May 22, 2024

Maintaining Focus as it Juggled Training with Exams, PU Women’s Open Crew Wins Ivy Title, Makes NCAAs

OPENING UP: The Princeton University women’s open varsity 8 churns through the water in recent action. Last Sunday, the varsity 8 placed first in its grand final at the Ivy League Championships in Pennsauken, N.J. The top boat’s victory helped the Tigers win their seventh straight Ivy title and earn the league’s automatic berth to the upcoming NCAA Rowing Championships. The NCAA regatta is taking place from May 31-June 2 at the East Fork/Harsha Lake in Bethel, Ohio. (Photo by Ed Hewitt/Row2k, provided courtesy of Princeton Athletics)

By Bill Alden

Although the Princeton University women’s open rowers had to juggle exams last week with preparing for the Ivy League Championships, they didn’t let that detract from their training.

“They did a really nice job balancing the academic demands with testing and rowing,” said Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny. “They were just very focused in their approach. I think that is a testament to the team.”

The Tigers displayed that focus last weekend on Cooper River in Pennsauken, winning the program’s seventh straight Ivy title and qualifying for the upcoming NCAA Rowing Championships in the process.

Princeton got off to a good start last Saturday as all of its boats advanced to grand finals.

“Things went well for all of our boats that had heats,” said Dauphiny. “Everyone progressed.”

On Sunday, with the league’s NCAA automatic qualifier coming down to the team that got the most points in the varsity 8, second varsity and varsity 4 A races, the Tiger varsity 8 clinched the bid as it placed first in its grand final and remained undefeated this spring.

“It was a great race; we were down off the start and then it was a fairly level field to about 300,” said Dauphiny, whose top boat clocked a winning time of 6:30.52 over the 2,000-meter course with Penn taking second in 6:33.03 and Yale finishing third in 6:34.45. “At the 500-meter mark, it was still pretty close. That is where we established a slight lead and from there we were able to lengthen that lead by four or five seats in that middle thousand. It was really solid throughout and it was close. The 8 was expecting that. In the last 500, it was really fun to watch because we handled it well. The boat stepped up. You could see the field charging. It was everybody’s opportunity for their final strokes to get the highest placement possible. It was fun to see that competitiveness and the strength within our league.”

With the victory, the Tigers finished first in the NCAA automatic bid (1V, 2V, 4A) standings with 44 points in front of Yale (39), Brown (37), and Penn (35).  In the overall team point standings, Princeton totaled 82 points to finish ahead of Brown (75), Yale (71), and Penn (66).

The Tiger top four took care of business as well, placing first in a 7:18.72, 3.8 seconds ahead of runner-up Yale.

“They did a great job,” said Dauphiny of the boat which included coxswain Frances McKenzie, Hailey Mead (4-seat), Laoise O’Donohue (3), Alice Patton (2), and Emma Cavendish (1). “This was a new lineup that never raced. They had all raced together before, but this was a new formation. That was pretty cool for them to win the final. They were ranked No. 1 going in, but it wasn’t the same boat so you never know.”

While the second varsity took third in its grand final, Dauphiny sees plenty of potential in that boat as it heads into the NCAA regatta.

“There is more work to be done on that boat but I was proud of them,” said Dauphiny of the boat which posted a time of 6:47.347 with Brown taking first in 6:40.802 and Yale coming in second at 6:43.831. “That boat is senior-laden, half of it is a senior boat. The seniors in that boat have really done a nice job of mentoring and showing what needs to be done by example for those freshmen in the boat. It is a really nice mix of athletes, young and old.”

In reflecting on the program’s seventh straight Ivy title, Dauphiny credited her rowers with making that streak possible.

“I don’t keep a count; it is very meaningful and it has nothing to do with me, it has everything to do with the women I coach,” said Dauphiny, who pointed to the support of Princeton’s athletic administration and the efforts of her assistant coaches, Steve Hope and Anna Kalfaian, as additional factors in the success of the team. “I am really lucky to have such fantastic athletes that I work with. Those numbers are more a testament to the team culture and the kids that we have here at Princeton.”

As for the varsity 8, three women have emerged as key performers in the boat, junior Katherine George in the five seat, junior coxswain Sara Covin, and junior stroke Zoe Scheske.

“Katherine does stand out, she is probably our top athlete but it takes all of the them in the 8,” said Dauphiny, whose varsity 8 also includes freshman Joely Cherniss (7 seat), junior Ella Barry (6), junior Margot Le Roux (4), freshman Samantha Smart (3), junior Anne du Croo de Jongh (2), and junior Katharine Kalap (1). “Katherine did get the All-Ivy honor. Sara did too, she is instrumental and very important in the boat. Zoe has done a really nice job too, she is our stroke. It is a big role and she had to step up because Lucy Koven was stroking the boat but is still injured.”

The Tigers will be facing another hectic stretch this week with a flurry of activities leading up to commencement on May 28.

“I am little stressed about it because there is just so much going on with graduation,” said Dauphiny, who has 14 seniors in her program. “We will get some good work in. It feels like one week even though we have two weeks.”

Dauphiny is confident that her rowers will once again balance their commitments and be primed to compete hard at the NCAA regatta, which is taking place from May 31-June 2 at the East Fork/Harsha Lake in Bethel, Ohio.

“I don’t know that we have the same speed as those big schools like a Texas or Stanford,” said Dauphiny. “We will give it our best. I think we are competitive with the ability to make it to the grand final.”