September 15, 2021

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace answers a question at the program’s recently-held Media Day. After last season was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, Princeton is returning to action by playing at Lehigh on September 18. The Tigers last played on November 23, 2019 when they defeated Penn 28-7 to finish that season 8-2 overall and 5-2 Ivy League. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

There is a din of screeching, thumping, and hammering going on around the Princeton University football team as it has gone through its preseason practices with a soccer stadium and parking garage being constructed nearby.

But that racket hasn’t distracted Princeton head coach Bob Surace as he goes about the task of building his 2021 squad into a winner after last season was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

“You saw all of the construction; I feel like those things 10 years ago when I was a little less mature would have bothered me,” said Surace, standing in a corner of Powers Field at  Princeton Stadium fielding questions in the program’s recently-held Media Day.

“But when you have a year off, you are smiling on the way to practice. Stuff is going on all around us and nothing bothers me. It is just about the guys being back and us being here, which is really cool.”

With Princeton having last played on November 23, 2019 when they defeated Penn 28-7 to finish that season 8-2 overall and 5-2 Ivy League, the Tigers will have an additional contingent of veterans as they play at Lehigh on September 18 to kick off the 2021 campaign. more

HAPPY TO BE BACK: Princeton University football player Jeremiah Tyler enjoying the proceedings at the program’s recently-held Media Day. Senior star linebacker Tyler is looking forward to a big senior year after not enrolling at Princeton last year. In 2019, Tyler was unanimously first-team All-Ivy and was one of two finalists for the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. Tyler has been named as one of the six captains for the 2021 squad along with classmates Collin Eaddy, Trevor Forbes, Nikola Ivanisevic, James Johnson, and Cole Smith. Princeton, which had its 2020 season canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, returns to action this fall by playing at Lehigh on September 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jeremiah Tyler took a year off from Princeton University in 2020-21 but he didn’t take it easy.

The star senior linebacker for the Princeton football team gained strength and weight, got a taste of the real world, and deepened the bonds with his teammates during his time away from school.

“At the first half of the year I stayed at home in Detroit and I trained with the trainer to focus on myself and gain weight; that was a huge emphasis for me,” said Tyler.

“I was with my parents just working internships. I’m really grateful for the PFA [Princeton Football Association], they’re a huge help for all of Princeton. Just getting that internship and that work time, getting that experience of real life is good. You get that under your belt and the second half I moved in with some teammates. We went to Nashville, which was a good time. We got a gym down there — Gym 5 — shouts out to them — and they were really nice about everything. They were very welcoming, let us lift and power lift and all that jazz. In Nashville we had about 20 guys total. It was two different houses.”

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September 8, 2021

BIRD IN FLIGHT: Lizzie Bird flies over a hurdle in a 3,000-meter steeplechase race during her career with the Princeton University women’s track team. Last month, Bird ’17, competing for Great Britain, took ninth in the women’s steeplechase in the Tokyo Olympics, setting a new British national record of 9:19.68 in the process. (Photo provided by Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Lizzie Bird felt that she could run better after graduating from Princeton University, but even she was surprised by the level of her recent success.

The 2017 Princeton graduate and native of St. Albans Herts, England, set a new British national record of 9:19.68 and placed ninth in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in August.

“I wouldn’t have expected this three or four years ago when I just graduated,” said Bird. “I feel like the progression since 2018 has been steady.”

Bird closed her racing season by taking 12th place in the women’s steeple at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., after the Olympics, and shifted attention to starting law school.

Given her recent success, Bird has no plans to stop racing, but the build-up will look different while she studies and trains quite fortunately in the running mecca at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

“I know not being full-time, I won’t be able to train at the same rate,” said Bird.

“I can’t do two-a-days. I think I still have a lot more in me. I think I can still improve. At the Olympics, just seeing I was third European, maybe I can be challenging for a medal at Europeans or Commonwealths and that can be a pretty cool thing for this year. I have to be realistic that by taking on law school at the same time it will be more challenging and I might not improve at the same rate; but this is a decision I made that I’m ready to do something else on the side that’s a little less of a selfish pursuit.” more

ON HIS TOES: Princeton University men’s soccer player Daniel Diaz-Bonilla, right, battles Nico Rosamilia of Rutgers for the ball last Friday night in Princeton’s season opener. Junior forward Diaz-Bonilla generated a number of chances for the Tigers in a losing cause as Princeton fell 1-0 to the Scarlet Knights. Princeton was slated to play at Vermont on September 7 before heading to Colgate on September 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Daniel Diaz-Bonilla and his teammates on the Princeton University men’s soccer team were bound to be a bit rusty as they hosted Rutgers last Friday night in their season opener.

Princeton hadn’t played a game in nearly two years with the 2020 season having been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns and had a brief preseason in preparing to play a battle-tested Scarlet Knight squad.

“This team has only been together for two weeks after two years off and that team had a season in the spring,” said junior forward Diaz-Bonilla. “They have already had two games and a month together.”

But with the shifty Diaz-Bonilla displaying some dazzling footwork, the Tigers were able to put Rutgers on its heels several times outshooting the Scarlet Knights 8-7 in the first half as rivals played to a scoreless draw over the first 45 minutes of the contest.

The attacking unit of senior Kevin O’Toole, sophomore Walker Gillespie, senior Frankie DeRosa, and junior Ryan Clare along with Diaz-Bonilla was in sync despite the long hiatus from game action.

“We trust each other,” said Diaz-Bonilla. “We are always fluid, we are moving, we are getting off each other. I could play on the right, Kevin can play on the left and Walker can drop down. It is super fluid. We have got Frankie coming off the bench and Ryan sometimes goes up for us. We have a lot of options.” more

FRESH APPROACH: Princeton University field hockey player Beth Yeager, center, races upfield past two North Carolina defenders last Friday in Princeton’s season opener. The 13th-ranked Tigers fell 4-1 to top-ranked UNC and then showed progress in losing 3-2 in overtime to No. 5 Louisville two days later. Freshman star Yeager notched her first college goals in the loss to the Cardinals, tallying both scores for Princeton in the defeat. In upcoming action, the Tigers host No. 12 Duke on September 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It didn’t take long for Beth Yeager to make an impact for the Princeton University field hockey team last weekend in her collegiate debut.

After the highly touted striker generated five shots on goal but was held scoreless in a 4-1 loss to top-ranked and three-time defending national champion North Carolina on Friday, Yeager tallied both goals for No. 13 Princeton in a 3-2 overtime loss to fifth-ranked Louisville two days later.

While Yeager was disappointed by the defeat to the Cardinals, she saw positives coming out of the setback.

“We were excited to come out today and work on a few things,” said Yeager.

“Even though it was a disappointing result, there was a lot of progress that we made. It is a long season, there is lots to build on.”

Yeager was excited to notch her first collegiate goal, which came on a penalty stroke midway through the first period to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

“I was just aiming for the spot, trying to keep calm, not focus on all of the noise around me and do my best,” recalled Yeager, a 5’7 native of Greenwich, Conn., who has competed for the U.S. U-17 and U-19 outdoor junior teams.  more

September 1, 2021

HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE: Princeton University women’s soccer goalie Grace Barbara handles the ball last Friday night as Princeton defeated Loyola (Md.) 2-1 in its season opener and first game since 2019 after last season was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Senior Barbara, a former Princeton Day School standout, made one save in the win. Two days later, Barbara combined with freshman Tyler McCamey to post a shutout as the Tigers defeated Saint Joseph’s 3-0 with each goalie playing a half. In upcoming action, Princeton plays at George Mason (0-4) on September 2 and at 11th-ranked Georgetown (1-0-1) on September 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Grace Barbara started at goalie for the Princeton University women’s soccer team last Friday night in its first game since 2019, she just had to look to her right wrist to see the theme of the evening.

The word “grit” was scrawled in black ink on the tape around her wrist and it characterized the effort that senior Barbara, a former Princeton Day School standout, made to help Princeton pull out a 2-1 win over Loyola (Md.) in its first action after the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

“I definitely didn’t play my best game tonight but I think that is to be expected coming off of so long of not competing at Princeton,” said Barbara.

“But I am ready to build every day and get better every single day. That is really my mentality here. I actually came in at a deficit. I wasn’t able to train with the team for the first couple of days. I had COVID  earlier in the month and had to go through a return-to-play protocol. I had a really short preseason and was working really, really hard to get the starting spot here.”

Princeton had to show some grit collectively as it built a 2-0 lead only to see the Greyhounds score on a penalty kick with 9:18 left in the second half, making the final minutes of the contest a bit edgy for the Tigers.

“It definitely was a dicey win but a win is a win and that is what we have to say,” said Barbara, who had one save on the evening.

“This team, Loyola, has already had two games under their belt. They came in off of a pretty harsh loss (4-0) to Clemson and they were just ready to play. We saw that, they were scrappy to the end. It really taught us about how we can respond in a situation where we conceded a goal. Our mantra is grit this year and we showed exactly that. We really stepped up.” more

MACK IS BACK: Former Princeton University track star John Mack ’00, shown competing in a 1999 track meet at left, returned to his alma mater last week, getting introduced as Princeton’s Ford Family Director of Athletics. Mack, a winner of the Roper Award as the top male senior student-athlete to cap a stellar track career, is succeeding Mollie Marcoux Samaan ’91 who announced in May she would be stepping down to take over as commissioner of the LPGA. (Track photo by Beverly Schaefer, both photos provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

It was going to take a lot for John Mack to leave his beloved roots behind.

Princeton University had it. Again.

Mack, a 2000 Princeton graduate who won the Roper Award as the top male senior student-athlete to cap a stellar career in track and field, is returning to his alma mater as the Ford Family Director of Athletics. His duties begin officially on September 1.

“From the minute I set foot on campus as a prospective student-athlete on my recruiting visit, there hasn’t been any place in the world that I’ve loved as much as being at Princeton,” said Mack.

“So the chance to come back and serve in this capacity, it’s kind of mind-blowing. I’m pinching myself. Who gets their dream job?”

Following stints at Northwestern, the Big Ten and Princeton, Mack had returned to his hometown of New Haven, Mich., a village with less than 5,000 residents. He practiced law the last 10 years, and for the last three and a half years, Mack also served as pastor of Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church of New Haven.

“It was tough,” said Mack. “I said to my church congregation, this is literally the only job in the world that would have gotten me to leave. I do it happily and completely at peace and they could not have been more supportive, even when I told them I was leaving.”

Mack knows a bit about filling big shoes and big expectations. Mack’s late father had been pastor of the same church before him for 33 years. Last Sunday was Mack’s final in the pulpit before he leaves the church and his hometown again.

“My mom still lives in the house that I grew up in,” said Mack.

“All my sisters still come to the church. I see my nieces and nephews. It’ll be an adjustment, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. They’re supportive. Everybody has wrapped their minds around the change. It’s all good.”

The last time Mack left his hometown it was for four life-changing years at Princeton as a student-athlete. The record-setting sprinter at New Haven High became a captain and standout at Princeton. He still holds Top 10 times in the Princeton record books in the indoor and outdoor 200 and 400, and shares Top 10 times on the 4×400 relay. He won five Ivy League Heptagonals indoor titles and five outdoor Heptagonals. Princeton won six Heps team crowns in his career. more

KICK STARTER: Princeton University men’s soccer player Kevin O’Toole, right, controls the ball in a 2019 game. Senior star O’Toole, a two-time All-Ivy League selection and the Ivy Offensive Player of the Year in 2018, will be looking to get his senior season off to a big start when Princeton hosts Rutgers (1-0-1) on September 3 at Class of 1952 Stadium in its season opener.It will mark the first game for the Tigers since November 16, 2019 when they fell 2-1 to Yale to end the season at 10-4-3 overall and 2-2-3 Ivy League before the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Princeton University men’s soccer head coach Jim Barlow, seeing the 2020 season canceled due to COVID-19 concerns robbed him and his players of what they cherish most.

“It is the reason we do what we do; it is the thing that is most joyful about our job and we weren’t able to do it,” said Barlow, whose team last played on November 16, 2019 when it fell 2-1 to Yale to end that season at 10-4-3 overall and 2-2-3 Ivy League.

“That was the hardest part, not being able to get after it with the guys. I think what we do is important to their well-being, and to have it not happen was tough.”

There was lots of joy as the squad hit the field for preseason training starting on August 21 to start preparing for hosting Rutgers (1-0-1) in the season opener on September 3 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

“There is definitely an extra level of excitement to be back,” said Barlow.

“The guys have been waiting for it for a long time. The energy has been really positive, the guys came back fit.” more

BACK IN THE SWING: Princeton University field hockey player Hannah Davey gets ready for a big hit in a 2019 contest. Senior Davey and the 13th-ranked Tigers open their 2021 campaign by hosting three-time defending national champion North Carolina on September 3. It will mark Princeton’s first game since losing to the Tar Heels in the NCAA title game on November 24, 2019. Two days later, Princeton will host fifth-ranked Louisville (2-0) to wrap up a busy opening weekend. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

When the Princeton University field hockey team last played North Carolina, it was for the 2019 national championship.

It’s also the last time that the Tigers played a game because the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Princeton will return to action for the first time since that November 24, 2019 matchup with some familiar faces when it hosts the three-time defending national champion Tar Heels on September 3 on Bedford Field, but also a ton of inexperience on the field.

“Our potential is high,” said Princeton head coach Carla Tagliente, whose team went 16-5 overall and 7-0 Ivy League in 2019 on the way to the program’s fourth appearance in the national championship game.

“The goal is to continue to move the needle and improve throughout the year. We are very, very young. We have a large junior class and a lot of them reclassified, but they also have only played two seasons. They didn’t play last year. We have a lot of room to grow. We just don’t have much time in preseason to figure it out and iron out the kinks. We have to do that as we go.”

Gabby Andretta, Hannah Davey, Ali McCarthy, and Sammy Popper all started in that 2019 title contest that North Carolina won, 6-1. Ophelie Bemelmans, Claire Donovan, and Zoe Shephard also played in it. Now they’re at the top of the ladder as juniors on a team without a single senior and they bring a veteran presence to the two classes below them that have yet to play a college game.

“The leadership and experience of having been there and done it before, having been through preseason and been through a full season and been in the grind a bit,” said Tagliente.  more

August 25, 2021

WORLD CLASS: Princeton University women’s hockey standouts Sarah Fillier, left, and Claire Thompson proudly wear the uniform of Team Canada as the team got ready to compete in the IIHF Women’s World Championship. Star forward Fillier, who completed her sophomore season for Princeton in 2019-20, and standout defenseman Thompson ’20 are currently skating for Canada at the Worlds in Calgary, Alberta which are slated to end on August 31. Fillier has tallied two goals so far in the tournament with Thompson chipping in three assists as Canada started Pool A action by defeating Finland 5-3 last Friday and then topping the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) 5-1 on Sunday. (Photo by Hockey Canada, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Sarah Fillier and Claire Thompson are back to skating for a championship.

For the first time since the Princeton University women’s ice hockey team saw its 2020 season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic after winning the program’s first ECAC Hockey title, the two will be on the same team. This time it’s Team Canada which hosts the IIHF Women’s World Championship from August 20-31 in Calgary, Alberta.

“Honestly it’s so cool,” said star forward Fillier. “To live out your dreams together with someone you’re so close with is so special. And having our 2020 season cut off short, it’s great to have another chance to play with her. It’s awesome.”

Fillier is the youngest player on Canada’s senior team at 21, but she doesn’t feel out of place. She took last year off from Princeton to train in an effort to make the senior team and emerged with one of the world roster spots for Canada out of the country’s centralized roster of 29.

“It’s huge,” said Fillier, a 5’5 native of Georgetown, Ontario, who totaled 114 points on 44 goals and 70 assists in first two seasons for the Tigers, earning AHCA second-team All-America, first-team All-ECAC, and first-team All-Ivy accolades along the way. more

August 18, 2021

RARING TO GO: Players on the Princeton University football team about to burst on the field for their season opener against Butler in September 2019. Princeton, which didn’t get to play last fall as the Ivy League canceled competition due to COVID-19 concerns, starts preseason training for the 2021 season this Saturday. The Tigers, whose last regular season game was a 28-7 win at Penn on November 23, 2019, kick off the upcoming season by playing at Lehigh on September 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While August 21 is about four months away from the holiday season, it will seem like Christmas morning for Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace.

With Princeton not getting a season last fall as the Ivy League canceled competition due to COVID-19 concerns and having limited practices this spring, the Tigers will be hitting the field this Saturday to start preseason practices for the 2021 campaign.

“I just had a lunch with a player and one of his advisers,” said Surace.

“I told the adviser, you don’t understand how excited we are. It is hard to put into words. We got a tease of it in the spring but it wasn’t the same.”

With a number of veteran players not enrolling in Princeton for the 2020-21 school year, the spring sessions had a smaller turnout than usual.

“The hard part was that the numbers were lower, not everybody came back to school,” said Surace.

“Everybody had their individual decision and nobody knew how it was going to go. We had 53 players and we usually have about 75, so it was a much lower number. At times, it limited the full 11-on-11 certain days.”

While there were limits, Surace believes that a number of younger players still made progress. more

August 11, 2021

GOLDEN AGE: Ashleigh Johnson looks to pass the ball during her career with the Princeton University women’s water polo team. Last Saturday, superstar goalie Johnson helped the U.S. women’s national team win the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, making 11 saves as the U.S. defeated Spain 14-5 in the final. It was the third straight gold for the U.S. and the second for Johnson, who helped the squad prevail at the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

When Ashleigh Johnson was being recruited to play water polo in college, she shied away from heading west to play for one of the powerhouses of the game.

Instead, the Miami, Fla. native, who wanted to be a doctor, headed north to Princeton University where she could play the sport, not major in it.

Johnson emerged as a superstar for the Tigers in her freshman year in 2012-13, earning third-team All-American honors as she made 366 saves and had a .688 save percentage to help Princeton go 28-6. Building on that debut campaign, Johnson continued to dominate the next two seasons, adding more All-American honors and the CWPA Player of the Year award to her resume.

As a result of her exploits, Johnson started getting recruited by the U.S. national women’s team but she had her doubts about joining the program.
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Princeton University football star Jeremiah Tyler rushes the quarterback in a 2018 game. Last week, rising senior linebacker Tyler was named to the Buchanan Award watch list and as a Stats Perform third-team preseason All-American. The Buchanan Award is given to the top defensive player in the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision). Tyler, a 6’2, 225-pound Detroit native, will be looking to build off a junior year in 2019 that saw him earn unanimous first-team All-Ivy League honors and named as one of two finalists for the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. During that campaign, Tyler accounted for 62 tackles, 24 of which were unassisted and 14.5 were for loss. Tyler has been a part of two Ivy League championship teams in his first three seasons, having helped the Tigers to league titles in 2016 and in 2018, when Princeton went 10-0. Tyler and the Tigers kick off their 2021 season at Lehigh on September 18.

August 4, 2021

JERSEY’S FINEST: Holly McGarvie Reilly, right, takes the ball upfield for the U.S. women’s national lacrosse team. Reilly, a 2009 Princeton alum who starred in lacrosse and field hockey for the Tigers, helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup in Oshawa, Ontario. Last month, Reilly was inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. (Photo by John Strohsacker, provided courtesy of USA Lacrosse)

By Justin Feil

When Holly McGarvie Reilly started playing lacrosse on the very first team at Medford Memorial Middle School, she did not have Hall of Fame aspirations but she approached it as she has everything in her life.

“I’m a competitor,” said Reilly. “My parents really impressed on me the importance of a strong education and doing your best in whatever you’re doing.”

Reilly got hooked early on the new sport and excelled at it along with field hockey and winter track and field at Shawnee High School. The valedictorian at Shawnee, she won 10 varsity letters in a career that included a state track championship, All-State recognition in field hockey, and All-American acclaim in lacrosse before continuing with field hockey and lacrosse at nearby Princeton University.

At Princeton, she helped the Tigers win four Ivy League championships in field hockey as a star back in her fall seasons and during the spring won one Ivy title in lacrosse as a standout midfielder while earning Ivy Rookie of the Year and two-time All-American accolades. She helped the U.S. women’s national team win a pair of World Cup lacrosse gold medals in 2009 and 2013. Her achievements were recognized last month when she was inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster.

“It was really cool,” said Reilly. “I was very honored and surprised. I honestly didn’t know the process was ongoing. I was called by Peter O’Donnell and the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the foundation board and it was pretty awesome.” more

July 28, 2021

TOGETHER IN TOKYO: Anna Van Brummen, right, and Kat Holmes display their intensity as they competed for the Princeton University women’s fencing team. Van Brummen ’17 is currently at the Tokyo Olympics as an alternate on the women’s épée team which also includes former Tiger teammate Holmes. Van Brummen, an NCAA individual épée champion at Princeton, was part of the bronze medal U.S. épée team at the World Cup in February, 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the one-year delay of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Anna Van Brummen’s biggest challenge at the Tokyo Olympics is to remain ready for the United States women’s épée team competition.

It shouldn’t be a problem as the 2017 Princeton University graduate has spent the last five years preparing for this chance.

“I feel great about where I’m fencing,” said Van Brummen, a Houston, Texas, native who won the NCAA individual épée title in 2017, a first for the Tiger women’s program.

“And I feel great about where the rest of my team is fencing. I’m really excited. I have a really good feeling. I think we can do great.”

Van Brummen is an alternate on the women’s épée team which also includes former Princeton teammate Kat Holmes ’17. She didn’t compete in the individual women’s competition that was held July 23, but must be substituted in for one of the three épée spots when the team competition started on July 27.

“I don’t know when exactly,” said Van Brummen. “That’s my place. I’ll be subbed in at some point, I just don’t know when. It could be the gold medal bout, it could be any other bout, I just have to be ready.”

The team competition features nine bouts. While Van Brummen doesn’t expect to sub in for the anchor who would finish off the team competition, she knows she could be thrown in at any time.

“The challenges are just staying ready throughout the whole day,” said Van Brummen.

“So I have to be really ready and be really flexible. There are definitely times when they can be like, ‘We’ll put you in to push and make a last-ditch effort to score a lot of points.’ Or the opposite, maybe it’ll be, ‘Keep the advantage we have.’” more

REACHING FOR GLORY: Ashleigh Johnson leaps to make a save during her career with the Princeton University women’s water polo team. Last weekend, Johnson ’17 helped the U.S. women’s water polo team get off to a 2-0 start in Group B pool play at the Tokyo Olympics. Johnson, who helped the U.S. take gold at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, made 15 saves as the Americans routed Japan 25-4 last Saturday in its opening contest. The U.S. defeated China 11-7 two days later and will look to keep rolling as it plays Hungary on Wednesday in its next Group B matchup. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After producing a dominant run to the gold medal in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, Ashleigh Johnson and the U.S. women’s water polo team picked up where they left off as they got into action at the Tokyo Olympics last weekend.

Former Princeton University star goalie Johnson and the U.S. routed Japan 25-4 last Saturday in the opening contest of Group B pool play.

Johnson, who became the first African American to make the U.S. Olympics women’s water polo team when she starred at Rio, finished with 15 saves before being pulled for the fourth period. The 25 goals tallied by the U.S. are the most it has scored since a 23-22 shootout victory over the Netherlands at Princeton for the 2019 Holiday Cup.

Two days later, Johnson and the U.S. overcame a 4-2 deficit against China and pulled away to an 11-7 victory. The U.S., which also won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, will look to keep rolling as it plays Hungary on Wednesday in its next Group B matchup.

Another former Princeton standout, Gevvie Stone ’07, enjoyed success on the water as she and partner Kristi Wagner rowed the U.S women’s double sculls to a spot in the A Final after rallying for a third-place finish in the A/B Semifinal on Saturday at the Sea Forest Waterway near Tokyo Bay.

Stone and Wagner were sixth at 500 meters of the semi but trailed Australia by just .17 seconds for fourth and France by .28 seconds for third at 1,000 meters. more

July 21, 2021

DOUBLE VISION: Gevvie Stone, front, along with Kristi Wagner row in the women’s double sculls for the U.S. national team. Former Princeton standout Stone ’07 and Wagner, who starred at Yale, will be competing in the double for the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics next week. (Photo by Ben Tufnell, Row 360, provided courtesy of USRowing)

By Bill Alden

When Gevvie Stone earned a silver medal in the single sculls at the 2016 Summer Olympics, it appeared to be the culmination of a storied rowing career.

Having starred for the Princeton University women’s open rowing program and helping the Tiger varsity 8 win a national title in 2006 and then moving to sculling and taking seventh in the single sculls at the 2012 London Olympics, Stone’s trip to the podium in Rio at age 31 seemed to be a fitting final chapter to her life on the water.

With Stone, a 2007 Princeton alum, having earned a medical degree from Tufts University in 2014 and done a year of residency in emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, her career path after rowing was set.

But the pull of rowing brought her back to the water and Stone resumed training in 2018 with an eye toward making the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She came in second in the single at the U.S. trials for the 2019 World Championships and turned to the double sculls.

“You adapt or die,” said Stone. “I jumped in the double that spring with my training partner Cicely Madden and we finished fifth. It was a good learning experience for both of us.” more

MEDAL HUNT: Katherine Holmes displays the gold medal she earned for winning the individual epee at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Former Princeton University women’s fencing standout Holmes ’17 also helped the U.S. to gold in the team epee at the competition. Previously, she had helped the U.S. win the team epee at the 2018 World Championships. Next week, Holmes will be fencing for the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics in both epee competitions, hoping to add to her medal collection. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

While Princeton University fencing standout Kat Holmes was thrilled to compete in the epee in the 2016 Rio Olympics, she was left with a bitter taste in her mouth after the competition.

“My team and I lost in overtime for the medal round so we knew we had to go for another one,” said Holmes, who helped the U.S. place fifth in the team epee at Rio and took 25th herself in the individual competition.

Holmes returned to Princeton after the Olympics for the 2016-17 school year to compete in her senior season and earn her neuroscience degree. A native of Washington, D.C., Holmes ended up as a four-time All-American and All-Ivy League fencer during her Tiger career.

Staying in international competition, Holmes used that Olympic disappointment to fuel a gold medal performance in the team epee at the 2018 World Championships in Wuxi, China along with the Hurley sisters, Kelley and Courtney.

“I think before we knew that we could win gold but that really changed it to now we believed that we can,” said Holmes reflecting on the victory which saw her take the anchor role for the team. more

July 14, 2021

FOCUS ON TOKYO: Nick Mead focuses in on his training with the U.S. rowing program. Former Princeton University men’s heavyweight rowing star Mead ’17 was named to the United States Rowing Olympic Team and will row for the men’s 8 at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. The rowing competition is scheduled for July 23-30 at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo. (Photo provided courtesy of USRowing)

By Justin Feil

Nick Mead headed to Hawaii last week, but it was far from a vacation.

The 2017 Princeton University graduate is in the final training phase with the United States Rowing Olympic Team men’s 8 that will compete in the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 25.

“I’m unbelievably excited,” said Mead, a former men’s heavyweight star rower for the Tigers. “Honestly, I’m very relieved. It was a pretty stressful year or so of uncertainty and the stress of selection.”

The Olympics were pushed back one year by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that meant one more year of training and the accompanying sacrifices before Mead and his teammates could start counting down the days until they rowed for gold.

“You take it day by day, just thinking about each day of training,” said Mead. “There’s definitely a building excitement though, like we only have a couple more days until we’re in Japan and in the Olympic Village. It makes you consider every little thing that you’re doing during the day.”

The sacrifices over the years run the gamut from the mundane to some difficult decisions. Mead walks on the shady side of the street to practice in Honolulu to ensure that he doesn’t get sunburnt. Before the weeklong camp in Hawaii, Mead was living in the Oakland, Calif., area, across the country from his family in the Philadelphia area and his girlfriend in New York. He’s been there since 2018, six months after he graduated from Princeton. For almost two weeks after graduation, when USRowing still had its national team training centered in Princeton, Mead slept on the floor of the Princeton University boathouse. more

POWER STROKE: Claire Collins shows her form in training with the U.S. national program. Former Princeton University women’s open rowing star Collins ’19 was named to the United States Rowing Olympic Team and will row for the women’s coxless 4 later this month at the Tokyo Olympics. The rowing competition is slated for July 23-30 at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo. (Photo provided courtesy of USRowing)

By Bill Alden

After culminating a stellar career with the Princeton University women’s open rowing program in 2019 by being named a first-team All-American and helping the Tiger varsity 8 win the Ivy League crown, Claire Collins wasn’t ready to give up the sport.

“I was strong, I had some good times on the erg and we were getting some good results on the water,” said Collins, who was also named as the winner of the C. Otto von Keinbusch Award for Princeton’s top senior female athlete and was nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year during her senior campaign.

“I was still enjoying it a lot. The national team would be training in Princeton so we would see the women here every once in a while. It was inspiring. You have to listen to your gut, it is an exciting opportunity but it is a big commitment. I was having a lot of fun with the sport and I had bigger goals that solidified. This is my next goal, this is what I want to do after college.”

Following her gut, Collins joined the U.S. program, staying around Lake Carnegie to work out of the Princeton Training Center.

But as Collins was getting used to the more intense training and making a push to earn a spot in the 2020 Olympics, the pandemic halted everything and she went home to McLean, Va.

The hiatus, though, turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Collins was recently selected to the United States Rowing Olympic Team and will row on the women’s coxless 4 later this month at the Tokyo Olympics. more

July 7, 2021

EXTRA SPECIAL: Connor McCarthy heads upfield in a game this spring for the University of North Carolina men’s lacrosse team. Former Princeton University standout McCarthy, who was playing for UNC as a grad student, helped the Tar Heels reach the NCAA Final 4. Midfielder McCarthy tallied 14 goals this spring for UNC, including a game-winner in overtime against Rutgers in a 12-11 victory in the NCAA quarterfinals. (Photo provided courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

With the season on the line for the North Carolina men’s lacrosse team, Connor McCarthy received a pass from his left and wound up to shoot when he saw daylight ahead of him. Dancing forward, he over-handed a blast into the back of the net that sent UNC into the NCAA Final 4 with a 12-11 overtime win against Rutgers in a quarterfinal clash.

“I definitely have not had any experience like that, no game-winner or anything,” said midfielder McCarthy, a former Princeton University lax standout who was playing at UNC this spring as a grad student.

“To do it like that, with a game-winner in the NCAA tournament having not made the tournament ever was really special and to go out at the end with it was really special. That was a super surreal moment and really cool and I’ll never forget that.”

McCarthy would have loved to have had the same chance the year before as a senior at Princeton and felt the Tigers were in the midst of a special season when the COVID-19 pandemic ended that possibility. more

June 23, 2021

CHASING A DREAM: Princeton University men’s track star Ed Trippas competes in a steeplechase race for the Tigers. Rising senior Trippas, a native of Sydney, Australia, is looking to earn a spot in the steeplechase on the Australian team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Ed Trippas is bidding to become the second Princeton University steeplechaser in the last nine years to make an Olympic team.

Former Princeton standout Donn Cabral ’12 made the United States Olympic team at the close of his senior year and again in 2016, placing eighth in both ensuing Summer Olympics, and he continues to pursue a third berth. Trippas, for his part, is taking aim at a spot on his native Australian team before he returns to Princeton for his senior year.

“I can either go after a qualifying time or try to get a world ranking position, which is your best three performances,” explained Trippas. “Those are the two methods of qualifying.”

Trippas has taken some big steps over the last month to put himself in position to qualify. He ran 8:30.89 to win the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Music City Track Carnival in Nashville, Tenn., on June 4. The win at the bronze-level meet granted him 50 bonus points. Trippas had an even better time, a new personal record of 8:26.25, to place seventh at the Portland Track Festival on May 28.

“I was very pleased with it,” said Trippas. “It’s a lot of hard work that has started to pay off over the last few months. For it to start to come together and get a really good result, I was very pleased with that.”

The time was a move toward the minimum qualifying time standards for the Olympics of 8:22. That standard is far lower than the 8:29 mark that was required for the 2016 Olympic Games. Trippas has until the end of June to hit the time mark. Beyond that, the Tokyo Olympics will use the top 45 ranked steeplechasers to fill out the field. more

June 16, 2021

PULLING TOGETHER: Lauren Sanchez, center, enjoys the moment after a race for the Princeton University women’s lightweight varsity 8. Senior captain Sanchez helped the Princeton top boat place first in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship grand final earlier this month. (Photo by Ed Hewitt, Row2K, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

The Princeton University women’s lightweight varsity 8’s 26.3-second win over Wisconsin in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship grand final earlier this month might have looked easy, but the path there was anything but that for Lauren Sanchez and her teammates.

The lightweight team had several members of last year’s boat that was in position to go for a title in 2020 graduate and was missing others this season who took a gap year. The Tigers only had enough rowers to field an eight boat and a double scull boat. The small group of lightweight rowers on campus had to sustain fitness and training while undergoing regular weigh-ins despite the uncertainty that they would ever get to compete.

“Just going through that process without knowing if you’ll be able to race is challenging,” said Sanchez, a senior captain and a native of Medford, N.Y.

“Our team adopted a mentality that we were going to race. And if we didn’t, we were going to cross that bridge when we got there. But we put all our faith in that it would happen and would work out and we were going to train for something great.”

The Tigers didn’t find out until April that they would row this year, and didn’t get the OK for the IRA national championship regatta until just two weeks before it. Princeton overcame those hurdles and performed incredibly for a decisive win over Wisconsin in the final to capture its sixth national title, but first since 2003. more

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Davon Black drives past a foe in 2019 action for the LoyalTees team in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Former Princeton High boys’ hoops standout Black helped LoyalTees win the league title in both 2018 and 2019. After taking a hiatus last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league returns to action next week for its 32nd season and LoyalTees will be back on court seeking a three-peat. The 2021 campaign tips off with a doubleheader at the Community Park courts on June 21.

By Bill Alden

When the Princeton Recreation Department had to cancel its Men’s Summer Basketball League last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Evan Moorhead vowed that it would return in 2021 and be “stronger than ever.”

True to his word, Moorhead, the assistant director of recreation and league commissioner, has the hoops circuit up and running for its 32nd season, featuring a lineup of eight teams with the action tipping off on the evening of June 21 with a doubleheader at the Community Park basketball courts.

“I wanted to be held accountable so here we are,” said Moorhead.

“I am very excited. If we had this conversation a week ago, I think we would have been at six teams but there were two teams who came together late. We would have run the league with six teams but eight is a good number.”

The process of getting the league back on court was arduous as Moorhead followed guidelines, consulting with the Princeton Health Department to get the necessary approvals as youth and high sports opened up before reaching out to gauge interest for the summer league.

“It has been a difficult year for everybody,” said Moorhead. “Once we got that OK is when I started to reach out to teams from the last few years and to see who was interested. That was really going to drive things. From there, if we had no interest we wouldn’t be having this conversation but there was enough interest there with some of the returning teams. As usually happens, I got some inquiries from some new teams that we were able to add.” more

June 9, 2021

Princeton University wrestling vs. Lehigh, Princeton, NJ, November 23, 2019

ACTION JACKSON: Nate Jackson exhorts one of his charges in his role as an assistant coach for the Princeton University wrestling team. In addition to coaching, Jackson, a former All-American wrestler at Indiana University, is competing at freestyle on an international level in a quest to be a world champion. He recently represented the U.S. at the Pan-American Championships in Guatemala City, Guatemala, taking gold at 92 kg (202 pounds), and is competing in Poland this week at an UWW World Championships Ranking Series Event.

By Bill Alden

Nate Jackson is taking multitasking to a new level.

Jackson is an assistant coach for the Princeton University wrestling team, is competing at freestyle on an international level in a quest to be a world champion, and has a busy home life with his wife, Raychelle, and their four young children, ages 3-8.

Jackson, a two-time All American wrestler at Indiana University who turns 27 this August, lives by a simple philosophy as he juggles his many pursuits.

“‘Wherever you are, be there’ is something one of my Indiana coaches used to say,” said Jackson, who recently represented the U.S. at the Pan-American Championships in Guatemala City, Guatemala, taking gold at 92 kg (202 pounds), and is competing in Poland this week at an UWW World Championships Ranking Series Event.

“If I am an athlete, I am going be training. When I leave the practice and come home, I am a father so I need to be all in there. When I step into the office, I am a coach so I need to do exactly what I am supposed to be doing there. That is the only way I can live.”

Excelling at both baseball and wrestling at Marian Catholic High, Jackson, a native of Crete, Ill., went all in on wrestling after his baseball coach insisted that he focus his efforts on the diamond year-round.

Joining a local wrestling club, the Harvey Park Twisters, Jackson started making a lot of progress on the mat.

“They have a lot of people who have won state titles and Big 10 championships,” said Jackson.  more