Morristown-Beard 12-10 in the quarterfinals before dropping a tough 8-5 decision to Montclair Kimberley in the semifinals.

“In the Mo-Beard game, we battled back; we were down at halftime but the second half was all ours,” said Jensen, who made a key steal and goal early in the third quarter to spark the Panthers’ rally.

“Even though we didn’t win the semis, we showed we were capable of playing with them. MKA had a great team last year and we knew they were going to be really good. We had five or six chances at the beginning that didn’t go in and we made it a close game.”

Coming into the county tournament, the seventh-seeded Panthers thought they were capable of being a title contender.

“We had a little chip on our shoulder; we knew we should have been seeded in the top three or four,” said Jensen.

After cruising past Hightstown 15-7 in the opening round, the Panthers faced defending champion and second-seeded Notre Dame.

“We wanted redemption against Notre Dame,” said Jensen. “We had lost to them in the last 30 seconds the year before in the county tournament.

Producing one of the greatest clutch performances of his career, Jensen helped PDS get that redemption. The gritty attacker scored a goal in the waning moments of regulation to make it a 7-7 contest as the Panthers forced overtime. In the extra session, Jensen snaked through the Irish defense to score the game-winner in an 8-7 triumph.

“Getting that overtime win was great, especially as a senior,” said Jensen. “It gave us a lot of momentum going into the Princeton High game.”

The Panthers produced another stunning rally in the matchup at third-seeded PHS in the semis, coming back from a 6-4 halftime deficit to pull out an 8-7 victory in overtime.

“I have a lot of buddies on PHS,” said Jensen. “We really wanted to beat them; we hadn’t won against them in six years. It was great to win on their home field in a tournament game.”

In the title game against top-seeded Hopewell Valley, Jensen ran into injury problems at an inopportune moment, sustaining a concussion as he scored a third period goal to cut the HoVal lead to 3-2.

“I jumped up for a shot and got it over the defender, fortunately it went in but I was off balance and I landed on my head,” said Jensen.

“I tried to go back in but I realized that I couldn’t play. It was tough to not play the last quarter of my high school career.”

While PDS ended up falling 6-2 to HoVal, that didn’t take away from a superb spring that marked a high point in Jensen’s high school career, which also saw him star for the Panther boys’ hockey program.

“I think we are really happy with what we did,” said the Trinity College-bound Jensen, who scored a team-high 44 points on 22 goals and 22 assists this spring and tallied 119 points in his PDS career on 49 goals and 70 assists.

“We really bonded and became a family. I have been on a lot of good teams at PDS but this may have been the greatest experience with the kids, coaches, and what we accomplished.”

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman pointed to Jensen’s performance and guts as an inspiration for the Panthers.

“Garret is banged up, so for him it is a herculean effort every time he steps on the field,” said Tuckman, whose team finished the spring with a 10-7 record. “He is our senior captain; he has really been an incredible leader. His gutting it out through the pain is really a reflection of the leadership he provides.”

For providing both production and courage to help trigger PDS’s post-season run, Jensen is the choice as the Town Topics’ top male performer of the spring high school season.

Top Female Performer

O

ver the early stages of her career with the Princeton High girls’ track team, Bryell Wheeler established herself as one of the top sprinters in the area.

But as senior star Wheeler went through the indoor season this winter, she realized she had more to give to the Little Tigers.

“I started doing the triple jump in winter track and on my first jump I did 31’6,” said Wheeler.

“Ever since then, I keep setting personal records. In the Mercer Relays I did 38’1 and we set a record with 72’2. My best event is now the triple, it used to be the 100.”

Although Wheeler dealt with a balky hamstring this spring, she felt like she was gaining strength as the season went on. “I am lifting more,” said Wheeler. “I am getting stronger.”

In the Mercer County Championships in early May, Wheeler produced one of the strongest performances in school history,  placing first in the 100 (12.32), long jump (17‘2.50), and triple jump (38‘1.25) and taking fourth in the 200 (26.35).

Wheeler’s heroics helped the Little Tigers win its first team title in the 34-year history of the outdoor meet. (The program did win the indoor county title in 1989.) It was a photo finish as the Little Tigers accumulated 87 points, edging runner-up WW/P-S, who totaled 86.5 points.

PHS head coach Jim Smirk appreciated the way Wheeler rose to the occasion.

“Bryell has had nagging hamstring issues this spring,” said Smirk. “Coach [Ben] Samara and I sat down with her last week and said ‘here’s the deal, you recognize your talent but in the big meets you struggle. We think you are ready to do well but you have to believe it.’ She went out and competed.”

Two weeks later at the sectional meet, Wheeler took first in the 100 (12.61) and the triple jump (a meet record of 38’6.50) with a third in the long jump (16’8-75) to help the program win its first-ever Group 3 title and its first sectional crown since PHS took the Central Jersey Group 2 title in 1989.

“Bryell has gained a lot of confidence in her jumps,” said Smirk of Wheeler who produced a county-record leap of 39‘2.50 to take second in the Group 3 state meet and qualify for the Meet of Champions.

“She has more confidence in her jumps than sprints which is amazing with her sprinting background.”

Wheeler’s amazing performance this season which saw her fight through injury and add record-breaking performances in the triple jump to her sprinting prowess makes her the choice as the Town Topics top female performer this spring.

Top Newcomers

J

ames “JP” Radvany didn’t waste any time showing that he could be a big contributor this spring in his freshman season for the Princeton Day School baseball team.

“JP Radvany was probably our best hitter in Florida,” said PDS head coach Ray O’Brien, referring to the team’s preseason trip to the Sunshine State.

O’Brien moved Radvany into the clean-up spot in game three and the first baseman made his coach look like a genius.

Radvany ended up leading the Panthers in batting average (.484), hits (30), RBIs (32), and slugging percentage (.806)

The offensive punch provided by Radvany helped PDS go 12-9 and post a sweep of Prep A foes Blair, Hun, Lawrenceville and Peddie.

In reflecting on the spring, O’Brien credited Radvany for playing a key role in the Panthers’ success as the program bounced back from a 4-14 season in 2011.

“Radvany had a really good season, especially for a freshman,” said O’Brien. “He was really consistent all season. He is a big kid with power.”

For making a powerful impact in his freshman campaign, Radvany gets the nod as the top male newcomer of the spring.

As Kathy Quirk assessed her 2012 Hun School softball team, she recognized that it was likely to work through some growing pains.

“We are young and lacking some varsity experience,” said Hun head coach Quirk. “I think we can hold our own. We need to be confident in ourselves.”

Quirk showed a lot of confidence in one of her youngest players, inserting freshman Julia Blake at the key position of shortstop.

Blake justified Quirk’s faith in her, providing sparkling defense from the start and getting into a groove offensively as the season unfolded.

With Blake emerging as a constant in the middle of the diamond and at the top of the batting order, Hun overcame a sluggish start and produced a 9-7 record and advanced to the state Prep A semifinals.

Blake ended her debut season with a batting average of .431, together with 18 runs, 12 RBI’s  two doubles, and a triple.

“Julia Blake, for a freshman, was phenomenal at shortstop, both hitting and defensively,” said Quirk.

Blake’s emergence as a star in a vital spot for Hun makes her the choice as the top female newcomer of the spring.

Top Coaches

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ver the past few years, the Princeton High girls’ track team has been solid but unspectacular when it comes to the big meets.

In 2011, the Little Tigers placed fifth in both the Mercer County Championships and the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet. A year earlier, PHS took eighth in the county meet and ninth in the sectional competition.

Coming into this year’s county meet, head coach Jim Smirk thought his squad could be ready for a breakthrough.

“We knew we had a pretty good team,” said Smirk. “We thought of ourselves as a top three team. Last year, we felt we didn’t have our team quite together. We have been talking about redefining what our team could be.”

Displaying its depth and competitive fire, the Little Tigers ended being the top team at the meet. It was a photo finish as PHS accumulated 87 points, edging runner-up WW/P-S by 0.5 points.

While Smirk had the sense that his team was special, the county title still came as a surprise.

“It is huge; when I started years ago as head coach, I wrote down goals and I said is a county title even possible with Trenton, WW/P-S, WW/P-N, and Hopewell, which was a dynasty then.” said Smirk, reflecting on the crown which was the program’s first in the 34-year history of the outdoor meet.

“It was great that we got it with a group of girls who have gone through a lot. The seniors lost a teammate when Helene [Cody] passed away. They are more battle-tested. Doing what they did over time is a testament to how much they have been able to grow.”

The Little Tigers showed that growth two weeks later as they took the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title, piling up a winning total of 88 points with Neptune second at 82 and Jackson Liberty third at 67.5.

The win marked the program’s first-ever Group 3 title and was its first sectional crown since PHS took the Central Jersey Group 2 title in 1989.

“A lot of people say the county title is a fluke but we are showing that we are a consistently good team,” said Smirk.

“We are the team making the least amount of mistakes. I am so impressed by what they have gone through and how they approach everything, on and off the track, with a fervor for being great.”

For guiding PHS to one of the greatest runs in program history, Smirk is the pick as the top coach of a female team this spring.

Rob Tuckman has talked about putting his Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team on the map.

While the Panthers had shown gradual improvement over the last few seasons, they had not enjoyed much success in tournament play.

“We are setting our goals pretty high; there are a lot of solid programs in the area and I know they are doing the same thing,” said PDS head coach Tuckman as he looked ahead to the 2012 campaign.

“It just depends on who steps up on the day of important games. I think we can exceed our record last year, we are looking to make a mark.”

Playing a competitive schedule, the Panthers were ready to make a mark when tournament time rolled around.

In the state Prep B quarterfinals, PDS overcame a 6-3 halftime deficit against Morristown-Beard to pull out a 12-10 win over the Crimson. Although the Panthers fell 8-5 to Montclair Kimberley on the Prep B semis, there was more playoff drama to come.

Disappointed by getting the seventh seed in the Mercer County Tournament, PDS proved that it could step up in important games. After cruising past Hightstown 15-7 in the opening round, the Panthers staged two improbable rallies to reach the title game.

In the quarterfinals against second-seeded and defending champion Notre Dame, PDS trailed 5-3 at halftime only to pull out an 8-7 overtime thriller. Two days later in the semis, it was a case of deja vu as PDS overcame a 6-4 halftime deficit to top third-seeded Princeton High 8-7 in overtime.

Facing top-seeded Hopewell Valley in the county championship game, the Panthers trailed just 3-2 heading into the fourth quarter but ran out of magic as the Bulldogs pulled away to a 6-2 triumph.

Although the Panthers didn’t win a title, they certainly made a mark this spring.

“Nobody expects a seventh seed to be playing the final; it is all icing on the cake,” asserted Tuckman, whose team finished with a 10-7 record. “Overall it was a great season, I am really proud of the team.”

Tuckman’s vision and ability to get his team to rise to the occasion makes him the choice as the top coach of a male program this spring.

RISING STAR: Princeton University women’s track star Greta Feldman flies down the track last week at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Junior Feldman placed fifth in the 1,500 at the national meet, earning All-American status. It was the latest step in a meteoric rise for Feldman, who just started competing in the event in the spring of 2011. Later this month, Feldman will head to the U.S. Olympic Track Trials in Eugene, Ore. to run in the 1,500. (Photo by Kristy McNeil, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

For much of her sports career at Haddonfield High School in suburban Philadelphia, track was a sidelight for Greta Feldman, simply a means for her to stay in shape for soccer.

In 2008, though, Feldman had a breakthrough that made her realize that she might have a future in running.

“I was a 400 runner at first; it was not until late in my junior year, that I did the 800,” said Feldman. “I made the New Jersey Meet of Champions in the 800 and I started thinking that I could run in college.”

A year later, Feldman came across the state to Princeton University for college and took some lumps as she joined the Tiger women’s track squad.

“I had to adjust to training and school, Peter [Princeton head coach Peter Farrell] didn’t want to throw too much at me,” said Feldman, whose top highlight as freshman came when she helped the 4×800 relay win the Indoor Heptagonal Ivy League crown.

“He didn’t want me to move up to distance that year. I got injured and was out most of the spring.”

As a sophomore, Feldman tried the 1,500 for the first time and quickly realized that she had found her optimum distance.

“I did the 4×1500 on our spring trip,” said Feldman. “In our first home meet, I ran the 1,500 and I was able to be competitive. That was great.”

That race set Feldman on a path that has resulted in her making great progress this spring as she has mastered her new event Feldman took second in the 1,500 at the Outdoor Heps in early May before taking first at the NCAA East Regionals over Memorial Day weekend. Last week, the junior continued her meteoric rise, placing fifth in the 1,500 at the NCAA Championships in a time of 4:14.76, earning All-American status.

In reflecting on her stunning run this spring, Feldman said she has reaped the benefits of making a commitment to cross country.

“I threw myself into cross country this year and I made an impact there,” said Feldman, who started running with the team in her sophomore year.

“I thought the base would help with 1,500. In the past, I didn’t have the endurance in the last 200 meters of the 1500. My mileage is up. I was doing 40 a week as a sophomore on cross country and I did 65-70 last fall. I am at 40-50 this spring.”

A key moment this spring for Feldman came when she took second in the 1,500 in the Larry Ellis Invitational in late April with a PR of 4:18.86, shaving 1:43 off her previous best time of 4:21.09.

“The Ellis meet was definitely a breakthrough; I saw I can run in a field like that,” said Feldman.

“The 1500 is a lot more tactical than the 800 where you just have to be fast. In some races, you go out slow and in others, you go out fast. Doing our home meets this spring, I saw different things.”

Feldman’s victory at the East Regionals was another eye-opener. “It was my first race in a loaded field like that, a lot of girls had better personal records than I did but I have learned to race and stick with the plan,” said Feldman, who clocked a time of 4:15.00 in the victory. “Winning caught me by surprise; I wasn’t expecting that.”

In her heat at the NCAAs last Thursday, Feldman exceeded expectations again, running a 4:12.73, a
Princeton record, a personal best, and the second-best time in Ivy League history.

“That was great; I went out faster than in regional,” recalled Feldman “That was a big PR for me and it gave me the automatic qualifier for the Olympic Trials.”

While Feldman didn’t match that time in the NCAA final, she liked the way she competed.

“The race plan in final was to get off the line well,” said Feldman. “It was a race that was not about time but about tactics. At 400, I moved to the back which wasn’t good. At 600, the leaders got some separation. With 400 to go, I had some ground to make up. I think I closed well; I had them in my sights.”

Now Feldman has her sights set on staying with the leaders in the Olympic trials which are taking place in Eugene, Ore. from June 21-July 1.

“Coming out of the NCAA race, I would have liked to have done better,” said Feldman.

“I have gained so much confidence in the last couple of weeks. If I had that earlier, I could’ve started from a higher point. For me, the NCAA meet was the big stage. The trials are icing on the cake. I am thrilled to get to compete in Oregon and be around that big time environment. I will be a small fish in a big pond; to be there is unbelievable.”

RUNNING INTO HISTORY: Princeton University track star Donn Cabral heads to the tape last Thursday on his way to winning the steeplechase heat at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. The recently graduated Cabral went on to win the title on Saturday, posting a time of 8:35.44 for the 3,000-meter event as he completed an undefeated season in the steeplechase and earned Princeton’s third outdoor National Championship. Cabral will next be in action when he competes in the U.S. Olympic Track Trials later this month in Eugene, Ore. (Photo by Kristy McNeil, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

After placing second in the steeplechase at the NCAA Championships the last two years, Princeton University distance star Donn Cabral knew he was the hunted one as he competed in the national collegiate meet last weekend.

“I was confident but between Craig Florys of Michigan, Cory Leslie of Ohio State, the Indiana contingent, and Henry Lelei of Texas A & M, there were a lot of runners who wanted to take a shot at me,” said the recently-graduated Cabral. “I was ready to put up a fight.”

Cabral proved to be up to the fight, pulling away for the win last Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa as he posted a time of 8:35.44 for the 3,000-meter event with Florys second in 8:40.66.

In the process, the Glastonbury, Conn. native completed an undefeated season in the event and earned Princeton’s third outdoor National Championship. It was the first crown for a Tiger since Tora Harris won the 2002 high jump, and is the first individual track national title since 1934 when William Bonthron won the mile.

In reflecting on his landmark victory, Cabral was pleased with how he executed under pressure.

“The race plan was sit on the leader and run 70 or 69 second laps which is a comfortable steeplechase pace,” explained Cabral

“With a third of the race to go, I wanted to make a move and spread things out and see if they wanted to run with me. Then I had to hold my focus to the finish. I was really happy with it. Once I started to make a move, my first lap was faster than the next. I wanted it to be a decisive move; I wanted the other people to hurt.”

While Cabral has bigger goals this summer with the summer Olympics on the horizon, he recognizes the importance of the NCAA breakthrough.

“All year I have been telling myself that the Olympic Trials is the race I want to win,” said Cabral, referring to the U.S. Olympic trials which are taking place in Eugene, Ore. from June 21-July 1 with the men’s steeplechase final slated  for June 28 and the top three finishers earning a trip to the London Games.

“But I haven’t ever done this. I was the runner-up the last two years. It isn’t an easy thing to do.”

In order to get the national title, Cabral has put in a lot of hard work. “Over the past few years, I been working out at a 5k pace and using a few hurdles,” said Cabral.

“This year, I have done more work with hurdles and I have been training at faster than steeplechase speed.”

In mid-May, Cabral displayed his speed, setting an American college record of 8:19.14 as he won the steeplechase in the Oxy High Performance Meet at Occidental College.

“That was the biggest confidence builder but there was still a ways to go before the trials and can I keep it going,” said Cabral, who also gained confidence from helping Princeton to wins in the distance medley and 4xmile relays at the Penn Relays in April. “It is good to know I can run an 8:19. I will probably need to run that in the trials.”

While Cabral went on to win the 10,000 and the steeplechase at the Outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships later in May, he wasn’t at his fastest.

“I did get two wins but not the times I had hoped for,” said Cabral. “Completing the triple crown [winning Heps titles in cross country, indoor, and outdoor track] for the team was the big thing. It was less about personal goals and more about team goals.”

Over his Princeton years, Cabral has experienced personal growth away from the track.

“I am such a different person,” said Cabral, who graduated from Princeton on June 5 and was one of five 2012 winners of the William Winston Roper Trophy, the top award for senior male athletes.

“I am more comfortable with who I am. I am more comfortable with my nerdy side. I am a little better at managing time with school work and taking care of things outside of track.”

Cabral is looking to make the most of his time between now and the Olympic Trials, planning to train in Princeton until June 20 and then working out in Portland, Ore. in the days before the steeplechase competition.

“The plan is to be as sharp and fast as possible; the way that has happened for me is with decent workouts,” said Cabral.

“I have been going out slow in the starts of steeplechases and then making a big kick. I want to get into steeplechase pace right off the start. I want to have the finishing speed and the turnover of a miler.”

In order to make the Olympic team, Cabral knows he needs to be sharp mentally.

“I don’t think you can go into this looking to be in the top three; you have to be going in there with the idea of competing for the win,” said Cabral.

“I think that is important; it is bad to go in with a negative focus and thinking you just need to be in the top three. It is much easier to go out there and tell yourself to run for first and not settle for anything else.”

June 6, 2012

PEAK PERFORMANCE: Princeton University senior distance running star Brian Leung displays his form in a race at Weaver Stadium this spring. Leung, a former WW/P-S standout, will be wrapping up his Tiger career this week by competing in the 10,000 at the NCAA Championships at Des Moines, Iowa. It will be the first appearance at the outdoor nationals for Leung, who prepared for his senior season by training last summer in the mountains of Utah. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Brian Leung headed into the mountains to prepare for his final year of distance running at Princeton University.

“This summer went smoothly; a bunch of teammates and I went out to Park City Utah to train and work,” said Leung, noting that there was a core group of 15 Princeton runners engaged in the high altitude training.

“I arrived on campus, pretty fit and ready to go. I definitely bumped up my mileage out there, I was up to 110-120 miles a week.”

But after the high of his summer experience, Leung hit a valley in the latter stages of his cross country season, starting with an Ivy League Heptagonal championship meet that was hit by a freak October snowstorm.

“It was really cold out there in a singlet and shorts; I got pretty sick afterwards,” said Leung, a local running legend during his high school career at WW/P-S.

“It wiped me out for the rest of the cross country. Then I had a weird fatigue in my quads; I didn’t know what it was. I took a couple of weeks off and the doctors diagnosed it as a femoral stress reaction. It took me out for six weeks; I didn’t run indoors.”

With only a few months left in his Tiger career, Leung decided to aim for the summit of college running.

“Coming off the injury, coach [Steve Dolan] and I put together a race plan,” said Leung. “The one goal was to make the NCAAs and run well there.”

Overcoming a slow start to the spring season, Leung achieved the first step of his plan, placing eighth in the 10,000 at the NCAA East regional to make the national championship meet.

This week, Leung will look to accomplish part two of the plan as he competes in the NCAA Championships at Des Moines, Iowa.

At the outset of the outdoor season, though, Leung’s NCAA goal looked like a longshot at best.

“In the first meet during spring break training, everyone was going to run a mile,” recalled Leung.

“I was hoping to go under 4:10; halfway through I realized I wasn’t ready. I ran a 4:24 which is my race pace for 5k. It was frustrating; I was losing to runners I should be beating. The focus was on building base and then gaining speed. In distance running you can’t make up for lost time; being patient was the key.”

Exercising patience, Leung gradually regained his form as he set a personal record of 14:09.82 in the 5,000 at the Larry Ellis Invitational in late April and then placed fifth in the 10,000 at the Outdoor Heps with a time of 29:38.22.

“Every week I was getting stronger,” said Leung. “It helped that I was able to use my teammates as a benchmark. In any other year getting fifth in the Heps would have been disappointing but I was happy with the way I ran there.”

Building on his effort at the Heps, Leung came up big at the NCAA East Regional at the University of North Florida, placing eighth in the 10,000 to book his spot in Des Moines.

“We knew there was going to be a lot of attrition in Jacksonville,” said Leung, who clocked a time of 30:17.64 in making the national meet.

“Even though the race started at 8 at night, it was 85 and humid. I needed to be in the top 12 to make it through to the NCAAs. With two laps to go, I was in ninth and had a good gap so I knew I had wrapped up a spot. It was a fun last 800 meters. It was great to prolong the season and spend two more weeks with my teammates.”

For Leung, competing with star teammate and good friend Donn Cabral has helped him become a better runner.

“We have an interesting relationship; we are roommates but we are pretty competitive with each other,” said Leung, noting that he and Cabral were rivals in regional competition during their high school careers.

“As the years have gone by, he has taken a step up. It has been great to train with each other. We have learned from each other; we make each other better.”

As Leung struggled with injuries at various points of his Princeton career, he has drawn strength from his bond with his classmates. “If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be humbling,” said Leung, reflecting on his Princeton years.

“I haven’t reached all of my goals but being around guys like my room group of Donn, Peter Maag, and Joe Stilin has been great. I have been living vicariously through them at times. I like being part of something larger; you don’t get that in high school. I couldn’t be prouder of what they have done. It is good coming together as a class. We all had a goal of running in the NCAAs; Donn, Joe, Trevor Van Ackeren, and I have made it.”

Now, Leung is aiming for one last goal in his Princeton career. “I am getting sharper; I am getting my legs to feel good,” said Leung, who is heading to University of Wisconsin this fall to study for a masters in public policy and will be able to run for the Badgers as he retains eligibility due to injury layoffs over the last four years.

“I ran 100 miles in the week before regionals and then I went down to the mid-70s. I probably did around 80 this week. As always with NCAAs, the goal is to make All-America; you need to get top 8 for that. There are a couple of guys that are head and shoulders above everyone. But if I am on that day and some other guys are off, I could do it.”

If Leung can reach that height, it would mark one of the more memorable climbs in recent Princeton track history.

HEAVY LIFTING: The Princeton University men’s heavyweight first varsity 8 churns through the water in action this spring. Last Saturday, the Tigers won the petit final at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta to place seventh in the country. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

For the Princeton University men’s heavyweight rowers, their performance last week at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta turned out to be a reflection of a transition season for the program.

On Thursday, Princeton enjoyed a productive opening day, advancing all three of its boats, the varsity eight, second varsity eight, and freshman 8, into the semifinals.

A day later, the Tigers fell short in the semifinals and all three boats had to settle for spots in the B final rather than the grand final.

But showing its character, the varsity eight and the freshman 8s both won their petit finals on Saturday while the second varsity took third.

Princeton head coach Greg Hughes liked the way his rowers had trained since competing in the Eastern Sprints in mid-May.

“We changed up the kind of work we do; it was time to make some changes and push,” said Hughes. “We had two weekends without racing; we worked hard.”

While that work paid dividends for the Tigers on the first day of the regatta, the racing didn’t go as well in the semis.

“Both varsity boats did a solid job on Thursday; they did the pieces that they wanted to row,” said Hughes.

“The conditions were tough on Friday; there was a stiff headwind. I thought we could have rowed better. It was a really great battle between our varsity and Syracuse for third (and the last spot in the grand final); they got the upper hand. It was disappointing; our goal was to make it back to the finals.”

Fighting through that frustration, Princeton ended the IRAs on a high note.

“I thought we rebounded well from Friday,” asserted Hughes. “We rowed a sound piece in the B finals; we made the most out of the race. The guys ended the season in the best way they could.”

For Hughes, there were two main lessons for his rowers to learn from the season.

“I hope they take away two things; we made some good progress through the season and then we had to make adjustments to do as well as we did in sprints,” said Hughes.

“The IRAs are tight and close. They know what the top-end speed is and I think they are motivated to achieve it.

Hughes knows that the graduation of such seniors as captain Ian Silveira and Mike Protesto will leave a void.

“It will be sad to not have Ian next year,” said Hughes. “Mike Protesto was on varsity last year. He was dealing with injury this year and didn’t make varsity but he was a real role player. He was the heart and soul of the second varsity. He won our W. Lyman Biddle sportsmanship award and there was no question about it.”

The Princeton rowers will need to put their hearts into their summer training in order to again become championship contenders.

“It is the off season but not time off; they need to get back to work,” said Hughes.

“It’s not just about what you do in the spring; it is an all-time thing. We have six or seven guys going to national camps this summer and only one, Silveira, is a senior. That will help with the development; they need to be with different programs and have different roles.”

While Princeton has the pieces in place to maintain the program’s winning tradition, that doesn’t ensure greatness.

“Talent is potential but potential doesn’t equal success; we talked about that at the end of the season,” said Hughes.

“It is one thing to have talent, it is another thing to take advantage of it and use it. You can’t take anything for granted.”

GOING THE DISTANCE: Princeton High girls’ track star Elyssa Gensib displays her form in a 2011 race. Last weekend, senior Gensib took second in the 3,200 at the state Group 3 meet to qualify for the upcoming Meet of Champions (MOC). ­Gensib placed seventh in the 1,600 and made the MOC as a wild card in that event. Gensib will be joined in the June 7 meet at Old Bridge by teammates Jenna Cody (3,200), Bryell Wheeler (triple jump), Maddie Lea (triple jump), and Michelle Bazile (discus). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

During May, the Princeton High girls’ track team produced one of the greatest stretches in program history, winning the Mercer County Championships and the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional.

While PHS started June by taking seventh last weekend at the state Group 3 meet to see its title streak end, head coach Jim Smirk had no qualms about how his athletes competed.

“We didn’t have things going like previous weekends but we saw some gutsy performances,” said Smirk. “The girls were trying to risk things and do something great; that is what we were looking for coming in.”

Senior distance star Jenna Cody showed plenty of guts as she didn’t let a stumble keep her from finishing seventh in the 3,200 and earning a wild card entry into the Meet of Champions (MOC) slated for June 7 at Old Bridge.

“Jenna breaks out and was going for it in the 2-mile and the girl in front of her falls and she trips over her,” recalled Smirk. “She popped right back up and ran an 11:09.”

Cody’s classmate and fellow distance star, Elyssa Gensib, pushed herself to the breaking point in the 1,600 as she took seventh in 5:00.62 and earned a wild card spot in the MOC.

“In the mile, Elyssa went for it in the third lap and put herself in a good position,” said Smirk.

“She showed some inexperience on the last lap; she would have been a medalist in any of the other group meets.”

In the 3,200, though, Gensib showed some veteran savvy in taking second with a time of 10:48.18.

“She ran a textbook race; she really executed the race plan, especially with such a quality field,” asserted Smirk

“There were six girls in the race who had gone under 11; they are all experienced and fierce competitors.”

Senior standout Bryell Wheeler displayed her competitive fire, fighting through injury to take second in the triple jump with a leap of 39’2.50.

“Bryell went out in the trials in 100; her hamstring was bothering her all weekend,” said Smirk.

“She found a way in the triple jump to take second and set a county record with a pulled hamstring. The next day, she was hurting in the long jump.”

Wheeler’s fellow jumping star, Maddie Lea, found a way to pull out a fifth-place finish in the triple jump.

“Lea was the competitor of the weekend; she was on the outside looking in during the triple jump preliminaries,” said Smirk.

“She fouled on her first two jumps and popped 36 on the last one to qualify. In the finals, she was seventh coming into the final jump and came back with a 37 to get a medal. It takes a strong person to not freak out when things aren’t going her way and still put in a great effort.”

As Smirk looks ahead to the MOC, he is expecting some more great efforts from his athletes.

“We are looking at some exciting things; Elyssa could go for a sub-5 minute mile or go for the 10:34 school record in the 2-mile,” said Smirk, whose sophomore throwing star Michelle Bazile took fourth in the discus at the group meet with a toss of 117’11 to also qualify for the MOC.

“For Jenna, her race is all about proving that she is one of the top runners in the state in the 2-mile; she is not happy with 11:09. We talked after the race and she said everything went the wrong way on Saturday so hopefully everything will go the right way next week. Maddie is looking to end her high school career by getting in the 37’3 – 37’6 area. For Bryell, it is about competing at the highest level. She can come in and loosen up and know when she is jumping. She won’t have to worry about balancing events.”

In any event, Smirk has enjoyed the ride this spring. “It has been fun; sometimes you get the perfect storm,” said Smirk. “The coaching staff and girls have really been doing a good job.”

THE RIGHT CALL: Princeton High senior Daisy Wu calls the shots in action this spring for the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC). Wu, who made an early transition from rowing to being a cox, is heading to her second straight USRowing Youth National Championships where she will be piloting the MJRC women’s varsity 4. In addition to Wu’s boat, the MJRC is also sending a women’s pair, a women’s lightweight 8, and a men’s open 8 to the competition that will take place from June 8-10 on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

When Daisy Wu first tried her hand at crew, things didn’t go too well.

“Over the summer before high school, I attended the pre-high camp [held by the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC)],” recalled Wu.

“At first I started rowing but I was the one who caught the crabs (a bad stroke where a rower is unable to timely remove or release the oar blade from the water) every time.”

As a result, the coaches suggested that Wu try a different role in the boat.

“They said why don’t we put you in the coxswain seat,” said Wu. “They were like you can steer straight, you should try out for the team as a cox.”

Wu made the transition to coxswain and now the Princeton High senior is headed to her second straight USRowing Youth National Championships where she will be piloting the MJRC women’s varsity 4.

In addition to Wu’s boat, the MJRC is also sending a women’s pair, a women’s lightweight 8, and a men’s open 8 to the competition that will take place from June 8-10 on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Wu took an important step on her journey to the nationals in the fall of her freshman year when she started to grasp the nuances of being a cox.

“I guess the biggest challenge is figuring out that it is not just sitting there and yelling,” said Wu.

“You have to figure out what to say and what gets people going. You have to become friends with the people on your boat quickly since you are all from different schools and put together quickly.”

Last spring, Wu relished the challenge of nationals as she guided a youthful men’s varsity 8 at the competition.

“They were all underclassmen, sophomore or freshmen, and it was them just learning the ropes for what they were going to do the next year,” said Wu. “They are pretty fast this year; they have all been learning. It wasn’t overwhelming for me; it was a great experience.”

As a senior, Wu has had the experience of leading the MJRC girls’ team, serving as captain along with PHS classmate Reina Gabai.

“It felt really cool because Reina was the other captain and she is my best friend,” said Wu.

“It was a big honor to do it with her. Reina was the one who could lead by example because she rows. I was more the motivational backbone for everyone. I wrote speeches; we set up team workshops. We had a lot of psyche parties. I loved it. I thought Reina and I did a pretty good job.”

The work of Wu and Gabai has resulted in a special chemistry around the MJRC boathouse.

“The team this year is great; we became one united front; we weren’t segregated by what boat we were in or how we did,” said Wu.

“We were one really strong team and we just really cared for each other which is why this year has been so great.”

In Wu’s view, the varsity 4 heading to the nationals exemplifies that spirit.

“The athletes are really, really strong and they want it which is really important, that is the biggest thing,” said Wu of the boat that also includes Laura Foster of WW/P-S, Emily Goodman of PHS, Samantha Woo of WW/P-S, and Vicki Jorgensen of WW/P-N.

“It is also because we all click well together. Our personalities are compatible; we want to do it for each other, which is the biggest thing.”

The group, which was put together midway through the season, showed how well they could do as they won the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship regatta on its home course at Mercer Lake in mid-May to qualify for the nationals.

“Our heat was Friday night and the plan was don’t over exhaust yourself,” said Wu.

“Play it smart, if you are in first great. If you are in second, don’t fight it. We were in first during heat and there was a boat next to us battling over the last 250 and we let them have it. We had a pretty good final. We had open water and the boat that was first in the semis, we didn’t even know where they were in the final.”

As the boat heads into the nationals, Wu has her sights set on making another final.

“We ultimately want to get into the A final; that is a big deal,” said Wu, referring to the grand final which features the top six boats in the division.

“The competition is really tough so if we can get into the A final at nationals, that would be a pretty darn good way to end it, even if we don’t win.”

That won’t be the end for Wu and her boat, however, as they will be competing later in the summer at the Henley Royal Regatta in England.

“We have the potential to do well at Henley,” asserted Wu. “We just have to keep working for it. We have the idea that we could go overseas to race and do well.”

TOP GUN: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse star Hannah Levy heads to goal in action this spring. Junior Levy piled up a team-high 94 points this season on 69 goals and 25 assists to help PDS overcome a 0-5 start and finish with a 9-9 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team played at the Hun School in its season finale, it may have been a Mercer County Tournament consolation game but there was still a lot on the line.

PDS came into the contest looking to raise its season record to the .500 mark and seeking to prove it was for real after edging Hun in a regular season contest.

Utilizing a balanced attack, PDS made its point, pulling out an 18-17 win to end a roller-coaster spring on a high note.

For PDS head coach Jill Thomas, the season-ending triumph was meaningful on several levels.

“It evened our record at 9-9,” said Thomas. “I think a lot of people thought our win there earlier in the season was a fluke so to come back and do it again was big. We can use that win as a positive as we go into the offseason.”

The Panthers got a special highlight in the contest as the team’s lone senior, Shannon Towle, scored the game-winning goal in the waning moments.

“For Shannon to get the winning goal in her last game in the PDS uniform was big,” said Thomas.

“You should have seen the look on her face; that goal will be in her thoughts for a long time.”

As Thomas looks back on the spring, she acknowledges that it was a bumpy ride.

“When you are young, it is fun and frustrating,” said Thomas. “At times everyone had some frustration this year but is not where you start, it is where you finish. We were 0-5 on April 4 and then we won our next five games. We played with the big girls in Prep A and took our lumps. All the kids got better, we have everyone coming back but one player; they learned what it means to wear the PDS uniform.”

Junior star Hannah Levy brought a lot of honor to the PDS uniform this
season, scoring 94 points on 69 goals and 25 assists.

“Hannah had a pretty big year; she could have been frustrated with the team but she went out every day and played really hard,” said Thomas of Levy who was named as a first-team All-Prep A performer this spring.

“She is a very talented athlete; she is tough and has a style all of her own. She accounted for almost 100 goals; we depended on her to do so many things. She played low attack; she took the draws. She ran the offense; she ran the defense.”

The Panthers have plenty of returning talent in such players as juniors Corinne Urisko and Ellen Bartolino, freshmen Kirsten Kuzmicz and Morgan Foster, and sophomore Lucy Linville.

“Urisko had 35 goals; she was our unsung hero,” asserted Thomas. “Kuzmicz played nearly every minute of the season and did all the little things. She can play; she is the real deal. Foster came on at the end. Linville had moments of brilliance; she had 15 goals and five assists. I am excited to see what she is going to do over the next two years. Ellen Bartolino was someone who figured it out; she can be a force on the field.”

Junior goalie Sarah Trigg proved she can be a force on the field as she took over the starting role in the wake of the graduation of four-year starter Jess Frieder.

“Trigg made big improvements; she is very tough,” added Thomas of Trigg, who is also a star goalie in field hockey.

“She had big shoes to fill. It is tough going from stopping the ball with your feet in field hockey to using your hands. She improved day in, day out.”

In Thomas’ view, the Panthers should keep improving as long as they keep their noses to the grindstone.

“When you are young, you hope for the best,” said Thomas, noting that there are some strong players coming up the ranks from the school’s JV and middle school programs.

“The main lesson is to never, ever give up and to work hard everyday. They need to put in time with the stick and ball. Summer leagues and camps are nice but the key is spending time with the stick and ball and developing stick skills with both hands.”

HEATED COMPETITION: DeQuan Holman, right, of University Radiology looks to get past Chris Edwards of Winberie’s/Miller Lite in last year’s championship series of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Holman and University Radiology went on to win the crown 2-1 in the best-of-three series. The 2012 summer men’s hoops season tips off on June 11 at 7:15 p.m. with a tripleheader at the Community Park courts. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Utilizing a blend of talent and big-game savvy, University Radiology broke through last year to win the title of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

The core of the team consisted of Skye Ettin, Brian Dunlap, A.J. Dowers, and DeQuan Holman, former Princeton High hoops standouts who reached the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional finals during their high school careers.

On paper, this group looks like it could become a dominant force in the league, following in the footsteps of such legendary dynasties as Tiger’s Tale, Ivy Inn, and George’s Roasters.

But with the 2012 summer men’s hoops season tipping off on June 11 at 7:15 p.m. with a tripleheader at the Community Park courts, the jury is out on University Radiology’s staying power as it looks to defend the title it earned by beating Winberie’s/Miller Lite 2-1 in a hotly-contested best-of-three championship series.

“I think they are pretty much intact,” said Evan Moorhead, league commissioner and longtime observer of the summer hoops battles.

“There has been talk of a dynasty; we have had a lot of flashes in the pan. Over the first 23 seasons, we have had a lot of teams that thought they were the new Tiger’s Tale or Ivy Inn. They have all the pieces but it remains to be seen.”

Last year’s runner-up, Winberie’s, may not have all of its pieces in place as it looks to mount another championship chase.

“Al Gerido is not playing for them and Chris Hatchell had knee problems at the end of the season,” said Moorhead.

“Mark Rosenthal [team manager] plays it close to the vest. They had a great regular season last year. Hatchell was the regular season MVP and they went undefeated. They will have another strong team if they have some of the same players. I think Evan Johnson, their big guy, is back.”

Another big question coming into the summer is whether Ivy Inn (formerly known as George’s Roasters/Ivy Inn) can get back the mojo that helped the club win four of the last six titles coming into the 2011 campaign.

“Last year was rough for them,” said Moorhead, noting that the club went 3-6 in regular season play and was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the playoffs last summer.

“We will see if they can come back strong. Brian Halligan moved out of state and they will miss his steady play at point guard. Scott Findlay was coming back from a knee injury last summer and may not be playing for them. I think Mark Aziz is back from playing in Egypt and Bobby Davison is there.”

Two other league denizens, Dr. Palmer and SMB, could emerge as dark horses.

“Dr. Palmer hasn’t had a deep run in a while,” added Moorhead. “They always have talent; they always have size. They could be right there in the mix. Greg Ford will be back; he was one of the top scorers in the league last year. SMB finished up in the middle of the pack in the regular season but made it to semis and took Winberie’s into OT.”

The PA Blue Devils are back after making a semifinal run of their won last summer.

“They were strong last year; they made the semis and they were only a basket away from the finals,” said Moorhead.

“They have the same core guys. The guys play in Division III and community college; they keep active and have young legs.”

Another team with youth on its side is Team TB which features several recent PHS grads.

“Team TB has picked up Davon Holliday Black,” said Moorhead of the former Little Tiger star who had played for Princeton Youth Sports, the PHS boys’ hoops entry in the summer league. “There is a lot of talk that they could make a run.”

The league boasts two newcomers in the Ballstars and the Clinton Kings. “The Ballstars are mainly PHS guys like Aaron Thomas, Marcus Budline, Matt Hoffman, Ben Harrison, and a PDS guy Robby Smukler,” said Moorhead.

“The Clinton Kings are similar to PA Blue Devils; They have some college D-3 players; they will be coming down from the Clinton area.”

In Moorhead’s view, the fans coming down to Community Park this summer will be treated to plenty of heated contests.

“This is the first time we have had 10 teams since 2006; it looked like there were only going to be eight teams and then two teams came out of nowhere right before the deadline,” said Moorhead.

“I think it is going to be very competitive. There are not a lot of easy outs on paper; there is a lot of parity.”

May 30, 2012

STROKE OF BRILLIANCE: Princeton University men’s heavyweight rowing star Ian Silveira pulls hard from the stroke seat in a race this spring. Utilizing his leadership and skill, senior captain Silveira has set a positive tone for the Tigers. This weekend, Silveira will be looking to finish his Princeton career in style as his varsity 8 boat goes for a national title at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championships on Cooper River in Cherry Hill. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

Some rowers shy away from the stroke seat and the accompanying responsibility to initiate the cadence for a boat but not Ian Silveira.

“I like the feeling that there is a bit more control,” said Silveira, reflecting on the stroke position which is the rower closest to the stern.

“It sets the rhythm for the rest of the boat; there is a lot of pressure but I like it. I like the feeling of setting the tone and the feeling when the guys really start going.”

This spring, the senior star has been setting the tone in and out of the water as the senior captain of the Princeton University men’s heavyweight program.

“I was honored that my teammates thought highly enough of me; it put expectations on me,” said Silveira.

“You want to set a good example and display a work ethic that others would emulate. I am trying to live up to the standard of the guys who came before me and continue what we have done in the past. The juniors and rest of seniors are helping me out; it is basically a collective effort.”

This week, Silveira and his teammates will be looking to produce a big effort as they go after a national title in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championships on Cooper River in Cherry Hill.

Silveira likes the way his first varsity boat has been training as it prepares for the IRA.

“It has been going well; we are carrying a lot of the speed we took into sprints,” said Silveira, referring to the Eastern Sprints where the top boat finished fourth.

“The theme this year is learning and developing and we have been able to do that. I look forward to racing.”

It didn’t take long for Silveira to learn that he loved racing. “From the first practice in high school, I was hooked on it,” recalled Silveira, a native of West Bloomfield, Mich. who went to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep.

“It was completely different than the other sports I had tried. It was not on a field or a court, it was on a lake.”

Showing ability to go with his passion for the sport, Silveira made the U.S. junior 8 and competed internationally.

“I was used to rowing in Michigan and competing against rowers in my region; being on the world stage was a big jump,” said Silveira. “Rowing against kids from all over the world was more exciting than anything; it is fun to race.”

When it came time to row in college, Silveira was excited to join the Princeton crew program.

“I had spent time at Princeton; the juniors selection camp was there so I had an idea what it was like,” said Silveira.

“I liked the way they ran the program, it was the best fit for me team-wise. I also picked the school where I would be most comfortable if anything happened to me and I couldn’t row.”

It took Silveira a while to develop a comfort level with college rowing. “The work load is different; it is definitely a jump in the training load,” said Silveira.

“The workouts are harder; you are recruited and expected to perform. You think you are going to have a lot of time but you are in class from 8-3 and then you have practice. You have to figure out how to balance things; you want to perform in class and on the water.”

Silveira has certainly performed well on the water for the Tigers. By sophomore year, he was ensconced in the stroke seat for the varsity 8, helping the boat place second at the Eastern Sprints. Last year, he helped the Tigers take silver again at the Eastern Sprints and sixth in the IRA national championship regatta.

Over the past two summers, Silveira has honed his skills by competing for the U.S.’s U23 men’s quadruple sculls (M4x), which involves a rower using two oars rather than one as in college sweep competition.

“In high school, I did the single at the end of the year so I’m used to sculling,” said Silveira

“It is something different. It is fun to race in different boats. The first year, we went to Belarus and finished 10th. We finished 4th last year at Amsterdam, it was the best finish ever for the U.S. in that event.”

As Silveira finishes up his career at Princeton, he has been thrust in the role of mentoring a group of younger rowers.

“It has definitely been different working with the young guys; I have thought about things I have never thought about,” said Silveira.

“I was the only sophomore in a boat of juniors and seniors. As a junior, we had a bunch of seniors. Now there are five sophomores on the boat. I am having to remember the lessons I was learning when I was a sophomore and spending more time taking guys under my wing. It is a new challenge.”

The Tigers have faced some challenges this spring, suffering defeats to Harvard, Cornell, and Brown in their final three regular season regattas before the fourth-place finish at the Eastern Sprints.

“I think that the younger guys are dealing with taking lumps; each of the losses showed all of us what we needed to work on to develop,” said Silveira. “At sprints, we displayed how we had taken those lessons.”

Silveira is savoring his final days of work at the Princeton boathouse. “It is bittersweet; it is good to be done with the school part,” said Silveira, a sociology major who is contemplating going to law school after his rowing career.

“Every day I go out on the water, I can count the days left on one hand. It is a little sad having to leave; I have enjoyed the people I have rowed with.”

Utilizing the mentality that has served him well in the stroke seat, Silveira is looking to get the most out of the people he will be rowing with this weekend.

“I have had to learn to adapt and work with others and be a better leader,” said Silveira, who plans to compete with the U.S. U-23 boat this summer with an eye to continuing with the national program through the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“I have been learning how to manage people’s attitudes and learning what it takes to get people coming from different positions to work with each other and come together.”

GOING FOURTH: The Princeton University women’s open crew varsity eight cruises back to the dock after finishing fourth last Sunday in the grand final of the NCAA Championships at Mercer Lake. The Tigers advanced boats to all three grand finals of the competition as they placed fourth in the team standings. Princeton has now placed in the Top 4 at the last four NCAA regattas. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Lila Flavin reflects on her Princeton University career, one of the major lessons that comes to her mind centers on mental toughness.

“I think what they say about Princeton is that they have a lot of fight,” said Flavin. “I think I had it going in but I think I have learned how to use it and how to handle moments of pressure.”

Last weekend, Flavin, the senior coxswain for the Princeton University women’s open crew varsity 8, came through with aplomb under pressure as the Tigers competed in the NCAA Championships at nearby Mercer Lake.

On Friday, the native of Cambridge, Mass. piloted the Tigers to a second place in their opening heat as they qualified for the semifinals. A day later, she guided the boat to a second place finish, helping Princeton emerge as one of only three programs in the 16-school competition to send boats to all three Grand Finals.

With a national title on the line in Sunday’s racing, Flavin and the Tigers fought valiantly but came up short as they placed fourth in 6:25.90 over the 2,000-meter course, 7.18 seconds behind winner Virginia and a mere 0.84 behind third-place finisher USC.

With the varsity 4 taking fifth and the second varsity 8 placing fourth, the Tigers ended up fourth overall in the team standings at the regatta.

While Flavin would have liked to have seen her boat take home a title, she had no qualms with how it battled.

“We were just real excited to make the final; we had no idea how it was going to go,” said Flavin.

“The national championship is a whole different league. I think we just went out there to have the best race we could possibly have. We fought really hard. They [USC] just snuck by us but we are happy with it.”

Flavin is happy with how the boat progressed this spring as it bounced back from early season losses to Michigan and USC.

“With this season, I am just going to think about how much we have grown throughout the year,” said Flavin.

“We came in really rough and not really sure of ourselves and we came out really confident and stronger. I will remember that progression.”

For Flavin, guiding the varsity 8 to a national title in 2011 is something that has left an indelible memory. “I will never forget that,” said Flavin. “I learned a lot about what it takes to be at the top and be the best.”

Working with her classmates has helped Flavin learn what it takes to get through the rough times that come with pursuing championships.

“There are not very many of us but we have really had a lot of character and we have helped to keep the team together,” said Flavin.

“I think with any sport, there is a ton of ups and downs. There are a lot of bad days when you don’t want to be there but that’s when it counts. I think we have tried to channel that as seniors.”

Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny credits Flavin and her classmates with being a steadying force at the boathouse.

“It is a small class but they have a big presence,” said Dauphiny. “This year there was a senior in every boat. Lila, in particular, as a coxswain and having been in that national championship boat last year knows what it takes and she holds them to high standards.”

The Tigers lived up to their high standards on Saturday when they came out of the semifinals with boats in all three grand finals.

“Yesterday was a great day for us in ways that exceeded expectations,” said Dauphiny.

“I wasn’t sure that all three boats were going to make the final. Everyone really stepped up. We worked very hard between the [Ivy] Sprints and the national championship to make it happen.”

Although the varsity 8 didn’t repeat as national champions, Dauphiny liked the way the boat worked on Sunday.

“I thought it was great; I think they are slightly disappointed,” said Dauphiny.

“If you look at our season and where we were compared to those folks in the regular season, we have increased in speed. In the beginning of the season, we lost to Michigan by open water and we also lost to USC. This time around, we were within seconds and tenths of seconds of the top competition. So they were fierce competitors and great racers; I thought our effort was very courageous.”

Dauphiny saw courage in the efforts she got from the varsity 4 and the second varsity 8.

“I thought they did an outstanding job as well,” added Dauphiny. “In the 4, it was a tight field and I think they had some little disappointment as well. They raced hard and I think they improved through the season as well. The 2V is heart-stopping in every race, they basically have taken years off my life. They always come from behind. They are always down off the start and then they slowly work their way back in so I think they are a very confident group.”

With Princeton having now placed in the Top 4 at the last four NCAA regattas, Dauphiny is confident that the Tigers are headed in the right direction.

“I think that shows that we are really building depth,” asserted Dauphiny, who is in her 16th year at the helm of the program.

“In the past, that was something that we struggled with. This year, putting all boats in the finals was one of our goals. When I asked the team what they wanted to do, they responded, ‘we want all boats in the finals at the national championships.’ I think they wanted to go beyond that; that is why there is a slight disappointment. This is the first time in some time that we have put all three boats in the grand final. It has been at least 10 years.”

Flavin, for her part, has relished the time she has put in getting the most out of her boats.

“I have so much respect for the rowers and what they go through,” said Flavin.

“I don’t think there is any other sport like that; being able to be in a boat with them is really inspiring.”

NICK THE QUICK: Nick Miranda races to first in action this spring for the Haverford College baseball team. Miranda, a 2010 Princeton High alum who starred in football and baseball for the Little Tigers, went from a little-used walk-on as a freshman to a star this spring in his sophomore campaign for Haverford. After going hitless as a freshman, the fleet centerfielder hit .352 with 62 hits in 176 at-bats in 2012 and set a Haverford single-season record for runs scored with 48. (Photo Courtesy of Haverford College Sports Information)

Nick Miranda had a modest goal when he took the field for the season opener this spring in his sophomore campaign with the Haverford College baseball team.

“Playing in Florida, I was just looking to get my first college hit,” said Miranda, a 2010 Princeton High alum who starred in football and baseball for the Little Tigers.

It didn’t take long for Miranda to achieve that breakthrough, smacking a double in that first game as Haverford faced Neumann University in Fort Myers, Fla.

The 5’9, 140-pound centerfielder went on to get a lot more hits this spring as he hit .352 with 62 hits in 176 at-bats and set a Haverford single-season record for runs scored with 48.

For Miranda, struggling through a tough freshman season which saw him go 0-for-7 at the plate in 12 games served as the impetus for his heroics this spring.

“I was completely unhappy with my freshman year,” said Miranda. “I was the only guy on the team who didn’t have a hit. I used that as fuel for motivation.”

When Miranda arrived on campus this fall, he was primed to turn some heads.

“For me, it was about getting stronger and faster over the summer,” said Miranda. “I worked on my hitting a lot. I was ready to get after it, I had something to prove.”

Establishing himself as a starter, Miranda savored every game. “I definitely felt along the way I was getting the confidence of the coaches,” said Miranda. “Just being on the field and playing was great.”

With Miranda triggering the offense from the leadoff spot, the Fords produced a great finish, winning nine of their last 10 regular season games and then going on to win the Centennial Conference tournament and compete in the NCAA Division III Mid-Atlantic Regional.

“It was all due to leadership; we had two really good seniors who were the heart and soul of the team and really guided the younger players,” said Miranda, reflecting on the late surge which helped Haverford finish with 25-19 record.

“The Washington College doubleheader in April was big. If we had lost there, we might not have made the playoffs. Our bats really came alive.”

Taking the program’s first-ever Centennial tourney crown produced some memories that will live forever with Miranda.

“That was pretty awesome; beating Johns Hopkins to start was big, we haven’t beaten them many times,” said Miranda.

“It was great; it was our first conference title. We had a lot of support from our alums, everyone was following us.”

For Haverford head coach Dave Beccaria, Miranda’s emergence as a star has been a great surprise for the program.

“We liked his athleticism and competitiveness; he went from a guy who was a freshman walk-on who didn’t play much to an indispensable player,” said Beccaria.

“Sometimes when a guy isn’t playing, you are not sure of how much is sinking in. It is clear now that he was soaking everything up.”

Miranda made his intentions for this season clear from the moment he arrived on campus for his sophomore year.

“It was apparent from the start; Nick was ready to prove something to himself and the coaches,” recalled Beccaria.

“He was competing from day one. He showed up ready to work and play. The way he played and the way he worked challenged the other guys.

Miranda’s competitive fire never waned through the spring. “Nick is a tough out; he is simple but purposeful at the plate,” added Beccaria.

“He hits a lot of balls hard. He is super focused. He shows up completely focused and tunes everything else out. The other guys picked up on it. During our first regional game at the NCAA, we were the away team and before the lineup was announced and national anthem was played, he was in the on-deck circle with helmet on and bat in his hand. The guys said ‘that’s Nicky.’”

In Beccaria’s view, Miranda has only scratched the surface of what he can achieve in his college career.

“The best is yet to come; there are not peaks and valleys with Nicky,” said Beccaria. “We will try to help him get even better; he is going to be a big part of our success.

While Haverford didn’t enjoy the success it
wanted at the NCAA regional, losing two of three games, Miranda saw the
experience as a big plus for the program.

“I don’t think we were out of our league,” said Miranda, who went 6-for-14 in the tourney with two runs and two RBIs. “We played well; it was nice.”

Although Miranda will be spending much of his summer in Asia, he isn’t about to lose his focus on becoming an even better player.

“I will be in China for two months on a study abroad program; I will be able to lift weights and run there,” said Miranda.

“I do have a couple of flaws; I have to work on my arm strength. I don’t want to stop building; I want to improve.”

AHEAD OF THE PACK: Princeton High girls’ track distance stars, Jenna Cody, right, and Amelia Whaley, run away from the competition in a meet earlier this spring. Last weekend, Cody and Whaley helped PHS win the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title. Senior Cody took second in the 3,200 and fourth in the 1,600 while junior Whaley was fifth in the 3,200. The pair will next be in action when the Little Tigers compete in the state Group 3 championship meet this weekend at South Plainfield. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton High girls’ track team brings plenty of talent to the table, it is a dogged spirit that has been the main ingredient in a championship run.

“Some people say a good team has to have a swagger but we are not flashy,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk.

“We talk a lot about ‘sisu,’ a Finnish work for stubborn determination. The girls have a self-confidence, a self-confidence that is earned.”

Last weekend, the Little Tigers displayed their self-confidence and will as they methodically out-dueled the competition on the way to the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title.

PHS piled up a winning total of 88 points with Neptune second at 82 and Jackson Liberty third at 67.5.

The win marked the program’s first-ever Group 3 title and was its first sectional crown since PHS took the Central Jersey Group 2 title in 1989. It was a second breakthrough in two weeks for the Little Tigers as they had edged WW/P-S earlier this month to win the county championship.

Setting the pace for the Little Tigers in the sectional meet were its two senior superstars, Bryell Wheeler and Elyssa Gensib. Wheeler took first in the 100 (12.61) and the triple jump (a meet record of 38’6.50) with a third in the long jump (16’8-75) while Penn-bound Gensib was first in the 3,200 (10:53.90), second in the 1,600 (5:03.97), and fourth in the 800 (2:20.33).

Fellow seniors Maddie Lea and Jenna Cody also made big contributions with Lea taking second in both the triple jump (36‘2.50) and long jump (16’ 9) and Cody placing second in the 3,200 (11:05.40) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:09.68).

Wheeler displayed grit as well as talent in coming up big, fighting through a nagging hamstring to earn her titles.

“Bryell has gained a lot of confidence in her jumps,” said Smirk. “She has more confidence in her jumps than sprints which is amazing with her sprinting background. She ran the 200 in the prelims and said her hamstring didn’t feel right. We thought she had a better shot in the long jump so she dropped out of the 200. She barely made it to the final in the long jump and then ends up jumping third. I have to give a lot of credit to her performance on day two to coach [Ben] Samara. He got her focused and really helped her deal with the hamstring.”

Lea has displayed a special focus in crunch time. “Last year, Maddie developed into a star athlete.,” said Smirk.

“As the season goes on, she gets better little by little but doesn’t put anything great out there. But in sectionals and states, she is great. You put her in the moment and she gives you every inch and every ounce of effort.”

Distance star Gensib likewise demonstrated her flair for rising to the occasion in the big moment.

“Elyssa was incredible; when you tell most athletes that they are going against a national record holder in the 800 and the mile like Ajee Wilson of Neptune, they say ‘oh god’ but Elyssa said hey I am finally going against someone who will help me see what I can really do,” said Smirk.

“She made a mistake in the mile and was too aggressive in the 800. She was really great in the two-mile. What more can you ask of an athlete; she is great at preparing and is great at making race-time adjustments.”

Senior standout Amelia Whaley made a key adjustment as she rose to fifth place in the 3,200 (11:53.01) despite being placed in the slower second heat.

“I sat down with Amelia and talked about it,” said Smirk. “She was a real veteran; she said there was nothing we could do about it. I told her she has run a dozen workouts on the track by herself so she knows what is it like to run fast alone. We could see the group falling behind her so we knew she was running the right pace.”

Bouncing back from illness that kept her out of the county meet, Cody was up to speed as well.

“We were really happy to have Jenna this weekend,” said Smirk. “In the mile, she was nipped by HoVal girl [Sarah Chandler]. She made a little mistake; she was too passive in the middle of the race. We had a real aggressive race plan for the two-mile. We wanted her to do the first mile in 5:20. Gensib kept pressing and passed her at the right time while Cody kept battling and holding on.”

In producing the championship run, PHS has shown an ability to execute its plan.

“A lot of people say the county title is a fluke but we are showing that we are a consistently good team,” said Smirk. “We are the team making the least amount of mistakes.”

As the Little Tigers head into the state Group 3 championship meet this weekend at South Plainfield, Smirk will be looking for his athletes to dig even deeper.

“It is going to be incredible; Winslow is stacked and they look to be at a different level,” said Smirk.

“What I would like to see is for us to risk a little more. They have performed at their best but maybe not at their absolute best. It is less about points and more about doing their best.”

But no matter what the scoreboard says after Saturday, Smirk has drawn inspiration from how his athletes have performed all spring.

“I am so impressed by what they have gone through and how they approach everything, on and off the track, with a fervor for being great,” asserted Smirk. “It is fun to coach athletes like that.”

UPWARD CURVE: Princeton High boys’ track senior star Bruce Robertson flashes his form through a curve earlier this spring. Last Saturday, Robertson took second in the 800 at the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet to help the Little Tigers place fourth in the team standings. Robertson and the team’s other top-6 finishers at the sectional competition will be in action this week at the state Group 3 meet at South Plainfield. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ track team, its performance last Saturday at the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet represented a step forward.

“Looking at it overall, it is the largest number of qualifiers and largest number of points we have had since I started coaching in 2001,” said PHS head coach John Woodside, whose team placed fourth with Northern Burlington taking first followed by Hamilton and Ocean Township.

“Two years ago, we 10 medals and 41 points. Today we had 11 medals and 46 points. We had a lot of good things happen.”

But Woodside was left with a nagging feeling that even better things could have happened in the meet which took place at Monmouth Regional.

“I think we have a good enough team that we could have done even better,” maintained Woodside.

“The winner had 67 points, that is not that much to win a big meet. The door was wide open.”

Junior throwing star Tim Brennan, though, could not have done much better, winning both the shot put (50’ 7.50) and the javelin (143’3).

“It is hard to describe where to start about him; he is a very important part of our team,” asserted Woodside.

“He is a great kid, great athlete. He works as hard as any kid I have been around. More than that, he helps his teammates get better. He knows how to approach a meet and how to compete. I think of him as the rock. He is a great asset to our team; he is indispensable. He won two events, that is hard to do.”

Senior Bruce Robertson has been an asset to the team and he came up big at the sectional, taking second in the 800 (1:59.69).

“Bruce has been good all year; he had a solid race today,” said Woodside. “It was not spectacular in terms of time but it was a hot day. He ran a good race to finish second. He got himself in a good position; I am happy for him.”

The distance guys were solid across the board for Woodside. “We had 7 qualifiers — three in 1,600 (Ian McIsaac-4th; Conor Donahue-5th; Kevin Ivanov-6th), two in 800 (Robertson-2nd; McIsaac-5th) and two in 3,200 (Luke Bozich-4th; Jacob Rist-5th),” added Woodside.

“McIsaac was the only guy who qualified in two events so we had six different guys. That is the most we have had; it was a good showing. We competed hard. I am proud of them.”

Junior star McIsaac did yeoman’s work for the Little Tigers as he helped the 4×400 relay take fifth in addition to his top-six finishes in the 800 and 1,600.

“I know Ian is a little disappointed but that is good because he wants to do better,” said Woodside.

“He had a little hamstring problem on 1600 and still ran 4:28. The 800 was a good performance for him and he led off the 4×400 relay with a 52.0.”

PHS got a superb performance in the 400 hurdles from sophomore Sabar Dasgupta as he took sixth.

“Sabar ran a tremendous race in the 400 hurdles; “ said Woodside. “He had a big breakthrough a week ago with a 57.8. He ran a 57.50 today so he made breakthrough and beat that a week later.”

Woodside will be looking for more breakthroughs this weekend as his team competes in the state Group 3 meet at South Plainfield.

“We want to try to build on it; that’s the goal,” asserted Woodside. “We are going against really top level guys. We want to improve on what we did this week. The distance runners certainly feel they can do better.”

QIU SCORE: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Kevin Qiu, right, hits a backhand as partner Adib Zaidi moves to the net. The first doubles pair of senior Qiu and freshman Zaidi helped PHS advance to the Central Jersey Group 3 semifinals where they fell to eventual sectional champion Hopewell Valley. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Eddie Percarpio’s shoulder had been ailing but the Princeton High boys’ tennis team senior star was not about to sit out the state tournament.

As PHS played Monmouth in the second round of the Central Jersey Group 3 tourney, Percarpio took the court at first singles even though he could only serve underhanded.

Showing grit and savvy, Percarpio pulled out a 7-6, 6-3 win to help the Little Tigers prevail 5-0.

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert saw Percarpio’s performance as a sterling example of senior leadership.

“Eddie had a great match; he has been out for a while with a sore shoulder and has been resting it as much as he could,” said Hibbert.

“He asked me to play; he is a senior and it is his last chance in states. He was a great asset for us. He relied on his ground strokes and mental game.

Percarpio’s effort set a tone for the fourth seeded Little Tigers didn’t drop a set in the win over fifth-seeded Monmouth.

“We didn’t know what to expect; we hadn’t played them and we didn’t play teams they compete against,” added Hibbert.

“Once we got started I was pleased with how the guys played and took care of business.”

Advancing to play top-seeded Hopewell Valley in the sectional semis, Hibbert knew her team was facing a formidable foe.

“We had a tough match with them earlier in the season,” said Hibbert, whose team had lost 5-0 to the Bulldogs on April 12 in a regular season meeting.

“I told the guys we are a much different team than we were a month and a half ago. We had played in the county tournament and we had a lot of tough matches. I told them we had a shot at this.”

While PHS ended up falling 4-1 to the Bulldogs in the May 16 rematch, the Little Tiger players certainly gave it their best shot.

“We won two first sets; we only won one first set in the earlier match,” said Hibbert,

“We were a lot more competitive in a lot of the matches. We played a much closer match than the first time. There were a few tough decisions here or there.”

Once again, a senior showed toughness for PHS as third single player Julian Edgren played on through pain even after HoVal had clinched victory.

“It came down to two matches and they were both split through the first two sets, recalled Hibbert.

“After second singles lost, they had it. Julian started getting leg cramps but he stayed out there.”

The team’s core of seniors, Robert Zhao, Kevin Qiu, Percarpio, and Edgren, have demonstrated staying power over their careers.

“They have been a very strong group,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Lawrence 5-0 on May 18 to improve to 13-3 and was slated to wrap up the season with matches against Notre Dame and WW/P-S.

“They came in as freshmen and played at the top of JV and had some varsity matches. By sophomore year, they ended up in the varsity lineup. They have had various spots. The last two years, they were at singles with Kevin as a staple on doubles. It is always sad to lose a core of seniors. The guys are close; they hang out away from tennis and they are friends off the court.

Having gone with freshmen Adib Zaidi, Tyler Hack, and Rishab Tanga in the starting lineup, the Little Tigers boast a good core of players going forward.

“It is a steady group of players; we do have some bright young prospects with the three freshmen who played this year,” added Hibbert. “I think they can be a great help to us in the future at singles or doubles.”

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: Princeton High softball star Louise Eisenach makes contact in action this spring. The leadership and production of senior shortstop and tri-captain Eisenach helped PHS become more competitive this season. PHS went 9-14, tying a single season record for victories, as it won the Teaneck Highwaywoman Tournament and edged Lawrence High 3-2 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament, its first triumph in county play in recent memory, if ever. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High softball team had never won a game in state tournament competition, the squad was not intimidated when it played at Nottingham last week in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group 3 tourney.

“We had no lack of confidence coming into that game,” said PHS first-year head coach Dave Boehm, reflecting on the matchup between his 11th seeded Little Tigers and the sixth-seeded Northstars.

“We had played two close games with them. We lost in the top of the seventh and bottom of the seventh.”

While PHS got off to a rough start in the contest, falling behind 4-0 after two innings, the squad didn’t fold. The Little Tigers rallied for a run in the top of the fifth on an RBI single from senior Hannah Zink but couldn’t tally after that on the way to a 4-1 defeat

“We knew they had a good pitcher who was going to be tough,” said Boehm, whose team ended the spring at 9-14, tying a program record for single-season wins.

“We gave up four runs in the first two innings and no more after that. They had five hits; we had two.”

The Little Tigers showed toughness this spring in making some key breakthroughs as they won an in-season tourney and edged Lawrence High 3-2 in extra innings in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament.

“We won the Teaneck tournament, we had lost there the last three years,” said Boehm, whose team beat Ridgefield 8-4 and Teaneck 15-3 on the way to the title of the Teaneck Highwaywoman Tournament.

“We took the next step in MCT; that was our first county win in recent memory. That team had beaten us 13-0 last year and really pounded us. I think they came in there thinking they were going to roll us over. We stepped up; it was an exciting game.”

Junior star outfielder Marisa Gonzalez stepped up this spring, moving to the No. 3 spot in the PHS batting order and responding by hitting over .500.

“Marisa had 38 hits and 42 RBIs; she was the most important part of our team,” asserted Boehm, noting that Gonzalez will be playing high-level travel ball over the summer. “She has 112 hits going into senior year; she has a good chance at getting 150.”

The team’s senior trio of Louise Eisenach, Hannah Zink, and Angela Matchum made a good contribution.

“They took more of a leadership role,” said Boehm. “Louise came into her own; she really stepped up as a leader. Zink was steady at first base and a good influence on the younger players. Matchum played a nice right field for us.”

PHS has some nice pieces in place with the freshman pitcher Sarah Eisenach, junior third baseman Hannah Gutierrez, junior catcher Maddie Cahill-Sanidas, and junior outfielder Helen Eisenach.

“Sarah pitched two-thirds of our games and I batted her fourth a lot,” said Boehm.

“She will throw the ball harder. I think she will hit with more power in the future, she just needs to shorten her stroke. All of them (Gutierrez, Cahill-Sanidas, and Helen Eisenach) are solid players. We will have three good arms and good players in outfield with Gonzalez, Helen, and Charlotte Gray.”

In order to become even more competitive, PHS needs to play harder on a constant basis.

“We need to play a full seven innings,” said Boehm. “There were games where we got behind and chipped away and then there were games where we lost leads. We hung tough.”

For Boehm, taking the helm of the program after serving as an assistant coach the last four seasons was not a tough transition.

“I enjoyed it; I knew that I didn’t have a team that was going to rip the cover off so I knew we had to play some hit and run, bunt, and steal bases,” said Boehm.

“Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but it was fun. It was a good group of girls; they responded well. They had fun, even in practice. There was a good chemistry. The seniors and juniors were helping the younger players.”

SAVED BY BELL: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse goalie Harlyn Bell clears the ball in a game this spring. The development of freshman Bell into a star was a major plus for Stuart this season. Bell and the Tartans topped Nottingham 16-5 in their season finale to end with a 4-11 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Stuart Country Day lacrosse team, its season-ending 16-5 win over Nottingham reflected how much the team has grown over the spring.

“It was a great way to end the season,” said Stuart first-year head coach Caitlin Grant.

“The team played well together defensively. They really came together, like we have been working on.”

Senior star Ani Hallowell ended her career in style, scoring six goals to help lift Stuart to a 4-11 final record.

“Ani was the heart and soul of the team,” asserted Grant of Hallowell, who is headed to Holy Cross.

“She scored goals. She helped all over the field. She had 113 goals in her career with around 70 this year.”

The Tartans saw young players step up all over the field with freshman goalie Harlyn Bell, freshman attacker Nneka Onuwugha, and junior attacker Alaina Ungarini turning heads.

“Bell was a brand new goalie and I think she was one of the best we saw in the area,” said Grant.

“She likes the responsibility; she sets a high standard for herself and gets upset when she doesn’t hit her goals. Nneka Onuwagha had never even touched a stick before this year and she ended up with four or five goals. Alaina was kind of timid at first. Last year was the first time she had played. She took it upon herself to score more and she did.”

Sophomore Amy Hallowell figures to pick up some of the scoring load after the graduation of older sister Ani.

“Amy Hallowell was in her sister’s shadow at the beginning; she let Ani take over,” said Grant.

“I know it is tough; I played with my older sister in high school. Amy is a great player. She has around 50 goals so she is in line to get 100. She is going to step up more without Ani there.”

Grant believes that offensive balance will be a key to the program’s continued progress.

“I want them to learn that they can really work together and not rely on one player,” said Grant. “Each of them can take the ball to the goal.”

For Grant, getting the chance to work with the Tartan program helped her become a better teacher of the game.

“It is different from Notre Dame High where I played,” said Grant, who went on to play college lax at The College of New Jersey.

“We had so many players that we could pick and choose and work on plays and more intricate things right away. With Stuart, there are a lot of new players. We have to work on throwing and catching and the basics; we had to teach some of them the rules.”

But while the program may not be strong in numbers, it boasts a special unity.

“It is such a tight little group, you know everyone right away,” said Grant. “We had only 17 or so players. They work well together. Everyone has to play.”

In order to enjoy more success in the future, the Stuart players can’t wait until next spring to improve.

“We have a summer camp and I would like them to come to that; I also have pointed them in the direction of summer clinics and camps,” said Grant.

“I want to talk to next year’s captains [Amy Hallowell and Isabel Soto] about having the team play with each other in the offseason so they know the ins and outs of their game and we can start working on plays right away.”

May 23, 2012

CLOSING SPEED: Princeton University women’s track star sprinter Eileen Moran flies to the finish line in a recent action. Senior Moran ended her Tiger career in style with a spectacular performance earlier this month at the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal championships. The native of Homer Glen, Ill. placed first in the 100 and 200 dashes, anchored Princeton to the 4x100 title, and helped the Tigers take second in the 4x400. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Eileen Moran is not the quickest sprinter out of the blocks.

“My start is not the very best; I have trouble with reaction,” said Moran, a senior star for the Princeton University women’s track team.

“I am always trying to catch the other runners in the races. I have to clear my mind in the blocks. If I am thinking too much, I don’t react as well.”

But Moran showed that she can finish in style, producing a spectacular performance earlier this month at the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal championships in her final appearance in a Princeton uniform.

The native of Homer Glen, Ill. placed first in the 100 and 200 dashes, anchored Princeton to the 4×100 title, and helped the Tigers take second in the 4×400.

“I could not have asked for a better way to end my career,” said Moran, reflecting on the Heps meet in which she helped earn 38 of Princeton’s 134 points as the Tigers took second to Cornell.

“I thought after the first day of preliminaries that if I could do exactly what I did that day, things would go well. I was crossing off each event. The 4×100 was a highlight; we had been close indoors and we wanted to defend our title.”

Moran took up sprinting as a freshman at Providence Catholic High School and it didn’t take long for things to go well.

“I was pretty successful; I had to learn technical things,” said Moran, who had played basketball and did Irish dancing before focusing on track.

“I qualified for the states in the 400 as a sophomore and placed fifth. The 400 was my best event in high school.”

That success got Moran thinking about competing at the next level. “Once I qualified for states and placed, I started getting letters from college coaches,” said Moran.

“I got a lot of letters as a junior. My top three were Cornell, Princeton, and Notre Dame. I came on a recruiting trip to Princeton and had a great time with the team. It was the first time I had been around a team that was so close.”

It was the positive feeling around the Tiger team that helped Moran develop a comfort level with college track.

“The time we put into training was the biggest adjustment,” said Moran, who was moved from the quarter mile to the shorter sprinting events during her freshman campaign.

“I was used to training hard with my club team in high school. I was trying to balance training and school. We had a really great group of upperclassmen, they always tried to involve us and spend time with us. They really tried to get to know us; it was a fun group to be around.”

For Moran, the breakthrough in shorter sprints came in Indoor Heps in her sophomore season when she took second in the 200.

“I ran against a girl from Columbia (Sharay Hale); she was one of the best sprinters ever in the Ivy League,” said Moran, who clocked a time of 24.67 with Hale finishing first in 24.20. “It was cool to race her.”

As a junior, Moran displayed her coolness under pressure at the Outdoor Heps, fighting off injury to take first in the 100, second in the 200, and help Princeton to victory in the 4×100 as the team  won the meet to complete a Heps triple crown [cross country, indoor, and outdoor].

“I was really surprised by that meet; I spent a lot of time in the training room that year because my hamstring was acting up,” said Moran.

“I was really nervous going into the meet; we had the triple crown on the line. I didn’t want to hurt the team. Somehow I got through it. The week before I felt out of shape; I was running times that I hadn’t run since high school.”

This year, Moran stepped into a new role with the Princeton team, serving as a captain.

“I was honored; the team votes for it so to be elected was exciting,” said Moran.

“I was happy to have the responsibility. I try to lead by example; I don’t want to be super bossy. These kids are between 19 and 22, I want to let people do their own things.”

Princeton women’s track assistant coach Thomas Harrington, who specializes in the sprints and hurdles, is not surprised that Moran emerged as a team captain.

“Eileen worked hard,” said Harrington. “She could demand that her teammates work hard because they can see the results she got from putting in extra time.”

Harrington was proud of the results Moran achieved in her final Heps this spring.

“She came to compete at that meet,” recalled Harrington. “In the past we have been strong in the distance events but this year we needed the sprinters to step up. I said ‘Eileen you are our leader and you have to lead by what you do.’”

While Moran may not be in the lead out of the blocks, she uses technical acumen to outpace her foes.

“She is really good at the drive phase, the first 30 or 40 meters of the race,” explained Harrington, noting that Moran used that technique to pull way from the competition in the 100 and 200 at the Heps.

“If a runner has a sustained drive phase, it allows you to hit top-end speed later in the race when others are breaking down. Eileen stays down in drive phase for 30-40 meters and then comes up and is hitting max speed at 80 meters and then she chews up the other runners.”

In Harrington’s view, Moran has gotten the most out of her potential as a runner.

“I told her the goal every year was to get higher on the podium; she totally maximized her talent,” added Harrington.

“She learned all the things she needed to know. If I said run into a wall she would say which part. I had to grow as a coach, she made me a better coach. I had to find new ways to push her.”

Moran, for her part, has used that coaching to develop a greater self belief.

“I would say I am more confident; I still get nervous before meets but I am more confident in my abilities,” said Moran.

“I know what I am capable of; a lot of it comes from the coaches, telling you if you follow this training, you will get to this result.”

As a result, Moran leaves Princeton with program records in the indoor 60 (7.57) and 300 (40.36) in addition to being part of record-setting 4×100 (46.03)

4×200 (1:40.15), and 4×400 (3:39.96) relays.

“It is exciting; it is cool because Peter Farrell [Princeton women’s track head coach] keeps track of records and every time someone breaks one, he gives the history of the person who had it and talks about where they are now,” said Moran.

“He usually calls them about the new record. You feel like you have become a piece of history.”

And by finishing her career in style, Moran has established herself as one of the best sprinters in the program’s history.

FEELING THE PULL: Katie Baker, center, pulls hard from the stroke seat in a race this spring in her senior campaign for the Princeton University women’s open crew third varsity 8. Baker, a former star athlete at Stuart Country Day School, went from a walk-on rowing neophyte to a mainstay of the Tiger women’s open crew program during her college career. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

During her sports career at Stuart Country Day School, Katie Baker liked to keep busy, starring at field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse.

Entering Princeton University in the fall of 2008, Baker looked into club field hockey, lacrosse, ultimate frisbee and varsity crew as ways to fill her athletic fix.

The Princeton Junction native ultimately decided to devote her considerable energy to rowing.

“I was doing rowing in the morning and field hockey in the afternoon,” recalled Baker. “It was very tiring, I decided I had to pick one and I went with crew.”

Having never rowed before, Baker faced some major challenges in adjusting to her new sport.

“The conditioning was the toughest part, I had to adapt to the idea of always conditioning,” said Baker.

“The first time I rowed it was very exciting and very new. It was very hard to get it; I had the fear of falling into water.”

Overcoming those fears and clearly getting it, Baker has emerged as a mainstay for the Princeton women’s open program, helping the Tigers win the Ivy Sprints team title earlier this month as she ended her college crew career on a high note.

For Baker, coming close to a title as a freshman helped cement her commitment to rowing.

“In my freshman spring, we didn’t have enough for a freshman so I was on a freshman 4,” said Baker.

“We got second at Eastern Sprints; that was exciting. I was getting used to it; I was much more confident than when I started. I was less worried that I would do something to catch a crab (a stroke that goes bad).”

As a sophomore, Baker’s increasing confidence and skill level led her to be moved to the vital stroke seat, the rower sitting closest to the stern whose cadence sets the rhythm for the boat.

“It was a lot more about getting better and faster,” said Baker, reflecting on her sophomore campaign.

“I was in the third varsity 8. I became a stroke; it was exciting. They talked about me doing it for freshman 4 and I was terrified. Once I tried it, I really liked it. You get to think more about how to use power rather than just rowing. You focus on what the boat needs and how you can help.”

In 2011, Baker got a firsthand experience with a powerful crew, toiling alongside a first varsity 8 that went on to the win the grand final at the NCAA Championships.

“It was awesome to train with them; it was great to watch that happen,” said Baker, who went to the NCAA regatta with the varsity 4.

“I think it is completely true that you feel like you are pushing the top boat. You have to have someone to race everyday to be able to race.”

For Baker, a big part of her senior year has been savoring every day at the boathouse.

“I definitely wanted to embrace all of it instead of just going through it,” said Baker.

“I wanted to really experience things; enjoying being part of the team and being on the water.”

Baker experienced plenty of success on the water this spring, stroking the third varsity 8 to an undefeated season, culminating with a first place finish at the Ivy Sprints.

“It definitely came together more in the spring; people were being moved around before that,” said Baker, in assessing the boat’s superb season.

“We were always fast; we never won a race by less than eight seconds. Even when it was windy and rough, I never doubted anyone. We had trust and confidence in each other.”

The level of trust throughout the program helped the Tigers prevail in the overall team standings at the Ivy Sprints.

“It was great, our goal was to win as a team,” said Baker, who will be cheering on her teammates on the first and second varsity 8s and varsity 4 this weekend as they compete in the NCAA Championships at Mercer Lake. “To have every boat medal is great. Crew is so hard but so worth it when you win.”

In the final analysis, the bonds that Baker developed with her classmates may be the most worthwhile aspect of her crew experience.

“We have all shared the same things,” said Baker, who is looking to teach and coach at a prep school after graduation.

“We had hard days where we helped each other and we had the experience of a national championship. I have always been a committed person but this is a whole new level of commitment. You really have to have a tenacity. Having a group like that and that kind of structure is extremely rewarding.”

JERSEY STRONG: U.S. women’s soccer star Carli Lloyd controls the ball last week in a training session at Princeton University. Lloyd, a New Jersey native and former Rutgers standout, has been enjoying the national squad’s training camp at Princeton’s Roberts Stadium, which is running from May 10-25. The U.S. team is gearing up for a May 27 game against China in Chester, Pa. and the upcoming Olympic Games. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

During her All-American soccer career at Rutgers University Carli Lloyd enjoyed some fierce battles against local rival Princeton.

“There was probably the most amount of yellow cards during our games,” said Lloyd, a 2005 Rutgers alum who has been playing with the U.S. women’s national team since graduation.

“It was an intrastate rival; it was a battle. You knew every time coming out that it wasn’t going to be an easy match. It was a good rivalry that we had against them. Princeton was a really strong team.”

For the last two weeks, Lloyd has been feeling at home on enemy territory as the U.S. national squad has been based at the Princeton soccer facilities for a training camp in preparation for a May 27 game against China in Chester, Pa. and the upcoming Olympic Games.

“This is great; this is a top-notch facility,” said star midfielder Lloyd, a 5’8 native of Delran standing on the sidelines of Roberts Stadium last Thursday after a morning training session.

“I think all the people working at Princeton have treated us really well; they have done  anything for us. Our hotel area is great. It is a perfect set-up. I think Pia [U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage] is really happy about it and hopefully we’ll have some more camps here in the future.”

After undergoing a grueling camp in Florida last month, Lloyd and her teammates are fine-tuning things during their stay at Princeton.

“It was a tough two-week camp in Florida but we made it through,” said Lloyd.

“This camp is a little bit longer but because there is a game attached at the end of it, I think that makes it a little bit easier. It’s tough with the roster cut so it is a pretty important camp. There is a lot going on; there is a lot of preparation before we move on to the next camp.”

With the U.S. team capturing international attention last summer in its dramatic run to the World Cup final where it lost to Japan in a penalty shootout, the players are hoping to shine in their next major competition.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted to at the World Cup and any time we can bounce back, and not so much have a second chance, but have another big event to show ourselves on the world stage, that’s great,” said Lloyd.

“We are going to waiting another three years after this Olympics for the next world cup. I am super excited. You never want to take anything for granted, you want to take it one game at a time. It is not going to be easy.”

It is going to be easy for the U.S. to get excited about playing in the English venues, which are among the most storied in world soccer.

“I think it is a privilege to even be considered to be able play in those stadiums,” said Lloyd, who was a key player on the U.S. gold
medal team in the 2008
Beijing Games.

“Wembley is such a prestigious stadium. Coming off a World Cup in Germany where they did a phenomenal job, I think we are going to get that same kind of vibe coming to London. They are pretty excited about soccer there.”

U.S. head coach Sundhage likes the vibe she is getting at the Princeton camp.

“Everything I have heard about Princeton has been fantastic; I wonder if it is that good but just look around with the turf and the real grass, it is hard to tell the difference,” said Sundhage, reflecting on the camp which was slated to run from May 10-25.

“I am very happy with the fact that we chose to stay here; they have been treating us well and it is a good feeling to be around this area.”

In Sundhage’s view, her players have been thriving in the Princeton environment.

“They are competing very well; I think the intersquad game that we played the other day was one of the best I have ever seen,” said Sundhage.

“They are really doing a good job to compete against each other; if we do a good job of that, we can win against any team in the world. They look very good.”

Lloyd, for her part, knows it is going to require a full team effort for the U.S. to defend its Olympic crown.

“I think it is going to take every one of us, all 18 players,” asserted Lloyd, who has 131 caps and 34 goals in her career with the national team.

“I don’t think there is a single star player on this team that is going to win it for us. We have got great talent. We have a great attacking front six and a solid back four and good people coming off that bench. We just have to play our game. We have to take some risks and we know we may give up some goals but we just have to score more than the other teams.”

The 30-year-old Lloyd is primed to make a big contribution to the U.S. attack.

“I am feeling really good; I am the fittest I have ever been,” said Lloyd, who has eight goals in 12 appearances this year for the U.S.

“I think my role has changed which had given me a little more freedom. Since Shannon Boxx is holding in the center midfield, I can run around and create things and be that playmaker and make things happen and get myself in and around the box for scoring opportunities.”

And having the opportunity to train at Princeton has proven to be a good fit for Lloyd and her teammates.