Head coach Greg Hughes once led the Princeton men's lightweight crew to an Eastern championship as a rower. On Sunday, in his fourth year as the head coach, he led the Tigers back to the top of the medal stand. The Tiger first varsity continued its perfect 2009 season with a championship effort at the EARC Championships; the win also earns Princeton the Ivy League title.
After finishing the regular season with a 7-0 record and the national top ranking, Princeton won its first EARC and Ivy League championship by taking the grand final in a time of 5:41.43. Harvard finished second in 5:43.99, while Georgetown placed third in 5:48.39. Navy, Yale and defending champion Cornell rounded out the top six.
"They have worked four years at this," Hughes said afterwards. "I think it is a really solid boat. A great boat is a product of great competition, and that's what I have always liked about the lightweight league. Harvard rowed a great race. Georgetown finished third, and they weren't even in the league when I rowed. We got out to a bit of a lead, got some early cushion and held off some presses."
With the quality depth of the men's lightweight field, simply qualifying for the grand final would take a strong effort. Princeton was up to the challenge, winning its first heat in 5:48.76, while Georgetown placed second in 5:50.90.
"The first heat does set the tone for the day," Hughes said. "You have to be ready for everybody's best, and after not competing for two weeks, we had to get back into it."
Hughes sensed the overall confidence of his boat, but he trusted the majority of the senior-heavy squad to maintain its consistency. While they went over an overall outline of the race, he trusted his squad to take care of business.
"The real racing is done by the guys," Hughes said. "They have a gift for racing, and they really enjoy it."
As for Hughes, he was thrilled to get another gold medal for a program that means so much to him.
"First of all, winning never gets old," he said. "It's still rewarding; it's still a rush. The thrill of competition is always there. But to do this with Princeton lightweight crew really means a lot to me. I have to give so much credit to [former head coach] Joe Murtaugh. He taught me to row, and he taught me to coach."
While the highlight of the day was the first varsity victory, Hughes was pleased that all four of his boats made their respective grand finals. The second varsity impressed Hughes with a tenacious, gutsy effort. Princeton led through parts of the race against teams that had owned regular-season wins over it; the opponents' overall speed won out, and Princeton placed fifth in 6:02.34. The freshman eight placed fourth in 6:15.46, while the third varsity finished fifth in 6:24.69.
Princeton is now off until the first weekend in June, when it will try to cap a perfect season with the 2009 IRA national championship.
Princeton First Varsity Ivy League and EARC Champions
Cox Dave Cleveland
Stroke Robin Prendes
7 Jack Leonard
6 Justin Teti
5 Tom Paulett
4 James Donovan
3 Christian Klein
2 Dave Krueger
Bow Alex Dillon
Below is video of Princeton's HYP victory for the Goldthwait Cup, the final race before the EARC championships.