Featuring a Mix of Depth, Competitive Fire PU Men’s Heavyweights Primed for IRAs

HEAVY MEDAL: The Princeton University men’s heavyweight second varsity eight celebrates after earning gold earlier this month at the Eastern Sprints. It was one of four medals earned by Princeton at the competition held on May 13 in Worcester, Mass. as the fourth varsity placed first with the third varsity and fifth varsity both coming in second. Tiger rowers will be looking for more medals this weekend as they compete in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta at Mercer Lake in West Windsor from June 1-3. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Even though the Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity eight just missed earning a medal at Eastern Sprints earlier this month, the crew showed it can compete with any boat in the nation.

“It was an awesome race. It was one of those things in rowing that you don’t get to see very often where there were three boats there and it was a drag race in the last 500 meters,” said Princeton head coach Greg Hughes, whose top boat placed fourth in its final at 5:58.728 over the 2,000-meter course with Brown coming in third at 5:58.232, Harvard taking second in 5:58.072, and Yale posting a winning time of 5:54.668.

“It was a bummer to come up a little short in one of those. The boat made a lot of progress and it was two good races in the day. The heat was really strong, which set them up well for the final. They proved that they have got speed to be in the mix; that was cool to see.”

It was cool for Hughes to see his second varsity eight edge Yale to earn gold at the competition which was held on May 13 in Worcester, Mass.

“There are four freshmen in there. They did an amazing job,” said Hughes, whose 2V posted a time of 5:58.827 with Yale less than a second behind in 5:59.352.

“It has been a strong season for them all year; they have just been steady performers. It is a good, strong boat with a great attitude, so it had been awesome to see the way that those guys have progressed. For us as coaches, it is important to see the freshmen do what they did. We are graduating some talent, so it is going to be really important that those guys learn how to bring it up to the next level.”

With the Tigers competing in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta at Mercer Lake in West Windsor from June 1-3, Hughes believes his program has the depth to perform at a high level.

“For the last few years, it has been a primary focus for our staff to develop a deep, strong team,” said Hughes, noting that the fourth varsity placed first at Sprints, with the third varsity and fifth varsity both coming in second.

“It is really rewarding to see that the whole team could show up. Getting 45 people ready to perform all together on the same day is hard and it requires a lot of hard work, focus, and commitment on the part of the team, and the team really stepped up.”

In order to get his rowers to perform at their best for the IRA, Hughes is varying the workload in the buildup for the regatta.

“After seven or eight weeks of rapid fire, big races every single weekend, a lot of travel, and the academic regime for the guys in there, we change what we do for a week and just get back to the basics of rowing,” said Hughes.

“It is training as opposed to race preparation. We log some good miles. We split up the boats and row different combinations so that they can just go out and train together and race against each other. Then we start to build the boats back up.”

Not having to travel far for the IRA should help the Tigers. “It is a great race course, and the way that Mercer organizes and runs an event, I always know going over there that it is going to be incredibly well run event,” said Hughes, noting that Princeton should have a lot of supporters on hand with Reunions weekend also talking place simultaneously with the regatta. “It is an awesome experience for the guys, we know the race course is fair.”

Hughes knows that his guys will need to produce a great effort to excel this weekend.

“The big thing is just being ready for fierce, competitive racing,” said Hughes. “We know those races could go either way and we are in the mix on them. We have to be ready to race in those tight confines and have our best performance.”