May 30, 2018

Girding for Round Three Against Columbia, PU Men’s Lightweights Seeking IRA Crown

LIGHTS OUT: Members of the Princeton University men’s lightweight third varsity eight celebrate their win at the Eastern Sprints earlier this month. Princeton came up big at the Sprints as the varsity eight took second with second varsity placing third and the fourth varsity coming in first along with the 3V. The Tigers are hoping for another strong performance this weekend as they take part in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta at Mercer Lake in West Windsor from June 1-3. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Over the course of the spring, the Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity eight has separated itself from just about all of its competition.

In regular season action, Princeton’s top boat posted victories over Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Penn, Dartmouth, Navy, and Georgetown, among others.

But the Tigers have been unable to catch reigning national champion Columbia, falling to the Lions in a regular season meeting on March 31 and then coming in second to their rival in the grand final at the Eastern Sprints on May 13.

“We did what we could do. There was one boat faster than us,” said Princeton head coach Marty Crotty, whose top boat clocked a time of 6:11.02 over the 2,000-meter course on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. at Sprints with Columbia taking first in 6:08.60.

“It was the culmination of a season where we are putting things together and getting a little better every week. Unfortunately we weren’t next to them for long enough to have a decent boat race. Columbia rowed a good one. I don’t feel bad about our race at all. You can hope to be more competitive with the eventual winner and make them earn it a little more.”

Princeton pulled away from the rest of the boats at the Sprints, which means it could be a two-horse race when and if it meets up with Columbia in the grand final this weekend at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta at Mercer Lake in West Windsor.

“If you take your eyes off Columbia and just watch us; we had to do a little work there in the last 700 to get out of the mess, and I think we did that quite comfortably,” said Crotty, whose varsity eight finished more than two seconds ahead of third-place finisher Penn at Sprints.

“We have been in that 3-4-5 mess before; you don’t want to be on the wrong side of that. It was good to represent ourselves as that clear No. 2.”

The depth displayed by the Tigers at the Sprints gives the program a clear chance to excel across the board at the IRA, which is slated for June 1-3.

“It was a great day. It was one of my more memorable days in 12 years of coaching,” said Crotty, who got wins from the third and fourth varsity at the Sprints with the second varsity taking third in addition to the silver earned by the top boat.

“Nobody gave us any anxiety with the heats, everybody went through. Everybody went out and performed at their level. We have been confident in that all year.”

As the Tigers prepare for the IRA regatta, there is no need for major changes.

“It is to get focused on what we do well, which is good base speed and a good flourish at the finish and just try to do it a little better,” said Crotty.

“It is potentially a mistake to try to go out and change the way we race to chase somebody. We need to keep on putting our best out there and see what the result is at the end.”

But the chance to get another shot at nemesis Columbia and acheive a different result is a driving force for the Tigers.

“They know that is what they are training against and making sure we hold serve and don’t let anybody pass us,” said Crotty.

“But yes, it is not even in the back of their minds, it is in the front of their minds. If there is one thing I learned this year, it takes nine months to establish the way you row and the way you race. These guys can make adjustments, but they can’t completely change the way they race in nine days.”

Getting the chance to race close to home should enhance Princeton’s chances.

“You get to sleep in your own bed,” said Crotty. “There will be a lot of people in town for Reunions that will make the trek over. It will be a lot of Princeton regalia and good to row in front of that crowd. It would have been really tough this year to travel due to the exam schedule and where exams fell. I feel like we can use the next four or five days to really just recover and rest and do our last little sharpening, rather than get on a plane and establish a training camp somewhere and all of that.”

Crotty is confident that his top boat will be sharp when it counts this weekend.

“They might not be the first boat off the line,  but they establish their pace pretty well and build into the race,” said Crotty. “It has worked for us all year except against one crew. We just have to do it a little better so we can be next to them and have a chance to win in the last 700.”