May 31, 2017

Looking to Build on Big Day at Eastern Sprints, Princeton Men’s Heavyweights Primed for IRAs

Battling through some nasty weather conditions, the Princeton University men’s heavyweight rowing program  enjoyed a big day at the Eastern Sprints earlier this month.

Undeterred by the wind and rain whipping through the course at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. during the May 14 regatta, Princeton made the medal stand in four races, winning the second varsity 8 and taking third in the first varsity 8, third varsity 8, and the fourth varsity 8.

Princeton head coach Greg Hughes credited his rowers with showing character and skill in achieving that medal haul.

“It was a crazy day, it was my 24th year at the Eastern Sprints and I thought I had seen it all and I hadn’t,” said Hughes with a chuckle.

“It was a full blown Northeaster, we had a 42 degree temperature, driving rain, and winds out of the north, which was a direct tailwind on the course at 20-22 mph. It was really, really gritty conditions for racing and the team stepped up. Those are hard conditions to race in and execute in, especially in six-boat racing especially where you have much going on. To make it cleanly through those heats with all of our boats and then to be able to come back four or five hours later and step up in the finals was great.”

The second varsity’s performance was a highlight of the regatta as it clocked a time of 5:35.573 in taking first with Yale coming in second in 5:38.030.

“That 2V is an impressive boat; the 1V and the 2V have been really competitive with each other all year,” said Hughes.

“We have a deep top group on the team, there is a lot of guys who have been mixing between those groups. I think it showed where that depth is so that was exciting. They won that race by a little bit of open water and set a new course record.”

Hughes is hoping for calmer waters but more exciting performances as Princeton heads west for the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta which is taking place in Sacramento, Calif. from June 2-4.

“It is an incredible venue out there the way that they have it organized,” said Hughes.

“It is an impressive set up that Sacramento State has created. It is awesome for the athletes, they feel like they are at a real championship. It is great for the fans.”

Over the last few weeks, the Tigers have been focusing on fundamentals as they gear up for a championship effort.

“We changed up a little bit, we spent some time just training,” said Hughes.

“We mixed the boats up and started doing some longer, slower, harder work. It was back to basics a little bit to build some base and endurance. Then we started putting some lineups together. so there are a couple of changes in all of the lineups, whether it is personnel or where people are sitting in those boats. We had an opportunity to try adjust all the boats to make them all faster. I think it has been good, the boats have been moving well.”

Hughes is hoping to consolidate those gains as the team was based at the University of California over Memorial Day weekend.

“We go out and spend four days training out of the Cal boathouse up on the Briones reservoir, we stay right in Berkeley,” said Hughes, lauding program rigger Steve Hujber for doing yeoman’s work in getting the boats across the country.

“It is awesome, it is a beautiful venue. It is isolated up in the Berkeley hills. It really brings the team together. We are no longer dealing with guys racing from class so there are no distractions. The guys can really focus in on what they are doing. The weather is great, they are done with school. It is a really fun way to have the last week of the season.

Princeton is hoping to have a lot of fun at the IRA regatta. “We know that the west coast programs are strong again this year, they have been mixing it up, they have been having some great battles,” said Hughes, whose varsity 8 took third in the 2016 IRAs with the 2V coming in second and the 3V taking first.

“We have seen in the last couple of years that the east coast is good too and I believe we are. So our goal is to gain some speed, be in that mix, and then it comes down to the racing.”