The last time the NCAA Championships were held at Mercer Lake, Princeton was the target. The last time the NCAA Championships were held anywhere, Princeton was the target.
This year, Princeton can make the short trip to Mercer Lake as a team under the radar. And after two weeks of hard work preparing for the three-day championship regatta, veteran head coach Lori Dauphiny is confident in the three boats she is bringing to NCAAs.
"I think we are better than we were for the Ivv Sprints," Dauphiny said. "I think we learned a lesson in how to respond when things get tight from that race. We have worked hard these two weeks, and I am confident we will have our best weekend of the season coming up."
Princeton placed fourth last year in the team competition, but it won gold in the varsity eight final. It was Princeton's second gold medal in the V8, following the dominant 2006 victory at Mercer Lake. The Tigers also won an individual national championship in the 2V during the 1997 NCAA Championships; along with Brown and Washington, Princeton is the one of only three teams to be invited to every NCAA Championship regatta.
The 2012 team may not be ranked as highly as some of its Orange and Black predecessors, but Dauphiny feels it has a realistic chance at making history this weekend. Consistency and resilience will be crucial during a tough weekend, and Princeton will be sending out the same lineups that both went through and grew from the challenges of the Ivy League Sprints.
And remember, it wasn't like Princeton competed against a weak field two weekends ago. The Ivy League makes up more than 30% of the field at the NCAA Championships, and at least one Ivy League team has finished in the top three in the team competition every year of the NCAAs.
The Princeton varsity eight went 8-2 during the regular season, including 7-0 against the Ivies, but both Radcliffe and Cornell topped the Tigers in the Ivy V8 final.
"We had a decent race in the final," Dauphiny said. "We just didn't have the best response to Harvard being faster that day. We'll be better because we have gone through that."
The varsity eight will compete in the 9:30 am heat against California, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Stanford and Notre Dame. The top three will move into Saturday's semifinal, while the bottom three will compete in the afternoon repechage. Reaching the semifinals without going through the repechage is critical for a boat hoping to have its best for the weekend.
The second varsity also went 8-2 on the season, but it had a perfect day at the Ivy League Sprints by winning its third straight gold medal in the event. The Tigers will row in the 10:15 am heat with Ohio State, Radcliffe, Washington, Michigan State and Cornell.
The varsity four was the only unbeaten crew during the regular season (10-0), and it finished second to Radcliffe. The four will row in the 10:30 am heat against California, Radcliffe, Michigan State and Cornell.
A top-three finish in either the morning heats or the afternoon repechage automatically sends a boat to the Saturday semifinals, where the top three in each of the two heats will qualify for the grand finals Sunday.
Unlike the Ivy League Championships, or the IRA national championships for the other rowing leagues, the NCAA Championships is not awarded based solely on the winner of the varsity eight competition. Instead, a combined point total from each program's top three boats (varsity eight, second varsity eight, varsity four) will be used to determine the national champion.
The varsity eight competition is worth the most points, followed by the second varsity eight and the varsity four. Each boat will open with heats on Friday, and then compete in semifinals on Saturday and finals on Sunday. A full schedule can be found here or by downloading the notes packet at the top of the story; the notes packet includes weekend lineup, season results for all three boats and Princeton's history at the NCAA Championships.
Points are awarded for each team's final finish in Sunday's finals. The varsity eight winner earns 48 team points; every other team earns a multiple of three points based on its overall finish. Thus, the second-place team earns 45, the third-place team earns 42, etc. The second-varsity eight uses the same system, only with a multiple of two points, so the winner earns 32, the second-place team earns 30, etc. The varsity four earns one point per spot, with the winning team earning 16 points.
Hence, a program that swept all three titles would score 96 points and would cruise home with NCAA gold. Over the last decade, the two highest team scores have been 88 (Stanford, 2009) and 87 (Virginia, 87). Princeton has medaled three times at the NCAA Championships, including third-place finishes in both 2006 and 2010. Princeton took second in the inaugural event in 1997, falling only to Dauphiny's alma mater, Washington.
Varsity Eightcox: Lila Flavin '12
8: Heidi Robbins '13
7: Kelsey Reelick '14
6: Molly Hamrick '13
5: Kelly Pierce '12
4: Gabby Cole '13
3: Angie Gould '14
2: Liz Hartwig '13
1: Margaret Daly '12
Second Varsity Eightcox: Annie Prasad '14
8: Annaliese Ionson '15
7: Liza McBride '15
6: Astrid Wettstein '13
5: Sara Kushma '13
4: Kathryn Irwin '14
3: Emily Gass '12
2: Margaret Bertasi '14
1: Faith Richardson '15
Varsity Fourcox: Olivia Sayvetz '15
4: Olivia McShea '15
3: Nicole Bielawski '13
2: Ahsen Cebeci '14
1: Sarah Wiley '13