Princeton has spent the last three years as the hunted during the EARC men’s lightweight championships. When Marty Crotty’s squad hits Lake Quinsigamond for Sunday’s 2012 regatta, the Tigers can savor their role as hunter.
The 2012 EARC Championships will be held Sunday in Worcester, Mass., and Princeton enters the weekend having won the Wright Cup (varsity eight) 16 times. Princeton won both the 2009 and 2010 championships, and the Tigers placed second to Harvard last season.
Princeton will enter the event seeded fourth this year after going 4-4 during the regular season. The last race was the annual H-Y-P showdown, and Princeton scored a victory over reigning national champion Yale that should give it added momentum heading into this Sunday.
Of course, Princeton is counting on far more than one victory to use for confidence this weekend. This is a team that realized last season that it wasn’t at its best for the biggest races, and it changed its training to fix that for 2012.
“I think the team has been very focused through and through,” said senior Steven Cutler, a member of the varsity eight. “The H-Y-P regatta showed us we must gain speed. We’ve done a lot of drilling and race pieces that have prepared us as much as possible for the coming weekend at Sprints. This past weekend we had a few of our most consistent and fastest race pieces down Lake Carnegie this year, so we are primed and ready to go for Sprints.”
Harvard topped Princeton by 4.2 seconds for the Goldthwait Cup, and the undefeated Crimson will enter Sprints as the top seed. Dartmouth, coached by Princeton graduate and former open head coach Dan Roock ’81, will be the second seed; Princeton and Dartmouth did not meet this season. Georgetown was 2-0 against the Tigers during April, so it earned the third seed, while Princeton holds the fourth seed.
Princeton will need a top-three finish in its semifinal heat to qualify for the final. The Tigers will likely see Harvard, Yale, Navy and Penn in its heat, and they went 3-1 against that field.
Of course, past results won’t mean a thing when the semifinals begin. The magic of Sprints is that it gives every team a fresh chance to win a championship.
“Personally, I feel the Sprints championship weekend is an incredible event,” Cutler said. “You can always count on every single guy bringing his best effort at Sprints. It is such a special event because you have multiple crews, all filled with guys who weigh the same, who will fight you for all 2000 meters of the course. That only happens a few times a year.”
After such a disappointing conclusion to 2011, when Princeton missed out on EARC gold and failed to medal at IRAs, the Tigers are now looking for a dream ending for what has been a roller coaster 2012 season.
“This year we have seen increasing boat speed from week to week,” Cutler said. “To be honest, I feel this group absolutely has the potential to take home the 1V and Jope Cup titles this weekend if we perform to our potential. Aside from our first race against Navy, which we won, we have just been a few percent off each week, really just about a 300-400 meter stretch that has cost us multiple races.
“That is what we have been focusing on since HYP’s, and we think if we can utilize our strength off the starting line, we will put ourselves right in the mix for a big upset over the other crews,” he added. “It’s the first time in a while that the Princeton 1V is not ranked within the top few, so any pressure that brings is completely off, but I think it has created an atmosphere on our team to really want the title more. And again, for me personally, I’d like a second chance after last year to prove we should be on top in this league.”
Both the Princeton 2V and the freshman eight will be seeded in the top five. The second varsity went 5-3 on the season and is seeded fifth, while the freshman eight is seeded third. The freshmen were 6-0 before falling to both top-seeded Yale and second-seeded Harvard on April 28; that race was closely contested, though, and each of the three is a main contender for the Cornell Trophy.