Open Survives 1V Thriller, Will Join 2V In Grand Finals At 2016 NCAAs
The trio of Georgie Howe, Erin Reelick and Meghan Wheeler had seen this movie before. They liked the sequel much better.
Those three were in the 2014 Princeton first varsity boat that found itself in a three-team photo finish for the final two spots in the NCAA grand final. That Tiger boat was the odd one out.
When Howe, Reelick, Wheeler and the rest of the Ivy League champion Tiger V8 finished their Saturday heat, they didn't know if they were in the same position once again. Head coach Lori Dauphiny didn't know. The race commentators didn't even know.
When they found out, there were Orange and Black smiles all around.
"They remember it well," Dauphiny said of the feelings from that 2014 semifinal. "They’ll never forget it. It was super mixed emotions today. It was so close, such emotional and frenzied racing. But they were overjoyed to make it to the final tomorrow."
Princeton held off Texas by .09 of a second to grab the final spot in Sunday's NCAA grand final, and it will join the Tiger 2V in a race for gold Sunday. The Tiger V4, which had to compete twice Friday after finishing third in its heat, didn't have the firepower to chase down a trio of frontrunners Saturday, and it will race in the petite final.
Princeton is the only Ivy League program with two boats in grand finals, and it will look for its 10th Top 5 finish in NCAA Championships history.
The drama certainly came in the 1V semifinal, which Princeton actually led through 500 meters. Stanford grabbed the lead by the midway point and never relinquished it, though thhe Cardinal never shook the next three boats either.
Princeton held second at 1000 and 1500, but both Brown and Texas were making a push. The Bears were able to edge past the Tigers to take second in 6:19.52, while Princeton finished in 6:19.55, a mere .03 of a second behind. The margin between first and fourth was less than a second, which suggests a potentially historic NCAA final.
The championship final will take play at 11:00 local time (2 pm ET), with Princeton coming out of Lane 5. The rest of the field will include (1) Stanford, (2) California, (3) Brown, (4) Ohio State, and (6) Virginia.
The first varsity can worry about that race Sunday. On Saturday, they were thrilled to be back in the final.
"They couldn't tell when they were rowing back," Dauphiny said. "They were almost crying, they were so nervous about whether they made it. I'm really excited for them, and they can go out, race hard and see what happens tomorrow."
The 2V also grabbed the final qualifying spot in its semifinal, though it did so with far less drama. California and Washington played the frontrunners in that semifinal and were never pushed in the race for qualification. Princeton grabbed the third spot early, and then it fought off one challenge after another, first from Stanford, then from Yale.
Ultimately, Princeton's time of 6:29.20 was more than 3.5 seconds faster than Yale, which clinched its ticket back to the gold medal final. The Tigers will race from Lane 5 at 10:36 local (1:36 ET) against (1) California, (2) Ohio State, (3) Washington, (4) Texas, and (6) Virginia.
"They really raced hard," Dauphiny said. "When they got off the water, they said it was one of their best races yet. They’re doing a great job.
"We have three seniors in the varsity, two in the 2V, and they are bringing a lot of confidence to the table," Dauphiny added. "They have provided a lot of momentum to the team."
The varsity four doesn't have any seniors, nor does it have a rower who ever competed in NCAAs prior to this year. That boat showed fight in its Friday afternoon repechage, but Washington, California and Michigan took control of the semifinal from the start.
"That was a tough heat Friday, and it set them in a harder position," Dauphiny said. "They did a nice job today, and we’ll be excited to see them race in the petite final tomorrow."
The petite final will take place at 10 am local (1 pm ET), and Princeton will race from Lane 4 against (1) Yale, (2) Texas, (3) Washington, (5) Indiana and (6) Brown.
• Princeton has won three individual gold medals at the NCAA Championships. The 2V won gold at the inaugural event in 1997, while the 1V won gold in both 2006 and 2011.
• Princeton is one of three programs that has race in every NCAA Championship regatta. The other two are Brown and Washington.
• The Princeton 1V was in five straight grand finals between 2009-2013, but it missed each of the last two. Stroke Erin Reelick will be the only member of the boat to compete in a 1V grand final; she was part of the boat that finished second to California in 2013.