The Princeton heavyweight men’s crew finished last season on a high note, outlasting perennial power California for fourth place in the Varsity 8 at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Championships hosted on Lake Natoma in Gold River, California. The team’s overall finish was highlighted by the second varsity boat, whose rowers defeated all other East Coast crews in their final race, coming in third behind Washington and California.
"It was some super gritty racing. It was a full team effort without a doubt," said Head Coach Greg Hughes at the conclusion of that regatta. Last spring, multiple injuries challenged the Tigers and likely affected some of the spring racing results, which included head-to-head losses to Harvard and Yale. Hughes said it was a lesson in “resilience,” and expressed pride in his team, and said, “They never stepped back, never gave up. They kept coming back, kept working.”
The Tiger Heavies enter this year with the addition of the deep and talented Class of 2021, who hope to infuse the squad with a healthy youthfulness. This group of rowers has already made an impact: this fall, at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, four freshmen raced for Princeton in the second varsity eight, which finished 16th amongst all collegiate entries.
Initially, the 2017 fall season did not seem to be going as well for the first varsity eight, who were the sixth collegiate boat across the line in Boston. The Tigers turned this disappointment around with a win on home water at the Princeton 3-Mile Chase just one week later, and added another first place in the men’s coxed four, contributing to a strong showing for the whole boathouse.
With the spring racing season on the horizon, Princeton will be looking for a big boost from senior Tom George. George did not compete with the team this fall, as he spent the summer training abroad and rowed to a fifth-place finish for Great Britain in the Men’s Pair at the World Rowing Championships in September, hosted in Sarasota, Florida. The entire boathouse tuned in to cheer George and his British boatmate along, but the Tigers are no doubt glad to have him back on campus. The men’s heavyweight crew will open their season at home on March 24 against challengers George Washington, Georgetown, and Drexel.
The lightweight men’s crew will look to carry momentum from this past fall into the spring racing season. For the second time in three years, the Tigers were the top collegiate finishers at the Head of Charles. This October, this triumph came in the form of an outright victory and a new course record at the prestigious, 53-year-old regatta. The successful race was attributed in part to the boat’s perfect mix of experienced veterans (featuring two sophomores, three juniors, and two seniors) and talented freshmen, coxswain Sydney Edwards and stroke David Slear.
Princeton bested second-place Cornell, the reigning national champions, by a decisive ten seconds at the Head of Charles despite the fact that lightweight racing is typically a very unpredictable and tightly-packed field. Last spring, the men’s lightweights experienced much of this highly competitive racing throughout the season, which included narrow wins over Penn and Columbia, but also slim defeats at the hands of Harvard and Yale.
Luckily, the Tigers will have the chance to test their speed against much of the top competition prior to the championship regattas in May and June, as all the other top boats are fellow Ivy League crews. At both the Eastern Sprints and the IRA Championship in 2017, Princeton placed fifth in a Grand Finals that saw all six crews finish within seven seconds of each other.
The quest for a successful season will begin on March 24 when the team travels to take on Navy.
Junior rower Ricky Swanton, who raced in the first varsity eight last spring and this fall, referenced Princeton’s season-opening loss to Navy from last spring.
“The whole team is eager to challenge the team that handed us our first loss last year,” said Swanton, who raced in the first varsity eight last spring and this fall.
The men’s lightweight crew will surely face another season full of tight margins and exciting racing, but they are excited for the challenge and hope to improve on last year’s finishes.