Heavies Medal In All Races, Win 3V Gold, Take 2nd Overall At Thrilling IRAs
One Princeton boat after another stopped at the IRA medal dock — the ultimate goal to cap any collegiate racing season — and Tiger head coach Greg Hughes couldn't have been any happier when all was said and done.
"It was incredible," Hughes said after four Princeton boats medaled — including a 3V gold — at the 2016 IRA Championships. "It was the most exceptional team performance I've ever seen. All the guys racing in those eights, but also some of the guys who aren't here, played a huge role in helping us get here."
What is here? How about this:
• The varsity eight repeated as IRA bronze medalist and defeated Washington in the final for the first time since 2006
• The second varsity sprinted past Washington and, in the final 200 meters, California to win a third straight IRA silver medal
• The third varsity capped an undefeated season with an IRA gold medal, Princeton's first since the 2003 freshman eight won the Stewards Cup
• Princeton finished second in the race for the Jim Ten Eyck Memorial Trophy, the team points event — it was the best Tiger finish since winning the trophy in 1998
Yes, here is something special.
A weather-altered schedule sent the varsity eight out just after 7 am for the national championship, and the Tigers were more than ready for the blazing pace. That pace, however, was set by second-seeded California, which jumped on unbeaten Yale at the start and had control of the race by 500 meters.
Princeton held the middle of the pack over the first 1000 meters, but it put on a move that none in the boat will ever forget. The Tigers broke free from the other three boats and then moved past Yale for the first time all season. The Bulldogs would come back in the final 200 to take silver, but that didn't dampen the feelings afterwards.
"Our plan was to just go out there with the pack and see what happened," said senior Patrick Eble, a member of the varsity eight every year of his Princeton career. "That middle thousand was the most fun, fastest middle thousand I've ever raced. It was amazing, surreal out there. The result is what it is, but we threw everything we had out there, and that's all you can ask for."
The 2V won its third straight IRA silver medal with a wild finish of its own. Harvard followed its Sprints gold with a win at the IRAs, but for much of the race the Crimson's closest competitor was California. That changed over the final 500, when the Tigers went to another speed and closed in one seat after another.
By the final 15 strokes, they edged in front of California, marking the first time that boat defeated both West Coast powers (California and Washington) since 1998.
There would be no wild comeback in the third varsity final, however. Princeton wasn't about to let that happen. The undefeated Tigers held control of that race by the 1000-meter mark and never let anybody make a serious run at gold.
"We've always been slow off the start, so we thought we'd have to claw back into it," said Greig Stein, the lone senior in a very young 3V. "We had a great start today, which we didn't expect. It was over after 500 meters when we were even with everybody. We trusted each other, and the ends of that race were the best we've ever raced."
Princeton topped Harvard by nearly two seconds to win that gold medal, the program's first in 13 years, and to assure itself a Top 2 finish in the race for the Jim Ten Eyck Memorial Trophy, awarded to the team champion. California used a top-two finish in the freshman eight (teams can score in either the 3V or freshman race to add to the 1V/2V totals) to win the trophy by three points over Princeton. Cal ended with 205, while Princeton scored 202 points; only one other program scored as many as 190 points.
Princeton's final medal of the day came in the fours, which followed a wild semifinal win one day earlier. One second was the difference between winning the semi (which Princeton did) and heading to the petite final, and the Tigers took advantage by winning silver in 6:38.03, less than three seconds behind California.
Princeton was the lone four in the final, which was fitting, because for the second straight season, Princeton finished with the best team performance among any Ivy League programs. Combine that with two straight Rowe Cups at Sprints, and you can be as excited for the future of Princeton rowing as you are for the present.
SECOND VARSITY EIGHT
Boston University 6:00.190
THIRD VARSITY EIGHT
Boston University 6:10.250
Holy Cross 6:47.880
2 De Groot