It was a renewal of hostilities that had been eagerly anticipated by the Princeton University men’s heavyweight crew team.
After a six-year hiatus in its series against Navy, Princeton was once again facing the Midshipmen in a regular season regatta last Saturday on Lake Carnegie.
“It is the race that used to always start the season,” said Princeton head coach Greg Hughes.
“It is traditionally the first race for the lightweights and it was too for the heavyweights until six years ago. Navy had some conflicts with their schedule. They dropped the race to travel to some other races. The guys were really excited, they know the history and they knew the guys before them always started with this race.”
Making some history of their own, the Tigers produced a superb effort as the first varsity 8, the second varsity 8 and the third varsity 8 each posted wins in their races.
“We saw great intensity from the entire team this weekend,” said Hughes. “Having Navy back on the schedule is great, we know they are really tough competitors. They really work hard and you have to be on your game against them.”
The first varsity got pushed hard as it covered the 2,000-meter course in 6:08.0 with Navy just behind in 6:11.3
“It was a solid piece,” said Hughes. “It was challenging conditions, it was a simple race. We were not trying to focus on any one part of the race. We wanted to just go out and race on our body of work. There are spots in the race we need to talk about and work on.”
Hughes credited senior captain Mike Evans and the top boat’s veterans with setting a positive tone.
“Mike Evans is doing a great job,” said Hughes. “I like the personality of the boat, there is solid character. They have realistic goals, short term and long term. They are willing to work hard. There is something there to work with.”
A rule change in men’s rowing which allows freshmen to compete at the varsity level has given Hughes more to work with. Last Saturday, the first varsity included two freshmen, Patrick Eble and P.K. Konttinen.
“They are freshmen but they are varsity-caliber racers,” said Hughes, reflecting on their debut.
“That was a real varsity race with real shots being taken. You can’t get that racing in high school. They were good enough athletes to be able to step in.”
Having freshmen in the mix for varsity boats has injected a new competitiveness into the program.
“There has been a change in the dynamic with the change in the freshman rule,” said Hughes.
“It has been a great positive in terms of focus and intensity for the rowers. It is great for me as a coach, it is the first time I am looking at every kid. We always trained together but there was a defined separation. We were thinking about having a freshman 8 which we could still have under the rules. We saw the freshmen could help the 2V and the 3V so that has been fun.”
The Tiger first varsity will be looking to have more fun this weekend as it competes for the Childs Cup against Penn and Columbia at Ridgefield Park, N.J.
“I think they need a little more experience together with the execution of the race,” said Hughes.
“There are little components of races, starts, moves, the final part. We spend a lot of time on boat speed, now we need to work on transitions within the race.”