June 7, 2023

PU Men’s Heavyweight Varsity 8 Takes 3rd at IRAs, Coming Through with Superb Effort in Grand Final 

ALL IN: Members of the Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 crew, lying on the ground to the right, join the members of the Tiger men’s and women’s lightweight rowing programs last Sunday to celebrate their success at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championship Regatta. The men’s heavyweights placed third in their grand final while both lightweight squads won national team titles in the competition which took place at Mercer Lake. (Photo by Row2k, provided courtesy of Princeton Athletics)

By Bill Alden

After the members of the Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 crew got their medals for taking third in the grand final at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championship Regatta last Sunday at Mercer Lake, they rushed off the stage en masse to pose for a group shot with the Tiger men’s and women’s lightweight rowers.

The scene of the heavyweights celebrating with the lightweight crews, who dominated their competition winning team titles and five grand finals, exemplified the special spirit that has developed among the Princeton rowers.

“Holy cow, what a day to be a Tiger,” said Princeton men’s heavyweight head coach Greg Hughes, whose team placed fourth in the team standings at the competition behind champion Cal, runner-up Washington, and Yale. “We always talk about how we are one boathouse, that we have the best boathouse in the country. Today is proof of that. For me, to be a part of that and the power of that, you can’t put a value on that.”

That environment in the boathouse helped power the heavyweights this spring.

“Our speed this year, it is absolutely transitive properties; we most certainly fed on it,” said Hughes. “I am sure the other teams felt that too. There is a really awesome energy in the boathouse, there is a lot of unity. It is just fun to be a part of it.”

It was fun for Hughes to see how his second and third varsity 8s rebounded from the disappointment of not making their grand finals by cruising to wins in their petite finals on Sunday, finishing seventh overall in the competition. The second varsity 8 posted a winning time of 5:45.1 over the 2,000-meter course in its petite final, edging runner-up Boston University by five-tenths of a second. The 3V8, for its part, rallied from seven seconds down at the 1,000 meter mark to cross the line at 5:51.68, 2.2 seconds better than runner-up Syracuse.

“I am really proud of the way those guys raced; there were super challenging conditions by the team we got to the semifinals for those events yesterday and we knew that it was going to take a religious piece to earn a spot,” said Hughes. “They came up a little bit short and they had two choices. They could have just kind of finished the season or they could have gone out and gone for a win and they did that. I thought that was just awesome racing for those guys to finish off the season with a win.”

The Tiger varsity 8 found itself in a tight battle with Cal, Washington, and Yale. Standing fourth at 1,000 meters, Princeton passed Yale to earn bronze in a time of 5.34.88 behind champion Cal (5:31.71) and runner-up Washington (5:32.96).

“That is a special crew; every year as a coach I continue to learn,” said Hughes of the boat that included Connor Neill, James Quinlan, Marco Misasi, Theo Bell, Marcus Chute, Hanno Brach, Nathan Phelps, Patrick Long, and Nick Taylor.

“Those guys most certainly taught me a lot in their ability to understand their strengths; to let me be a part of how to coach them and to capitalize on that was super fun,” said Hughes. “The main theme for our team all season had been consistency and those guys are the epitome of that. They showed the ability to do it every week through any condition and not just to hold speed, but they continued to get better through the season. I think that is what you saw today.”

Taking advantage of beautiful conditions on Mercer Lake, the top boat saved its best for last.

“They lost to Yale three weeks ago by a second and they just beat them by two if you want to look at it quantitatively,” said Hughes, noting that the rowers had to deal with a strong headwind and choppy water on Saturday as they competed in the semis. “That is a really positive result in a truly awesome racing setting. In the end, I think it was really fair across all of the lanes. It was awesome water. When you are at this point in the season, all you want is the opportunity for your athletes to put it all out and that is what they had today. Hey look, there were two boats that were faster than them on the day and you know it. We were better than those other three and we know it. It is just awesome. It is a great way to finish it up.”