April 25, 2018

Princeton Men’s Lightweights On a Roll, Bringing Good Form Into H-Y-P Regatta

SHINING LIGHTS: The Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity eight shows its form in a regatta this spring. Princeton topped Penn last Saturday on the way to winning the Wood-Hammond Trophy. The third-ranked Tigers now head to New Haven, Conn. on April 28 to battle top-ranked Harvard and No. 4 Yale in the annual H-Y-P Regatta. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

After posting opening day wins over Navy and Georgetown on March 24, the Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity eight suffered a setback as it got edged by Columbia a week later.

While Princeton head coach Marty Crotty was disappointed by the result against the Lions, he urged his rowers to stay the course.

“We got better that week, but the race didn’t go the way we wanted,” said Crotty, whose varsity 8 clocked a time of 6:04.7 over the 2,000-meter course at Overpeck Park in northern Jersey with Columbia winning in 6:03.6.

“Despite the loss, it was ‘keep your chin up and get better next week and just watch the season play out and see what happens.’ We trusted what we were doing. I had a pretty good idea that the guys in there were the guys I wanted to stick with for a little while. I just wanted to be confident in defeat and have them see that so they can keep confident and just keep doing what they have been doing.”

That confidence proved justified as Princeton’s top boat produced a memorable effort in a win over reigning Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national champion  Cornell on April 14, surging over the last 500 meters to beat the Big Red by 3.1 seconds in a Lake Carnegie course-record time of 5:34.5.

“It was a very mature race; certainly Cornell at various stages in the race had some good momentum,” said Crotty.

“We could have panicked or gotten a little short or gotten a little hasty. We hung in there, we kept getting good traction on the water. We just picked their spot right. Even though Cornell had a lot of momentum in that third 500, we just held them. We were able to stay long, stay connected, and were able to build off of that so it was good to see.”

The Tigers built on the win over Cornell by defeating Penn last Saturday to retain the Wood-Hammond Trophy, clocking a time of 6:00.8 with the Quakers coming in at 6:05.0.

“Going into this race we were super focused, we were expecting their very best,” said Crotty, noting that Princeton defeated Penn in the regular season last year only to finish behind the Quakers in the Sprints and the IRAs.

“It was a race at the first varsity level that we were able to get control of from the get-go, so that was good to see. We are just focusing on getting a little better every week.”

Princeton’s group of 15 seniors is helping to keep the squad focused from top to bottom.

“To have a class that big, we have guys who have a ton of experience in every single boat,” said Crotty, noting that senior captain Patrick Watt has been providing good leadership.

“There are two on the varsity, two or three in the JV, three or four in the 3V, two or three in the 4V, and we have four or five of them in the 5V. When you have a class that big, you never miss them. It is that experience spread over every boat. Sometimes you have a class that is maybe half as big and their experience and leadership isn’t spread out over all of the boats so not all the boats benefit from that senior leadership directly.”

With the third-ranked Tigers now heading to New Haven, Conn. on April 28 to battle top-ranked Harvard and No. 4 Yale in the annual H-Y-P Regatta, that experience should come in handy.

“What this regatta does two weeks before [Eastern] Sprints every year is that you either are awoken to the kind of postseason competition you come to expect at Sprints and IRAs, and if you weren’t woken up to it yet, HYP does that for you, no matter what,” said Crotty.

“Sometimes you come out and you have won and you say ‘I am glad we were ready for that’ and sometimes you are not quite ready to be at championship speed yet. You say we know where we need to get. I think the guys are ready to go, they are looking forward to it. They are awake and they are ready.”

Crotty has provided some wake-up calls to his guys to help toughen them up for the stretch drive.

“I like where we are at; we have presented them with a lot of challenges in different ways this year,” said Crotty.

“I have intentionally made things more uncomfortable so they are more prepared for the rigors of really tough competitive racing.”