Ivy Champ Varsity 8+ Wins NCAA Opening Heat; All 3 Tiger Boats Reach Semis
Two of Princeton's three boats advanced directly to the NCAA Championships semifinals after strong morning heats Friday at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center in Gold River, Calif., and the varsity four joined those boats after a second-place finish in its afternoon repechage.
The first varsity boat was highly impressive in advancing to the Saturday semifinal, as it raced out over the first 500 meters to build an advantage it would never relinquish.
The Ivy League champion Tigers earned the fourth seed after shocking Brown for a fourth league title in six years two weeks ago, but Princeton faced new opponents in its opening heat of the NCAAs, including fifth-seeded Virginia. Princeton led the Cavaliers by almost two seconds after the first split, and it used that margin to maintain control of the race.
While Virginia did cut into that margin somewhat over the next 1000 meters, Princeton was well in control of a top-two finish. Washington was more than three seconds back at the midway point, and about four back with 500 meters to go.
Princeton will now advance to the A/B semifinals, where it will try to reach its first grand final since 2013. The Tigers will compete in the 8:48 local (11:48 ET) semifinal from Lane 2, and they will need a top-three finish to race for NCAA gold Sunday. Princeton will compete against (1) Stanford, (3) Brown, (4) Texas, (5) Washington, and (6) USC.
The Princeton second varsity also did a nice job at the start of its heat, and it used that early advantage to qualify comfortably for the A/B semifinals.
Princeton, which finished second to top-seeded Brown at the Ivy League Championships two weeks ago, actually grabbed an early lead over reigning NCAA champion Ohio State after 500 meters Friday morning. It would be a short-lived lead, as the Buckeyes had an overwhelming middle 1000 meters, but the early effort helped the Tigers hold an open water lead over the remaining four boats by the middle point of the race.
The Tigers led third-place Duke by more than eight seconds with 500 to go; with Ohio State in control for the heat win, Princeton used that final split to conserve energy for Saturday’s semifinal. That was a welcome experience for the boat, which had to race twice during the opening day last year and missed out on the A/B semifinals altogether.
Princeton will compete from Lane 3 in the 9:36 heat against (1) Washington, (2) California, (4) Stanford, (5) Yale, and (6) Washington State.
What Princeton did to Duke in the 2V heat was exactly what Michigan did to Princeton in the V4. The Wolverines had about 1.5 seconds on Princeton after 500 and nearly four at the 1000-meter mark, and they never let the Tigers get close to qualifying directly from the heat.
Virginia, the top seed in the heat, made a rally over the final 750 to catch Michigan, but by then the two qualifiers were basically set. Princeton spent much of the race without anybody near by; it trailed Michigan and Virginia by open water, but it led Syracuse and Navy by the same total.
Princeton, which took silver at the Ivy League Championships, clinched the final available spot in the afternoon when it took second in the final repechage. Indiana won the repechage by just over a second, but there wasn't much drama for Princeton in earning the final position; the Tigers topped Duke by more than eight seconds to finish second.
The tough part comes Saturday for the four, as it needs to rally from a two-race opening day and finish in the top three of its semifinal. The Tigers will row from Lane 6 at 10:12 local time, and will compete against (1) California, (2) Washington, (3) Michigan, (4) Texas, and (5) Brown.