Persevering Through Ups and Downs, Warren Ends PU Rowing Career on a High

PULLING IT OFF: Princeton University women’s lightweight rower Christina Warren competes in a race this spring during her senior season. Co-captain Warren ended her college career on a high note, helping the Princeton varsity 8 to a bronze medal at the IRA (Intercollegiate Rowing Association) national championship regatta earlier this month. Last week, Warren and fellow co-captain Juliette Hackett were named to the 2017 Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association All-America team. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

As a young girl growing up in Sarasota, Fla., Christina Warren dreamed of being a college athlete.

Initially, Warren viewed tennis as her route to the next level, winning multiple USTA (United State Tennis Association) titles in youth competition.

But after suffering a back injury as a 15-year-old, Warren switched to rowing, joining the Sarasota Crew club program.

Warren enjoyed being part of a crew right from the start. “I think the biggest thing for me was that I was used to being on my own as an individual with tennis and when I switched to rowing it is totally the opposite,” said Warren. “It is probably the most team-oriented sport, and doing that was huge for me.”

Helping the Sarasota Crew varsity 8 to regional crowns and a seventh place finish at the USRowing youth nationals, Warren realized her dream of competing at the next level, committing to Princeton University and joining its women’s lightweight rowing program.

Over the next four years, Warren enjoyed a superb career as a college athlete, rowing for the varsity 8 all four seasons, serving as a two-time team captain, and helping the Princeton top boat take third at the IRA (Intercollegiate Rowing Association) national championship earlier this month, the first medal for the boat at the IRA since 2011. Warren and fellow co-captain Juliette Hackett were named to the 2017 Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association All-America team.

Upon joining the Princeton program, Warren made an immediate impact.

“I was on the faster end for lightweight rowers,” said Warren, noting that she and Hackett were both in the top boat from the beginning.

“My coach [Paul Rassam] liked the way that we rowed and the way we rowed together so we stuck together through the boat progression for four years.”

In reflecting on her Princeton career, Warren acknowledges it was an uneven progression with plenty of ups and downs.

“Some of it was really, really fun and some of it was really trying,” said Warren.

“My junior year was definitely our worst year, we ended up losing six girls from the varsity 8 so that was a big hit. We learned a lot about ourselves, and I know I am going to get lapped but I better kick my own butt during this workout anyway. You learn a lot about your limits and your motivation.”

Coming into her senior year, Warren quickly got the sense that it was going to be a fun season.

“Our first row in the varsity 8 in the fall in the lineup felt 10 times better than our IRAs training lineup from the year before,” said Warren.

“I was alright, now we have something to work with. I think everybody kind of felt that and that really motivated and excited everyone to make this year as good as possible. We had a lot of younger girls come in who were motivated and they immediately took leadership positions on the team in their own little ways so it was awesome.”

Being a two-time captain gave Warren the chance to hone her leadership skills.

“Juliette and I are best friends; we work together really well,” noted Warren.

“I am a little more energetic, passionate, outgoing, and maybe a little louder. She is quieter, softer, and is more logistical. We complement each other really well. I really enjoyed it. It was a great learning experience for me, having to be a good example.”

The Tigers started the season well by taking third in the Knecht Cup, a race that draws the top women’s lightweight crews in the nation. In mid-May, Princeton placed third at the Eastern Sprints, finishing about 0.1 of a second behind second-place Wisconsin.

The photo finish at Sprints gave Princeton extra motivation as it trained for the IRA national championship regatta.

“We had a big break between sprints and IRAs,” said Warren. “Our coach printed out the picture of the finish line between us and Wisconsin and taped it on our whiteboard. This is your motivation so we were OK. We showed up every day to practice with a chip on our shoulder, a little angry and ready to go.”

Over that three-week period, the Tigers got the most of their practices as they primed for the competition which was held on Lake Natoma in Sacramento, Calif. from June 2-4.

“We worked really hard, we got a ton of miles in and a ton of really good pieces and training,” said Warren.

“We really focused and fine-tuned every part of our stroke. I think that made a huge difference going into the IRAs. We were definitely the fastest we had been all year when we got to IRAs.”

Princeton showed its speed at the IRA regatta, producing its finest performance of the spring in the grand final. The Tigers took third in a time of 6:32.890 over the 2,000-meter course with Stanford posting a winning time of 6:25.396 and Boston University taking second in 6:30.608. Nemesis Wisconsin came in fourth in 6:36.444.

“In order for us to get a medal we had to have a blazing start and not let off the gas at all,” said Warren, reflecting on the medal-winning effort.

“We were like all or nothing here, we were going all out for sure. It was the most special thing; it was definitely our fastest and best race that we had all year. It was probably the best race that I ever had as a rower so it was really special for me to end on that.”

For Warren, giving her best on the water is a lesson that will serve her well as she enters the real world.

“Our coach said you have taught us, the seniors especially, that it is so important to never give up,” said Warren, who will be starting work this summer for a marketing software company in New York City.

“We could have very easily thrown in the towel after my junior year. and we could have packed it in and said that’s it for us but we kept pushing through that. What you get out of rowing equals what you put into it. I think that is a really important life lesson as well, if you put your head down and work hard, you will get good. That was my main takeaway.”