July 3, 2012

SHORTER ROUTE: Eric Shorter, right, goes after the ball against D’Andre Davis of Florence last Thursday in the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game at The College of New Jersey. The recently graduated Princeton High star made one catch for six yards for the West squad as it topped the East 16-6 to snap a four-game losing streak in the event. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Eric Shorter only made one catch for six yards but he was all smiles after the 16th Annual Sunshine Football Classic all-star game last Thursday evening.

For recently graduated Princeton High star receiver Shorter, helping the West squad to 16-6 victory was his main focus.

“It was great; the West side hasn’t won in five years so I feel like it is a little start for them next year,” said Shorter, who celebrated the win afterward with family and friends on a corner of the field at The College of New Jersey.

“The quarterbacks wanted to spread the ball out as much as possible which is fine. As long as we got the win, that was good for me.”

As the team went through practice over the last week, Shorter could sense that the players were coming together.

“There was a lot of friendship going around,” said Shorter, who made 49 catches for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall for PHS and is headed to Monmouth University where he will be joining the football program.

“There was a lot of picking each other up. Even though we don’t know each other that much, it was kind of a bonding session.”

Shorter got to deepen his bonds with PHS teammates Jeff Barsamian and Alex Mitko, who also played on the West squad.

“That was special; we are going our separate ways after high school so it was good to play with each other,” said Shorter of the Penn-bound Barsamian and the Hamilton College-bound Mitko.

Barsamian. for his part, was glad to take the field one more time with Shorter and Mitko.

“That was a lot of fun; I didn’t expect to ever play with them again,” said Barsamian.

“It was a nice surprise when I found out I would be playing in this game and be able to play with them again,”

Barsamian liked playing with West quarterback Ray Mastroianni of Bridgewater-Raritan, who rushed for 70 yards and passed for 88 in getting named the game’s Most Valuable Player on an evening which saw the West build a 16-0 lead and outgain the East 383 yards to 162.

“He was a playmaker,” said Barsamian of Mastroianni. “I was trying to hold the blocks as long as I could and he was just zipping by all the way down the field.”

Like Shorter, Barsamian could sense that the West team was hungry coming into the contest, having not won since a 14-6 triumph in the 2007 game.

“The coaches were bringing up that the West hasn’t won in five years so I think that was on everyone’s mind,” said Barsamian.

“Everyone stepped it up, trying to get that ‘W.’ Coach Smith [WW/P-S head coach Todd Smith] is a funny guy. He really brought the team together. He had a lot of fun with us the past week.”

As Shorter heads to Monmouth in early August to start his college career, he is looking forward to a fun experience.

“The coaching staff was very nice; I met Miles Austin [former Monmouth standout and current Dallas Cowboys starting receiver] which was a big thing,” said Shorter. “I am going to be a wide receiver; they would like me to start freshman year.”

REVENGE FACTOR: Chris Edwards of Winberie’s/Miller Lite, right, heads up the court last Wednesday in Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League play at Community Park. Edwards scored a game-high 16 points to help Winberie’s top University Radiology 58-46. It was a sweet win for Winberie’s as the squad improved to 5-0 this season and got a measure of revenge against a University Radiology team that edged it in the league’s 2011 championship series.
(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

It looked like the Princeton Little League 10-year-old all stars may have been in over their heads last week when they started play in the District 12 tournament.

Princeton started the double-elimination tourney by losing 7-0 to Sunnybrae on June 23 and trailed West Windsor 3-0 midway through an elimination game a day later.

But the Princeton players kept their heads and rallied for a 5-4 victory to stay alive in the competition.

Building on that success, Princeton topped HTRBA 12-1 and Lawrence 14-12 to make it the final six of the competition. Princeton’s run ended on Saturday when it fell 10-2 to Robbinsville in a game that was scoreless through four innings.

In reflecting on his team’s superb District 12 performance, manager Jon Durbin saw the rally against West Windsor as pivotal.

“I think the big turning point and why this turned into a good run was last Sunday when we played West Windsor, which is one of the powerhouses in District 12  baseball,” said Durbin.

“We were down 3-0 going into the bottom of third and we came out and scored three runs in the  bottom of the third including this acrobatic steal of home and that kind of ignited our whole team and turned everything around. We got off to a slow start against Sunnybrae and then we had five runs against West Windsor. Then we came back with 12 against HTRBA on Monday and then 14 on Wednesday against Lawrence.”

In addition to batting prowess, Princeton showed some guts. “Last year when this team would get behind, their heads would go down and they didn’t show a lot of resiliency,” said Durbin.

“One of the things I liked in this tournament is that we were down 3-0 to West Windsor and came back to knock them out. We were up 5-0 against Lawrence and let them go up 8-5. In the very next inning, we came out and scored nine runs to go up 14-8. You have to have that kind of resiliency if you really want to be a championship team in the long haul.”

The team’s fighting spirit was the product, in part, of an increased commitment to the game.

“The other big thing that happened this past year is that a lot of the families put their kids into 1-on-1 pro coach training,” added Durbin. “To be honest, that just elevated our players dramatically.”

That training paid dividends this summer. “I think the top part of our lineup, Nick Trenholm, Jackson Rho, Nick Mindish, my son Teddy, and Ben Kioko, all stepped up,” said Durbin.

“If you look at those stats, I think those five guys had 80 percent of our hits through last night’s game. Last year, even those guys were really struggling against good pitching like this. They are bigger and stronger one year later but it is the individual pro coach training that they all did in the past 12 months that just made a huge difference.”

In his post-game address to the players last Saturday as they sat in left field, Durbin emphasized their strong play.

“I think the big message was that this was a huge run for us,” said Durbin, noting that his squad battled Robbinsville to a 0-0 standstill through four innings and that a couple of bad breaks changed the tone of the contest.

“Until about three years ago, Princeton Little League was a doormat. We made it to the Final 6 so this is a great run. You can’t focus on the fact that we lost the last game. You’ve got to think about how well we did in the whole tournament. We can’t sit here and hold our heads down again; I think that is part of the resiliency message.”

The players are not going to sit pat when it comes to sharpening their game.

“We are going to keep working hard at it,” said Durbin. “Now we are enjoying some success. Whereas last year was rough, we have made that jump.”

—Bill Alden


Chris Edwards and the Winberie’s/Miller Lite team ended their 2011 campaign in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League on a sour note.

After going undefeated in the regular season and two rounds of the playoffs to make it 11 straight wins, Winberie’s reached the best-of-three championship series where the club fell 2-1 to upstart University Radiology.

Edwards and his teammates had the 36-34 loss in the series finale on their minds when the teams met last Wednesday on the Community Park courts in a regular season rematch.

“It was a big game tonight; we were trying to get some revenge,” said Edwards, reflecting on the matchup which saw Winberie’s come into the evening at 4-0, the only undefeated team and in the league, with University Radiology at 3-1.

“But it is only a regular season game so we are trying to get the kinks worked out. We want to get ready for the final run of the regular season and get hot going into the playoffs.”

Edwards helped Winberie’s get off to a hot start Wednesday night, scoring 10 points in the first half as the team built a 29-22 lead at intermission.

“We knew they didn’t have an inside threat,” said Edwards, a power forward who dominated things around the basket. “Plus we have a lot of big bodies so we have got to start using that to our advantage and try to get the chemistry right now.”

In the second half, Winberie’s showed its chemistry and toughness as it dealt with a University Radiology rally which saw the lead get cut to 46-41 with just under five minutes remaining in the second half. Winberie’s outscored its foes 12-5 down the stretch to pull away to a sweet 58-46 win.

In Edwards’ view, the victory and the team’s undefeated record so far this summer is the product of some hard-earned savvy.

“I would say that we are one of the older teams now,” said Edwards, who ended the evening with a game-high 16 points with fellow Winberie’s inside threat Evan Johnson chipping in 15.

“We have been around a while. We have the same core pieces; we are just trying to add those extra little pieces to get over the hump.”

A key piece for Winberie’s is sharpshooting guard Chris Hatchell, who rejoined the team last summer and then started the 2012 season with Ivy Inn before coming back to the fold.

“That was huge,” said Edwards, referring to Hatchell’s in-season return to the squad.

“That was a missing piece for us last year so we had to have him this season.”

Winberie’s is confident that it can end this season on a high note. “Moving the ball and sharing the ball is key; I would say this is the first time where we moved the ball like we were doing last year,” asserted Edwards.

“We know that we have a lot of threats; we need to be taking it inside and outside. No team in the league has enough guys to guard all the offensive threats we have. It is just getting into that flow.”

June 27, 2012

TRIAL PROCESS: Princeton University women’s swimming star Lisa Boyce cheers on teammates in a meet this winter. Rising junior Boyce is competing this week in Omaha, Neb. at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Lisa Boyce started swimming at age 6 and it didn’t take long for her to establish a long-term plan in the sport.

“When I was 8 years old, I knew I wanted to swim in college,” said Boyce, a  native of Champaign, Ill.

As Boyce competed for the Champaign County heat, she proved that such an ambition wasn’t a pipe dream, establishing herself as one of the top young sprinters in the country.

She reached the 100 freestyle championship final at the 2010 Speedo Junior National Championships and qualified for the Long Course Senior Nationals in 100 backstroke. In addition, Boyce was named as one of The News-Gazette’s Top 10 Swimmers of the Decade and the Swimmer of the Year while competing for University High.

Highly sought after by a number of college swimming programs, Boyce decided to come east to Princeton in 2010.

“My top 3 were Stanford, Northwestern, and Princeton,” said Boyce. “When I came on my recruiting visit to Princeton, I felt comfortable. These were people I wanted to be like; I could see myself fitting in.”

Boyce fit in nicely with the Tigers, setting a program record in 100 back with a time of 54.10 in the Big Al Open in her freshman year. She went on to win the 100 back at the Ivy league championship meet and took second in the 100 free and third in the 50 free.

In her sophomore season this past winter, Boyce won the Ivy titles in the 100 back, 50 free, and 100 free. She went on to compete in all three events at the NCAA Championships, placing 38th in the 100 back, 49th in the 50 free, and 31st in the 100 free.

This week, Boyce is in Omaha, Neb. and is racing against the best swimmers in the country at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Boyce, who is competing in the 100 back and 100 free, is being joined at the meet by several current and former Tiger teammates including rising sophomore Courtney Ciardiello (100 butterfly and 200 back), recently graduated Meredith Monroe (200 back), and 2011 alum Megan Waters (50 free).

The Princeton men’s swimming program is sending recently graduated Colin Cordes, (100 free, 200 free, and 200 back), rising senior Will Lawley (200 and 400 free), rising juniors Paul Nolle (1500 free), Daniel Hasler (200 breast, 200, and 400 IM) and Eric Materniak (200 breaststroke) together with a quartet of rising sophomores in Oliver Bennett (200 fly), Conner Maher (200 individual medley), Caleb Tuten (400 IM), and Harrison Wagner (50 free).

In getting ready for the trials, Boyce stayed east to put in extra training.

“We are doing two-a-days at Princeton and I have been adding a few more weight sessions,” said Boyce. “A group of us are training together; it is definitely good. Right now, we are dropping down and tapering.”

For Boyce, getting used to the increased training load was a major adjustment she faced in making the adjustment to college swimming.

“I never did doubles during the school year,” said Boyce. “It was one practice a day during school year and two-a-days in the summer. Doing that and balancing Princeton schoolwork was tough.”

Princeton assistant coach Suzanne Yee believes that Boyce quickly found a good balance as a freshman.

“The thing that struck me was how open she was to learning and doing different things than she was doing before,” said Yee, who works with program’s sprinters.

“Lisa is very passionate about swimming. When she gets in the pool, that is all she is focusing on. In the freshman year, you have a learning curve and hers was easier. Lisa picked up things quickly. In high school, things are more general; you are training for different events. In college, you can specialize and focus on the events that you are best at.”

While Boyce didn’t have her best results at the 2011 Ivy championship meet, Yee saw it as a necessary step in her development as a swimmer.

“As a freshman, there is a lot of pressure at a conference meet,” added Yee. “With Princeton trying to continue its success and the meet being at home, I think she tried too hard to go fast. When you focus on going a certain time, it becomes hard to go that time.”

Boyce, for her part, gained some extra mental toughness from the high stakes competition.

“I felt like I could have swum faster,” said Boyce. “I was very nervous; it was emotionally overwhelming, particularly for a freshman.”

As a sophomore, Boyce felt more at ease. “I was more comfortable with my position on the team and how I fit in,” said Boyce.

“It was really great to qualify for the 100 free at the trials. I made it on the first swim before the qualifying times even came out. The Ivy meet was a lot better.”

Doing so well this winter helped Boyce take another step up the swimming ladder as she qualified for the NCAA championships. “I had wanted to do NCAAs ever since I had heard about them,” said Boyce. “The more I compete at that level, the more comfortable I get.”

In Yee’s view, Boyce has taken things to a higher level in her sophomore campaign.

“One of the differences with Megan Waters graduating is that Lisa stepped up and filled a role on the team as a leader and as a swimmer people can count on,” said Yee.

“She was very consistent at maintaining a higher level. This year, she has been able to focus on the bigger picture and one or two things. She was able to have more fun and swim faster.”

Boyce has the potential to do some special things over the rest of her Princeton career, according to Yee.

“It just depends on what she wants to do; it is an individual sport within a team format,” said Yee, noting that Boyce is naturally gifted in her underwater kicking and is equally adept at the free and the back.

“Going forward, if she keeps working like she is, I could see her scoring at the NCAA meet. That is a very reasonable goal. I don’t know how high she could go; I’d like to see her in top 8.”

Boyce, for her part, is primed to put in some good work this week in Omaha.

“I would like to get my best times but the main point of this is to get experience,” asserted Boyce, who will be competing later this summer at the U.S. Open Swimming Championships looking for a spot in the 2013 World University Games.

“It is one of the fastest meets in the world and it will be great to be around it. One of the key things is to improve mentally so I don’t get overwhelmed when competing at higher levels.”

MIDDLE OF THE ACTION: Hannah Epstein, left, eludes two foes in action this spring in her senior season on the Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team. Epstein, a former basketball and lacrosse standout for the Princeton Day School, ended her Middlebury career with a bang as she helped the Panthers advance to the NCAA Division III Final 4.
(Photo Courtesy of Middlebury College Athletic Communications)

It was a message that Hannah Epstein and her teammates on the Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team saw everyday this spring.

“We sat at the captains’ house before the season and we all wrote down individual and team goals,” recalled Epstein, a former Princeton Day School basketball and lacrosse standout.

“We all had NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) and NCAA champions on our lists. We all really wanted that. We had a piece of paper up in our locker room with the goals.”

While Middlebury just missed achieving those goals, taking second in the NESCAC tourney and falling in the NCAA Division III semis, Epstein won’t soon forget her senior campaign.

“It was heartbreaking to lose in the Final 4,” said Epstein. “But our coach said it is not so sad that we didn’t win a national championship, it is sad that it was over and we wouldn’t have another day together. It was such an incredible group. The chemistry this year was unbelievable; we were truly best friends on and off the field. I really enjoyed going to practice. We were all on the same page, there were no cliques whatsoever.”

For Epstein, her experience this spring culminated a lacrosse journey that would have seemed unlikely when she entered PDS seeing basketball as her main sport. The sharpshooting Epstein was a four-year starter at guard for the Panther girls’ hoops program but eventually got the message that her sporting future lay in lacrosse.

“My mom was recording one of my basketball games to send to a coach and Jill Thomas (PDS lacrosse coach) said what are you doing,” recalled Epstein.

“My mom said she was making a tape for college coaches and Jill said she’s not playing basketball in college, she is playing lacrosse. That stuck with me.”

As a result, Epstein became more serious about her lacrosse. “I had been playing both basketball and lacrosse in the summer,” said Epstein. “In the summer after my junior year, I joined a club lacrosse team and played in summer tournaments.”

When it came to joining a college lax program, Epstein found a good fit in Middlebury.

“It was really a no-brainer,” said Epstein. “From the moment I drove on the campus at Middlebury, I found it aesthetically pleasing. I fell in love with the school. I met with the coach [Missy Foote] and she was fantastic. It is great academically and it is one of the top Division III programs.”

In reflecting on her freshman year, Epstein said she had to adjust to the Middlebury program’s rigorous fitness standards.

“It was the conditioning,” said Epstein. “We have a conditioning test in the fall. There is also one at the start of the spring season in February. We have other tests along the way. There is distance running. There is a timed two-mile run and a track component.”

After riding the bench as a back-up midfielder during her freshman campaign, Epstein’s college career got on track when she switched to defense the next spring.

“I was not playing a huge amount freshman year,” said Epstein. “I made a solid switch to defense in my sophomore year. It was a natural progression for me. I loved playing defense at this level. I could use my sprint speed and then take a break. I also could use the basketball footwork when you get low and slide. The big difference from high school is you have to make contact with the player and learn to do that effectively.”

In her junior season, Epstein and the Panthers started to develop the spirit that sparked their success this spring.

“We have outstanding players every year; we just became a more cohesive unit that year,” asserted Epstein reflecting on a 2011 campaign which saw Middlebury go 11-6 and advance to the second round of the NCAA tourney.

Coming into this spring, there was a lot of optimism around the squad. “We had so much talent; we had big expectations coming into the season,” said Epstein.

“The two captains were also on the field hockey team and they went to the national championship game in the fall. They were saying we really could do it. It was very obvious from the first game that we had a special team.”

Epstein’s love of basketball, though, resulted in her missing some game action once the spring rolled around.

“I played intramural basketball all four years and I got a very bad high ankle sprain in the first week of January,” said Epstein.

“I was out for two months, I was doing rehab for the first half of the season. I stepped on the field for our second game of the season against Skidmore. I played 10 minutes to see how it felt but it wasn’t right. I didn’t come back until the Colby game.”

Epstein made up for lost time, starting nine games down the stretch and getting credit for 20 ground balls and eight caused turnovers. Her defensive work helped Middlebury defeat Tufts and Amherst in the NESCAC tournament before falling 11-10 to eventual national champion Trinity in the conference title game.

Rebounding from that loss, the Panthers went on a superb NCAA run which saw them top Norwich, Montclair State, and 2011 national champion Gettysburg on the way to the national semis.

For Epstein, the 15-9 triumph against Gettysburg in the regional final left an indelible memory.

“The win over Gettysburg was one of the greatest games,” said Epstein. “We were excited to play Gettysburg and it was a really good game. It was closer than the score indicated; they pulled their goalie near the end and we got some possessions and empty net goals.”

Earning the Final 4 spot marked the culmination of a long process for Epstein.

“It was so special,” said Epstein. “It sounds cheesy but it was a dream come true. This is what you have been working for since fourth grade when you watch the NCAAs and see teams win.”

Although the Panthers fell 15-7 to Salisbury University in the national semis, the sting of the defeat pales in comparison to the bonds shared by Epstein and her teammates this spring.

“There are some teams where the mindset is more aligned than others,” said Epstein. “It means that much more to have it happen as a senior.”

Being part of such a group effort left Epstein with lessons that she will carry into life after college.

“Sports teaches you to work for a goal greater than your own interest,” added Epstein, a film major who aspires to someday be a cinematographer.

“The coach worked us as hard as possible. I did workouts I never thought I could handle. It helps you in other areas of life like being able to stay up late and work on a paper.”

GOOD RUN: Alex Mitko takes off on a quarterback scramble in action for the Princeton High football team. On Thursday, the recently graduated Mitko will be playing for the West team for the Sunshine Classic All-Star football game at The College of New Jersey. This fall, Mitko will be heading to Hamilton College where he will be joining the school’s football program.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After enduring a 0-10 season in his junior year on the Princeton High football team in 2010, Alex Mitko was looking forward to the season opener at Northern Burlington last fall.

“We had a lot of players working in the offseason,” said quarterback/defensive back Mitko. “We wanted to get back on the field and try again.”

The Little Tigers came through with a 20-14 win at Northern Burlington to snap an 11-game losing streak but Mitko’s joy over the win was tempered when x-rays showed that he had broken his thumb in the contest.

While it looked like Mitko might not see the field much in his senior season, he was fitted with a cast and was ready for action by game three.

“When I found out I could play with the cast, I went to the coach [Joe Gargione] and said play me wherever you want, I will play my heart out,” recalled Mitko. “He asked if I could hold the ball in my left hand. I tried it out and I could.”

Gargione inserted the 5’11, 165-pound Mitko at running back and he starred, grinding out yardage, highlighted by rushing for more than 90 yards in a 26-7 win over WW/P-N. “I went full speed,” said Mitko. “I didn’t have any jukes; it was fun.”

Mitko returned to quarterback in late October and helped engineer a 26-0 win over Ewing.

“We were looking at film and coach said that when you are scrambling out of the pocket, you are a running back and when you are passing, you are a quarterback, “ said Mitko.

The Little Tigers ended the fall at 3-7 and, in the process, left a positive legacy going forward.

“The football team really came back; there are more people coming out,” said Mitko.

“The players coming back know what they can do. The effort that people made paid off. We didn’t have any huge superstars. The guys saw that if we played hard on every play, we could be successful.”

Mitko’s role in that success helped him get selected to the West team for the 16th annual Sunshine Classic All-Star football game which will take place on June 28 at The College of New Jersey.

For the recently graduated Mitko, soaking up knowledge during his first two seasons with PHS helped put him on the path to the Sunshine game.

“Looking back, when I was freshman and a sophomore, I looked up to the older guys,” said Mitko, noting that he learned a lot from star quarterback Mike Olentine while serving as his backup in the fall of 2009.

“They taught me a lot of things. When I was a junior and a senior, I tried to resemble them, knowing that freshmen and sophomores were looking up to me.”

During PHS’s tough 2010 campaign, Mitko got to apply some important leadership lessons.

“We knew it was going to be a struggle after Tom Borchert got hurt and some other guys went down,” said Mitko, who also played on the PHS baseball team.

“Obstacles came our way; I tried to rally the kids. When the team is down in the third quarter you can’t give up. The team is looking to you to provide energy and spirit. It taught me a lesson about looking forward and not dwelling on the past.”

Mitko believes that his Sunshine Classic appearance will be a good learning experience as he prepares to start his college football career at Hamilton College this fall.

“I am really excited to be playing in it,” said Mitko, who will be joined on the West squad by PHS teammates Jeff Barsamian and Alex Mitko along with Princeton resident Phil Pecora, a star for the Pennington School.

“It means more to me than getting a trophy, being in a game against the best guys in the area. I have talked to kids who have played in it and they said it is the best competition you will have gone against. It is the closest thing to college, everyone is faster and quicker.”

In Mitko’s view, going through the ups and downs of the PHS program has helped prepare him well for college.

“I realize how much the program has given me and how it impacted what kind of person I have become,” said Mitko, noting that he will be playing defensive back in the game and for Hamilton. “I miss the atmosphere of going to practice everyday and working together.”

PHS is certainly going to miss Mitko’s leadership and playmaking ability.

FAMILY TRADITION: Lineman Jeff Barsamian, left, and older brother, Steve, an assistant coach, are all smiles after the Princeton High football team beat WW/P-N 26-7 last fall. The younger Barsamian will be playing in the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game on Thursday at The College of New Jersey. In so doing, he is following in the footsteps of another older brother, Trevor, who played in the 2010 Sunshine game.

Two summers ago, Jeff Barsamian enjoyed the action at the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game, sitting in the stands at The College of New Jersey as his older brother, Trevor, starred on the field.

This Thursday evening, Barsamian will get the chance to follow in the footsteps of his brother as the recently graduated Princeton High standout plays for the West team in the 16th annual Sunshine game.

For Barsamian, being the second member of his family to play in the all-star contest means a lot.

“I am super excited; I remember when Trevor played in it two years ago,” said Barsamian, a center/defensive end.

“I was looking at the program and all the awesome players who have been in the game. It is an honor.”

Barsamian has taken a circuitous route to earn the all-star honor, having played two years at Lawrenceville before transferring to PHS in time for the 2010 season.

The transition went smoothly for Barsamian. “I felt like part of the team right away, the guys were welcoming,” said Barsamian, who had played mainly JV ball at Lawrenceville. “I only played two years at PHS but it felt like I was there all four.”

While Barsamian emerged as a valuable two-way performer on the line right away for the Little Tigers, he acknowledged that the 2010 season turned into a long year for the program with PHS struggling to a 0-10 record.

“The team was devastated at end of the year that we didn’t win a game,” said Barsamian.

“The junior class got together. We decided right there and then that we weren’t going to let that happen again. We worked hard to make sure that didn’t happen again.”

Barsamian and the Little Tigers wasted little time getting back in the win column, starting the 2011 season with a 20-14 win at Northern Burlington.

“That was an emotional game; everyone was ecstatic,” recalled Barsamian.

“All of us had been working ridiculously hard. The seniors were having meetings and discussing what we needed to do. We said let’s get that first win right now. We remembered what it was like to win and we wanted to win more.”

While PHS showed lots of progress last fall as it ended the season at 3-7, Barsamian thought the team could have won even more.

“We lost some tight games; we lost to Lawrence by an extra point and to Allentown by a field goal,” said Barsamian.

“I feel the season was a success but the 3-7 record didn’t represent how well we played.”

This fall, Barsamian will be looking to play well at the college level as he heads to the University of Pennsylvania where he will be competing for the school’s sprint football team.

Although there is a weight limit of 172 pounds in the sprint football league, Barsamian doesn’t think that should be a problem, especially since he has been used to dropping weight as a wrestling star for PHS.

“Right now, I am weighing about 183,” said Barsamian. “I am not really worried. I have been able to drop 10 pounds in a hurry for wrestling. I have to lift lighter weights. I can’t do the heavy lifting; that will put too much weight on.”

Playing in the Sunshine Game should give Barsamian a lift as he girds for college football.

“I am going to go after it and see how I match up against some of the better players in the area,” said Barsamian.

“It will be intense. I have  been playing against those guys for last two years and now they are on the same team.”

Barsamian is looking forward to playing with fellow PHS stars Alex Mitko and Eric Shorter in the game.

“That is awesome; they are both huge playmakers,” said Barsamian. “It is sad that I won’t get to play with the other guys again.”

But Barsamian is certainly not sad that he made the move to PHS. “I think it was the best decision I ever made,” asserted Barsamian.

“The PHS football team had a really great group of guys. We were like brothers; we had a lot of fun.”

And Barsamian should have plenty of fun Thursday as he follows in his brother’s footsteps.

It may have been early evening but the temperature was hovering in the 90s last Thursday as pitcher Jacob Eisenberg toed the rubber for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team as it hosted Hightstown Post 148.

The gritty lefthander, however, was undeterred by the oven-like feeling at Smoyer Park.

“It is pretty hot but you have to pitch to the conditions and both teams have to play in it,” said Eisenberg.

Although Eisenberg wasn’t at his sharpest, he didn’t wilt in the heat. “I had trouble finding the zone at the beginning,” said Eisenberg, who starred on the mound this spring in his senior season at Princeton Day School, earning All-Prep B honorable mention.

“I didn’t have my best stuff; sometimes you just have to battle through it. The defense played real well behind me.”

Working in and out of trouble, Eisenberg gave up four runs in four innings and left with an 8-4 lead. He also added a two-run single to help the cause.

“I didn’t get to hit this year at school; I have never hit in my life before,” said Eisenberg, who has been playing first base for Post 218 when he isn’t pitching.

“That was nice. I am just trying to help the team win. If they want me to go out and pitch, I go out and pitch. I love to play, whatever they need me to do.”

Things didn’t go so nicely for Post 218 in the top of the fifth as Hightstown rallied for four runs to knot the game at 8-8.

Showing character, Princeton rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fifth, sparked by a triple from Marcus Henderson and an RBI single by Josh Harris. Post 218 gave up a run in the top of the sixth but hung in for a 10-9 win.

Eisenberg saw the win as a step forward for a Post 218 team that started the summer going 0-6.

“We have a lot of young guys; we have a lot of versatility,” said Eisenberg, who picked up the win on the mound last Monday as Princeton edged Broad Street Post 313 5-4 to earn its fourth victory in its last five games.

“We have to play smart baseball if we want to win. We are not going to hit three home runs a game. If we do everything right, we have a good team.”

Post 218 manager Tommy Parker liked the way his players righted themselves against Hightstown.

“They have learned to come back under adversity,” asserted Parker. “They didn’t get their heads down; they played solid. They came up in the bottom of the fifth and turned it around.”

Princeton is learning that it can depend on Eisenberg to carry the load on the mound.

“He is giving us real solid innings and the defense is coming together and playing well behind him,” said Parker. “He has been a bit of a workhorse.”

The squad has been getting some good work from such young players as Zach Tesone and Jon Hayden.

“Tesone has actually been one of our better hitters and stellar pitchers,” said Parker, noting that Matt Pilkewicz and Jay Barry did yeomen’s work at catcher against Hightstown filling in for Jess Russo and Colin Frawley.

“The other night he got a save that was a well pitched inning. He stayed focused; he stayed tight. Jon Hayden is a ballplayer; he also has real potential.”

Parker is relying on veterans Henderson and shortstop Beau Horan to help the younger guys reach their potential.

“I told Marcus and Beau at the beginning of the season that you guys have to lead by example, you have the most experience,” said Parker.

“Beau has done a stellar job for us at shortstop and Marcus is playing well in centerfield so we are strong up the middle. If they kick one, they don’t get down or hold on to it; where to the young guys, it is the end of the world. These guys pick them up so it has been a good thing.”

With Post 218 having picked up some wins over the last week, Parker is hoping the team can do some damage in July.

“If you get everybody here at the same time, these guys can do a tremendous job,” said Parker, whose team is slated to host West Windsor-Plainsboro on June 28, Hopewell Post 339 on June 29, and Allentown on July 1.

“That is what I told these guys; everybody is going to get an opportunity to play. These guys are doing a great job. They work very well together; they have a very good chemistry.”

Eisenberg, for his part, believes that Post 218 could do some very good things over the rest of the season.

“We have been hitting the ball a lot better in the last three games consistently up and down the order,” said Eisenberg.

“We don’t have a sure out in the order. We are definitely starting to roll; hopefully we can continue going forward.”

YOUTH IS SERVED: Lior Levy looks for an opening this past winter in action for the Princeton High boys’ basketball team. Last Monday, Levy scored a game-high 19 points to help previously winless Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) edge the PA Blue Devils 45-40 in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. PYS, which improved to 1-2 with the victory, got 13 points from Elliot Golden with Scott Bechler chipping in 9 points. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lior Levy and the Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) team knew they faced a stern challenge when they took on the PA Blue Devils last Monday in the Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

PYS, the Princeton High boys’ hoops team entry in the league, has not done well historically against the Blue Devils, a team stocked with Division III college players.

“The past few years I have been in the league, this team has killed us,” said Levy, a rising PHS senior.

But PYS, who entered the night at 0-2, did bring some extra confidence into the seeming mismatch with the 3-1 Blue Devils.

“We just went to a team camp last week at DeSales University (Pa.) and we were able to play together a little bit more,” said Levy. “I think the chemistry was just there tonight.”

The weekend work paid dividends in the early going as PYS rebounded from an early 10-2 deficit to take a 22-21 lead at halftime.

The 6’7 Levy played a critical role in the rally, pouring in 12 points, hitting from the outside and using his size in the paint.

“I have been playing a lot of basketball the last few weeks at different camps and the summer league and stuff,” said Levy.

“I think I am finally getting the hang of it and making a few more shots here and there.”

Levy dazzled the crowd on hand at the Community Park courts as he drained two sweet hook shots in his first-half barrage.

“I have been working on that,” said Levy, referring to the shot which he has honed with the help of his dad, Howard Levy, a former Princeton University hoops standout and assistant coach and the current head coach of the Mercer County Community College men’s team.

“It is a shot I always look for. It is one of my best shots I think. Tonight it was on I guess.”

In the second half, PYS withstood several runs from the Blue Devils to pull off the 45-40 stunner.

“I thought that was the best part of the game,” said Levy, who got plenty of help in the win as Elliot Golden scored 13 points and Scott Bechler added 9.

“The fact that we were able to take some of their pressure and keep moving forward even though we were knocked down a few times. It was a very good win.”

Levy knocked down two key free throws in the last minute to help clinch the victory.

“I have missed a few of those in the past so it was nice to just conquer the pressure,:” asserted a grinning Levy.

Other teams who came through under pressure last Monday included Team TB, a 52-25 winner over the Ballstars, and Winberie’s, a 43-35 victor over Ivy Inn as it remained undefeated on the summer.

In Levy’s view, playing against the seasoned players in the men’s league can only help the PHS squad when the winter rolls around.

“A lot of these players are playing college basketball or have played college basketball so it is good to get the competition,” said Levy. “The competition here is a lot better than some of the teams we’ll see later.”

Levy knows that he has to muscle up if he is going to excel against better competition.

“I am going to try to get stronger,” said Levy. “I am a little weak right now so I am going to get in the weight room.”

On Monday, however, Levy showed that his game has plenty of strengths.

June 20, 2012

SURE SHOT: Jess Hubbard prepares to unload a shot during his legendary career in the 1990s with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse program. Hubbard, who set Princeton team records for single-season goals (53) and career goals (163) that still stand, was recently named to the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Hubbard, who helped Princeton to national titles in 1996, 1997, and 1998, was a key member of a U.S. squad that won the 1998 World Championship. The Washington, D.C. native went on to a superb career in the pro ranks, retiring in 2008 as the leading goal scorer in Major League Lacrosse history with a total of 248. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to Jesse Hubbard’s place in lacrosse history.

During his career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse program from 1995-98, the sharp-shooting Hubbard set team records for single-season goals (53) and career goals (163) that still stand.

Hubbard lifted his game come playoff time, scoring 43 points on 33 goals and 10 assists in 11 NCAA tournament games as he helped Princeton to national titles in 1996, 1997, and 1998.

After graduation, Hubbard was a key member of a U.S. squad that won the 1998 World Championship. He went on to a superb career in the pro ranks, retiring in 2008 as the leading goal scorer in Major League Lacrosse history with a total of 248.

So when Hubbard was recently named to the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame Class of 2012, it was a no-brainer to most.

But to Hubbard himself, the honor came as a surprise. “They announced the nominations through their website,” said Hubbard. “The other names were such great players; I didn’t think I would get picked.”

The understated Hubbard, true to character, downplays his record-shattering Princeton career.

“It was just my job; it was my role to put the ball in the back of the net,” said Hubbard, 36, a Washington, D.C. native.

“I was just playing the game. Records are meant to be broken and I’d love this one to be broken because that would mean that someone was doing a lot of scoring for Princeton.”

Part of Hubbard’s reticence to take too much credit comes from the fact that he views himself as one cog in an attack unit for the ages along with classmates Jon Hess and Chris Massey.

“Jon and Chris are two of my very best friends,” said Hubbard of the trio which combined for 618 points over their storied careers.

“It is very unique. We were three guys who meshed so well on the field with the way we played and off the field, we meshed with our personalities. Two of us were always thinking that the third was the best. We had respect for each other.”

In Hubbard’s view, his selection to the Hall of fame is a reflection of what the unit achieved collectively.

“That’s what I said to Jon and Chris; it is nice to have people remember what we did,” said Hubbard. “A big part of this is representing the whole era.”

When Hubbard looks back on his Tiger era, he takes great pride in the program’s three-peat.

“It is pretty amazing that we could win three titles in a row; I watch college lacrosse now and it is so competitive and unpredictable,” said Hubbard, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime in the 1996 NCAA final against Virginia.

“You see a team like Loyola win this year, they came into the season unranked. To win one is awesome, to get two is pretty difficult and to win three in a row is amazing. It is a testament to the coaching staff and the way the players stepped up under the pressure.”

Hubbard credits Princeton head coach Bill Tierney with impacting his development on and off the field.

“The thing with Coach T is that although you didn’t realize it at the time, he was preparing you for life,” added Hubbard, who is a driving force of Motive Pure, a company that markets a rehydration solution, and runs the Jesse Hubbard Experience lacrosse camps

“Whether you were in corporate world, teaching, or coaching, he taught lessons you needed to succeed. The first lesson was preparation; he was obsessed about preparing for every possible scenario. The second was having high standards and not settling for anything less. He rode the best players harder than anyone in order to get the most out of them.”

Coach Tierney, for his part, quickly realized that Hubbard could emerge as one of his best players.

“When we first saw him, we said ‘wow this guy can really shoot the ball,’” said Tierney, noting the fact that Hubbard’s older brother, Andy, was a midfielder for the Tigers helped ease the recruiting process.

Things took off for Hubbard when he was teamed with Hess and Massey as a sophomore.

“It was ridiculous when we got them on the field,” said Tierney, acknowledging that he had Hubbard miscast as a midfielder in his freshman campaign.

“The description of those guys was always feeder, dodger, and shooter. They complemented each other and moved toward each other as their careers went on.”

But Hubbard will stand out to Tierney as having a sniper’s mentality. “We would talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the other goalies,” said Tierney, who was inducted in the Hall of Fame himself in 2002. “He told me after he graduated that he shot at the strengths. He said he knew if he could beat them there he would kill them on their weaknesses.”

The feats of Hubbard and running mates Hess and Massey helped strengthen Princeton’s stature in the lacrosse world.

“Scott Bacigalupo ’94 and Kevin Lowe ’94 were the faces of Princeton lacrosse when we turned the corner,” said Tierney of the pair who were inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2010 and 2009, respectively. “Hubbard, Hess, and Massey were the faces when we gained legitimacy.”

Tierney is not surprised that Hubbard is the first of the trio to get the call for the Hall of Fame.

“Since Jess continued his career in MLL and was on a world championship team, I thought he was clearly the first one to get in,” said Tierney.

“It kind of rekindles what we all knew and how great they were.

Hess should get in but Massey tends to get overshadowed.”

Hubbard, for his part, believes his selection to the Hall of Fame speaks to the greatness of the Princeton program and what it has achieved since the early 1990s.

“I went to Kevin Lowe’s induction and he had a chip on his shoulder,” said Hubbard, who will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame on October 20 along with Brian Dougherty, Roy Colsey, Jen Adams, Kelly Amonte Hiller, Tim Nelson, Cindy Timchal, and Missy Foote.

“He thought Princeton hadn’t got the respect it deserves. He said you will be seeing a lot more of us in here. It is a tremendous honor; I look at the list and they are all guys I admired and looked up to in the game.”

And there is no question that Hubbard belongs on any list of the greats of the game.

PROMOTIONAL EVENT: Megan Griffith, right, and Melanie Moore survey the action in a game for the Princeton University women’s basketball team. Griffith, a former Columbia hoops standout who had been serving as the Director of Basketball Operations, was recently promoted to assistant coach for the Tigers, replacing Moore, who left Princeton to join the staff at the University of Michigan. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

As Megan Griffith wrapped up her high school basketball career 10 years ago and considered her options for college ball, playing in the Ivy League wasn’t high on her list.

“I wanted to stay in the area for college basketball,” said Griffith, a native of King of Prussia, Pa.

“I am from outside the Philadelphia area and I wanted to go somewhere my parents could watch me. I wasn’t looking at the Ivies but then a Columbia assistant saw me in late July and became interested. It was my best opportunity.”

Griffith headed to New York City in 2003 and made the most of her opportunity at Columbia, captaining the Lions for three seasons, earning All-Ivy honors in 2006 and 2007 and becoming the eighth player in program history to score more than 1,000 points in her career.

For Griffith, the Columbia experience was transformative on several levels.

“I had to learn to juggle a lot of things, academic course load, basketball, and the city,” said Griffith.

“I learned a lot about myself. Basketball is a good platform for life lessons and learning to stick with it.”

After graduating from Columbia in 2007, Griffith stuck with basketball, playing three years of professional ball in Europe, Finland, and the Netherlands.

But deciding to put her playing career on hold, Griffith returned to the Ivy League in 2010, taking the post as director of basketball operations for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

Now, Griffith is going to experience another slice of Ivy life as she was recently promoted to assistant coach for the Tigers in the wake of Melanie Moore’s recent move to the University of Michigan.

Despite engaging in a heated rivalry with Princeton over her college career, Griffith didn’t have to think twice about joining the Tiger program in the operations post two years ago.

“I called my coach from Columbia and I told him I was thinking about stopping playing and I asked him about coaching opportunities,” recalled Griffith.

“He told me that Princeton had the operations position open and he knew that Courtney [Banghart] and her staff are doing some great things and it would good for me to be part of it so I applied. Once I got on campus, I knew I wanted to be part of it. I think there is a special vibe on the Princeton campus. There is a sense of community and support that transcends athletics.”

Griffith liked the vibe she found around the Princeton team. “I got to meet the players that fall,” said Griffith, noting that her Columbia background helped her bond with the players. “They are a great group; they really complement each other. I was always excited to come to work.”

The work, which included handling administrative and logistical duties such as making travel arrangements, film exchanges, managing the recruiting data base, working at camps, and producing the team newsletter, helped Griffith establish her value to the group.

“The coaching staff really allowed me to be part of the team,” said Griffith.

“Game day is great with the competitive environment. It is great to be part of a united front and being right in there giving input.”

For Griffith, the time was right to have more input into the workings of the program.

“When I applied to be director of operations, I was hoping to achieve a coaching position,” said Griffith.

“I am extremely blessed to be in this position. As Courtney said, from day 1 I was applying to be on her staff as a coach. I was hopeful it would happen this way. I feel ready to do this. I am looking forward to coaching and recruiting. I have been on the staff for two years and I have been able to observe things. I am looking to be more instrumental on the court.”

With Princeton having won three Ivy titles in a row and coming off a 24-5 season which included a 14-0 league mark, Griffith sees good things ahead.

“I am excited, each year brings challenges and we have to find the identity of what this team can be,” said Griffith.

“We will have four seniors and some good players coming in. I am confident the seniors can bring things
together.”

HIGH FIVE: Kelly Curtis shows off the plaque she earned for taking fifth place in the heptathlon last month at the NCAA Division III championships in wrapping up her track career for Springfield College (Massachusetts). Curtis, a former Princeton High track and hoops standout, earned All-American status as a result of her fifth place finish. Earlier this year, she placed seventh in the pentathlon at the NCAA Division III indoor meet to make All-American in that event. (Photo Courtesy of Springfield College)

Kelly Curtis is well aware of her family’s special athletic legacy at Springfield College.

Her father, John was an All-American split end for the Massachusetts school in 1970 while her older brother, Jay, went on to be a Freedom Football Conference all-star for the Pride in 2002.

When the youngest Curtis decided to transfer to Springfield from Tulane in 2010 and join the school’s track program, she felt some pressure.

“It was tough,” said Curtis, a former Princeton High basketball and track standout who did a post-grad year at Lawrenceville and won prep titles and athletic awards for the Big Red.

“I always thought of it as my dad’s school and my brother’s school. My dad is in the Hall of Fame there and I have been to a lot of reunions.”

It didn’t take long for Curtis to add a special chapter to the family’s history at Springfield as she won the heptathlon at the storied Penn Relays last spring.

This year, Curtis made her case for a spot in the school’s Hall of Fame, earning All-American status in the pentathlon indoors and the heptathlon outdoors and defending her Penn Relays title with a second place finish.

While it would appear that Curtis had a smooth ride to success as a senior, there were some bumps along the way.

“My indoor season was a little rough; I had a shaky start,” said Curtis. “I didn’t get to train much over the summer. I had an internship in D.C. and went to Gallaudet two days a week for some strength and conditioning. I didn’t run cross country as a senior; I was not at the same conditioning level.”

But at the NCAA Division III indoor meet at Grinnell College in March, Curtis proved she could compete at the highest level, placing seventh in the pentathlon to earn All-American status.

“Once nationals came around, I did well,” said Curtis, who scored a season-high point total of 3,309 at the meet. “I was pleased to be seventh.”

About six weeks later, Curtis headed to Philadelphia to compete in the heptathlon at the Penn Relays to defend her title. While Curtis fell short of a repeat, she acquitted herself well, piling up 4,628 points to take second behind Ithaca’s Emma Dewart (5,006 points).

“I didn’t know who was going to be in the field until the night before,” said Curtis.

“Junior year, I was just thrilled to be there. Senior year was icing on the cake. It was being in such a big event as an athlete from a small school. It didn’t go as well as the year before. My focus was in the nationals so I was trying to peak for that.”

Upon arriving at Claremont College in California in late May for the NCAA Division III track and field championships, Curtis hit an unexpected hurdle.

“I was feeling good until the day of the competition; I woke up feeling sick as a dog,” recalled Curtis. “Instead of focusing on the competition, I was just fighting through each event.”

Curtis didn’t feel any better when she went to the track for the second day of the competition but soldiered on to take fifth place and earn All-American honors.

“It turned out that I had tonsillitis,” said Curtis. “My throat was very sore and it was hard to eat and refuel which is not too good when you are in an event that takes five hours. I didn’t have any energy. I have to be pleased with what I did under the circumstances.”

In reflecting on her transfer to Springfield, Curtis couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.

“I loved the transition and how welcoming the school was,” said Curtis.

“It is more relaxed and more fun than being at a D-I school. The coaches really appreciate you. I hope I have made a little mark in track.”

The school made an indelible mark on Curtis. “They really emphasize the mind, body, and spirit,” said Curtis, an honors graduate who is starting a masters program in sports management at Georgetown this fall and aspires to someday become a college athletics director.

“Athletics is just one component of that. The track team won the Pride challenge which is more than athletics, it deals with community service and giving back.”

And like her father and brother before her, Curtis certainly gave a lot to Springfield.

WATER WORKS: Robin Linzmayer, second from left, pulls hard for the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) women’s lightweight 8 in action this spring. Earlier this month, Linzmayer, a rising junior at Princeton Day School, helped the boat take eighth at the USRowing Youth National Championships on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (Photo Courtesy of MJRC)

Hockey has been Robin Linzmayer’s passion since grade school but getting hurt on the ice two winters ago helped her find another sporting love.

“I injured the meniscus in my knee in December of my freshman year,” said Linzmayer, a rising junior at Princeton Day School who stars on the Panther girls’ ice hockey team and also plays for the Princeton Tiger Lilies travel hockey club.

“I played for six weeks and then got an MRI. I had to sit out and have surgery. The recovery time was three months. My dad rowed in college and he told me it would be good exercise. I talked to my doctor and since rowing was easier on the knee and low impact, he said I could try it.”

While Linzmayer is comfortable gliding up ice, she found hitting the water a bit unsettling as she took up rowing with the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) last spring.

“It was a little scary at first,” said Linzmayer. “Those boats rock more in the water than I thought.”

It wasn’t long before Linzmayer began rocking in her new sport. “The novice coach helped me out a lot,” said Linzmayer. “He put me in some boats with girls who had rowed before. It was really good.”

Earlier this month, Linzmayer showed how far she has come in her second sport, competing for the MJRC women’s lightweight 8 at the USRowing Youth National Championships on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Linzmayer’s trip to Tennessee marked her second appearance in a national competition in three months as she had skated with the Tiger Lilies’ 19U team at the USA Hockey Tier II Nationals in Dallas this past March.

For Linzmayer, getting the opportunity to make the rowing nationals resulted from some eleventh-hour heroics from the lightweight 8.

“We were put together three or four days before the regionals,” said Linzmayer, who rowed from the boat’s five seat. “It worked immediately; we were second at the regionals.”

After earning its shot at the nationals, the boat worked hard to improve. “We rowed every morning from 5:30 to 6:45 and then came back to the boathouse after school for two hours,” said Linzmayer. “We were feeling light and fast.”

Coming into the national regatta, the boat was primed to go fast. “I think as a boat we wanted to see how we compared to some of the faster boats in the country,” said Linzmayer. “We wanted to pull as hard as we could; that is all you can do.”

While the boat fell just short of making ‘A’ final, it never stopped working hard, taking second in the ‘B’ final to place eight overall nationally.

“We pulled as hard as we could in the semis and ended fourth, five seconds behind,” said Linzmayer.

“In the final, we wanted to get off the line hard. We gave it our all. At the end, no one was disappointed. Our coach said how proud she was of us; I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates.”

Getting exposed to the high level of competition in Tennessee has given Linzmayer motivation to hone her rowing skills.

“I had such a great time rowing at the nationals,” said Linzmayer. “It was fun just watching some of the faster boats. It was so inspiring to row against those boats. You get to see how fast you are and what more you can do to be faster.”

Reflecting on her appearance at the hockey nationals, Linzmayer gained a similar inspiration.

“It is always fun to play against players from all over the country and see the different styles of hockey,” said Linzmayer, who helped the Tiger Lilies advance to the national quarterfinals. “You see room for improvement and what you need to do to get better.”

In Linzmayer’s view, taking up crew has made her a better hockey player.

“It has helped me much more than I expected,” asserted Linzmayer, who will be taking part in several hockey camps this summer.

“I never realized how intense rowing is. From a physical standpoint, the lifting and cardio stuff helped. Mentally, it was great. You learn to push yourself as hard as you can over that seven minutes of the race. That carries over into hockey. You go out for a two-minute shift and play as hard as you can. You learn to push through limits.”

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.”