April 12, 2017

Showing its Emphasis on Depth, Development, PU Men’s Heavyweight Crew Produces 4-0 Start

CHILDS’ PLAY: The Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 churns through the water in recent action. Last Saturday, Princeton’s top boat defeated Penn and Columbia to earn the Childs Cup. The Tigers now have 50 wins in the competition for the oldest active trophy in collegiate rowing, while Penn has 44 and Columbia has 12.  Princeton, now 4-0, hosts Harvard and MIT on April 15 in the race for the Compton Cup. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Although the Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 lost four rowers to graduation from a boat that took third at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta last spring, Greg Hughes was confident he had a foundation in place that would lead to continued success.

“The goal isn’t just to get strong, experienced guys here to Princeton,” said Hughes.

“The goal is to develop people during their time at Princeton so they continue to get better every single year, and they move those ranks as they develop.”

In the early going this spring, the Tigers have demonstrated that they are once gain a force to be reckoned with, producing a 4-0 start.

“We obviously graduated a good chunk of our stronger guys,” said Hughes.

“Whenever that happens, people have to step up and fill new roles. There have been guys who have been doing that; it is fun to watch.”

Hughes had fun watching his varsity 8 last Saturday as it defeated Penn and Columbia on Lake Carnegie to win the Childs Cup, the oldest active trophy in collegiate rowing.

“It was a solid race, it was really crazy out there conditions-wise,” said Hughes, whose top boat clocked a winning time of 6:18.9 over the 2,000-meter course with Penn taking second in 6:21.4 and Columbia finishing third in 6:35.2.

“It was tough; it was extremely windy and it built up as the racing went on through the event. By the time we got to the varsity race, it was really pumping. That is tricky stuff to race in and I thought the boat did a really good job. It was a solid performance, they established themselves early on and proceeded to do what they needed to get it done.”

Dealing with turnover in his lineup, Hughes has used different combinations in his boats this spring.

“In these early races, a lot of that is people getting comfortable in those new roles and giving people opportunities to race,” said Hughes, whose second varsity and third varsity also posted wins on Saturday.

“We want to make sure that we give everybody a real opportunity so they can continue to get better and they can get the chance to prove their ability. We have been mixing and matching. I think the guys have done a really good job with that.”

Team captain and senior star Nick Mead has been doing a really good job for the Tigers.

“Nick is a great leader; he has obviously been a strong performer for us for the past four years but he is so much more than just a big engine,” said Hughes.

“His personality and his attitude are mainstays of our program. He is not one of those leaders who is loud and vocal. He is very, very consistent and that’s a big part of rowing. We have a long season and we are racing for two months straight, making sure there is a consistency to those performances makes a big difference. He is just one of those guys; he is very, very reliable.”

Several other guys have also stepped up for Princeton so far this spring.

“We have had a lot of the guys who were doing some under-23 stuff this past year and those guys have come back and they have done a really great job adding more to the program,” said Hughes.

“Some of those guys who were in the varsity last year are performing at a higher level this season. Guys like Tom George, he has been doing great. We have some guys that came out of the second varsity and have been moving up into the varsity, like Julian Goldman, who was stroking the 2V the last couple of years. He is doing a really nice job, he has made some nice gains. Franco D’Agostino has been doing a great job, both in terms of his performance but also with the kind of leader that he is, which is a strong teammate. That has been huge.”

The team’s group of coxswains has also made strides, refining their skills in guiding the Princeton boats.

“Dave McFall, who is our coxswain, has made some really nice gains,” said Hughes.

“It has been a big focus for us to help those coxswains develop and improve their knowledge and ability in the same way that we have been able to develop rowers. Coach Matt  Smith helped us get a good protocol for a survey that the athletes all filled out. We got that information back so they have got very good, simple things to think about and work on. The coxswains are a much more dynamic part of what we do and Dave has been a driving part of that. It has been great to see him doing what he does.”

Hughes knows that the Tigers are in for a great battle as they host Harvard and MIT this Saturday in the race for the Compton Cup.

“It is always an awesome matchup, the guys are excited to have it here,” said Hughes.

“Harvard is a strong team; we know from top to bottom, they are going to be impressive competitors. We are going to have to come prepared with the best race we have got so far. It is exciting for the whole team.”