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Despite late start, Princeton rowing teams eye national championship

<h5>Shea Rowing Center glows brilliantly at midnight along Lake Carnegie.&nbsp;</h5>
<h6>Justin Cai / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Shea Rowing Center glows brilliantly at midnight along Lake Carnegie. 
Justin Cai / The Daily Princetonian

As the academic year comes to a close, the Princeton rowing teams are reaching the apices of their seasons. Like most other sports at the University, the rowing teams were unable to compete throughout the year and could only practice in a limited capacity starting this semester. 

However, as the season passed, restrictions loosened up, culminating  in the teams’ first competition in over a year on April 24, when they raced on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. The teams still faced restrictions. Princeton only allowed them to race against other universities within a 40-mile radius of the University. 

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The men’s lightweight team raced Temple University, the men’s heavyweight team raced Saint Joseph’s and Drexel, and both women’s teams raced Drexel. Princeton dominated the event, with one of its boats winning each race. 

For many of the participants, the race meant all their hard work and patience over the past year had paid off. 

“I’m so grateful we got to have a season, even though it was short,” said Lydia Rosen, a sophomore on the women’s openweight team. “We have all been working toward racing since we got sent home last spring.”

One of the coxswains on Rosen’s team, fellow sophomore Hannah Diaz, echoed Rosen’s sentiment, adding that it “was just so fun to get back out there and see the kind of speed the teams had.” 

Now, their seasons could take another step forward. While their short regular season may be over, the men’s rowing teams will soon be heading to the national championship, with the women’s openweight team also hoping to qualify. This is a major change from earlier in the semester, when the idea of having any competition was possible, yet felt unlikely. Not only have the teams overcome the barriers raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have also dealt with many rowers being on gap year, as both Diaz and Peter Skinner, a sophomore rower on the men’s lightweight team, noted. Now that they have a chance to win on the national stage, the attitudes around the boat house seem to have brightened.

“We came into this spring not really knowing what was ahead of us, and we were training in pods with no real goals in sight,” said Skinner, “but once we got into eights around mid-March, everything changed.”

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Skinner added in an interview earlier this week that he and his teammates were focused on winning and are not stressing about the University’s decision on whether or not the teams can actually go to the national championship. Any fears that he may have had about missing the competition were quelled on Wednesday, as the University approved teams to travel.

“We want to prove everyone wrong this year and win,” Skinner said. “We have gone about this season not with the hopes of going to nationals, but with the goal to win.”

As for the women’s openweight team, they find out on May 18 whether or not they qualify for the national championship. While the men’s lightweight team has only raced in Philadelphia, the women’s openweight team added another successful set of races last Sunday against Syracuse, Temple, and Rutgers. Diaz felt the team’s results against No. 4 Rutgers and No. 8 Syracuse were encouraging.

“We were right in the mix with them, which was so exciting because they’ve been training together since the fall,” she said. 

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The hope is that the extra race will give the women’s team a better resumé when it comes to qualifying for the national championship. Even if the team doesn’t qualify, the season has been more successful than many could have imagined a mere few months ago. Either way, the teams are still grinding and looking forward to their next challenge.

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