April 17, 2019

Overcoming Major Graduation Losses, PU Men’s Heavyweights Produce 4-0 Start

HEAVY DUTY: The Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity eight churns through the water in a recent regatta. Last Saturday, Princeton’s top boat defeated Penn and Columbia at Overpeck Lake Park in Leonia, N.J., to earn the Childs Cup, the oldest collegiate rowing trophy. The seventh-ranked Tigers, now 4-0, host third-ranked Harvard on April 20 in the race for the Compton Cup. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Losing some senior stalwarts from its top boats due to graduation, the Princeton University men’s heavyweight rowing team entered this spring in a state of flux.

But with a group of returning veterans seizing opportunity, the proud program is on course for another superb campaign.

“So far it has been going well; we graduated some real talent and some significant role players,” said Princeton head coach Greg Hughes, whose top boat is 4-0 and ranked seventh nationally.

“Whenever that happens, there is an opportunity there and there are some roles that open up. It is an interesting time seeing how people step up. A lot of the guys might have been playing a more supporting role with those guys and now they are filling those shoes. It has been fun to watch, lots of guys have done a great job stepping up and seizing that opportunity.”

Hughes credited junior Chris Lawrie along with seniors Matt Wylie, Jim Palmer, and Charles Watt, among others,  as helping to fill that void.

“Chris Lawrie is doing a great job, not just in the boat but out of the boat as well,” said Hughes.

“He has been a real role player. The coxswain, Matt Wylie, who was driving that boat last year, has been doing a really great job. Jim Palmer and Charles Watt were really key guys on last year’s second varsity but also raced in the varsity here or there. They have been significant role players in the group, which has been awesome to see.”

Hughes is seeing some good things from his promising freshman class.

“It is a good group of guys; what is interesting is that they are physically different than some of the guys that we graduated,” said Hughes.

“They were bigger guys, very tall and lanky guys, and some of the guys we have had come in are a little smaller and leaner. They are moving the boat really, really nicely. It has been cool to see. There are two freshmen who have been doing a great job and are rowing in the varsity through these first few races doing a great job, an Irish guy, James Quinlan, and Charlie Miller from Australia.”

The Princeton varsity eight did a nice job in its opening regatta on March 30, topping Georgetown in racing on Lake Carnegie.

“That is always an awesome race for us because it is set up as a scrimmage after we race that full 2k,” said Hughes, whose top boat had a winning time of 5:47.9 over the 2,000-meter course with Georgetown coming in at 6:02.5.

“It is really good for us because it allows us to introduce all of the new freshmen to the collegiate level of racing and get that first one under their belts, but also to go out and mix a lot of people up and move around for us to see stuff in a competitive environment as we are starting to figure out combinations.”

A week later, the Tigers built on that win by defeating Navy to retain the Navy-Princeton Rowing Cup.

“It was a solid race for all of the boats,” said Hughes, whose varsity eight clocked a winning time of 5:46.1 over the 2,000-meter course at Lake Carnegie with Navy coming in at 5:56.5.

“It’s the Navy, they know boats and they are real competitors. You have got to earn everything you get from those guys. That was a good one for us.”

The heavyweights enjoyed another good day last Saturday as Princeton defeated Penn and Columbia at Overpeck Lake Park in Leonia, N.J. to earn the Childs Cup, the oldest collegiate rowing trophy.

“We have got some good depth; I think the big thing for us this year is developing that top end because we graduated so much,” said Hughes, reflecting on a regatta that saw Princeton’s top three eights posting victories with the varsity crew posting a winning time of 5:34.5 with Penn second in 5:38.9 and Columbia taking third in 5:41.7.

“I think that will be the ongoing project. We talk about the catch phrase that it is a rebuilding year. We have got to learn some of those things and get people filling those roles. It has been fun, seeing the team work.”

With Princeton hosting third-ranked Harvard on April 20 in the race for the Compton Cup, Hughes is looking for more development.

“They will be strong on all levels and it will be an awesome race for us,” said Hughes.

“That will be a good chance for those guys to get a taste of that kind of racing for all boats. I think you get down into the 3V, the 4V, and the 5V, it will be awesome races for those guys as well. I think they are excited and ready to get that opportunity. It should be a fun weekend.”