The Princeton heavyweights have shown the depth of their program in the last two championship meets, and it is pushing for even more when the Tigers begin the 2012 IRA national championships Thursday morning at Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J.
Princeton placed its top three boats in the grand finals in the 2011 IRA national championships, and it followed by putting four boats in championship finals at the 2012 Eastern Sprints. During that period, only the Tiger 2V at the 2012 Sprints reached the medal stand, but three weeks of hard work could earn Princeton more hardware during the upcoming championship regatta.
"The past three weeks of training have been really beneficial for us," said sophomore Tommy Lindeman, who will row in the varsity eight this weekend. "We all wanted more from the Sprints, and we knew that in order to get that, we had some work to do. We've done the work, and now it's time to put it to the test. And now, I'd say the confidence in the boat, in our race plan, and in each other is very high."
The Princeton varsity eight will open the weekend in the 8:15 opening heat, which includes both top-seeded Washington and seventh-seeded Navy. A top-two finish for the Tigers, who are seeded sixth overall and second in the heat, would lead Princeton directly to Friday's semifinals; anything else would land the Tigers in an afternoon repechage, where the top three qualify for the semifinals.
"Competing twice would be pretty detrimental, but not impossible," said Lindeman, who grew up in Sewell, N.J., which isn't far from Cooper River. "Even a single 2K race takes a huge toll on your body, and it could take days to fully recover. Still, our focus right now is on the heat. Once we're done that, we'll turn to the next step, be it the repechage or otherwise."
The second varsity rows in the 9 am heat as the fifth overall seed and the second seed in the heat, behind only No. 2 Wisconsin. The freshman eight is seeded seventh overall and third in the 9:45 heat. The open four rows at 11 am in the first of two heats.
Princeton has won three IRA national championships in the varsity eight (1985, 1996, 1998), and earned a silver medal at the 2006 championship regatta. The second varsity also won titles in 1985, 1996 and 1998, while the freshman eight has won seven national championships. The last freshman eight to win an IRA title (the Steward's Cup) was the 2003 crew, coached by then-heavyweight assistant Greg Hughes.
Hughes is now in his third year as the heavyweight coach, and each of his three boats earned winning records during the 2012 season. The varsity eight went 6-3, including 3-3 in the Ivy League, and placed fourth in the Eastern final. The Tigers topped Navy for fourth by 1.5 seconds; those two could be vying for a semifinal spot in the Thursday morning heat.
The second varsity went 4-3, 2-3 in the Ivy League, but it has been coming on strong late in the season. Following a win over Brown during the Content Cup regatta, Princeton earned a bronze medal in the Eastern final, again topping Brown by less than one second. The Tigers were within three seconds of Eastern champion Wisconsin, which is the second overall seed and the top seed in Princeton's heat.
The freshman eight went 6-3 overall, but it finished fifth in its grand final at IRAs and moved below Brown in the seeding poll. Both Princeton and Brown are in the second freshman heat, and those two boats went 1-1 against each other this year; the Tigers topped Brown by more than seven seconds at the Content Cup, but Brown beat Princeton by less than two seconds at the Eastern Sprints.
Washington is considered the favorite for the Ten Eyck Team Trophy, which goes to the overall point champion between the varsity eight, second varsity eight and the freshman eight. The Huskies have won the title each of the last five years; Princeton has won the title three times (1985, 1996, 1998).
Friday's semifinals will begin at 11:15 am with the two freshman races. The second varsity will follow with a pair of semifinals at 11:45, while the varsity eight will race its two semifinals at 12:15.
While Washington may be the favorite, it was only two years ago when California shocked the Huskies in the grand final. With as close as boats have been to each other all season, anything is possible for the weekend.
"Princeton has consistently shown it can post a strong performance at all levels, so I don't think we could be considered under the radar," Lindeman said. "I don't think any crew can afford to count out another, just as we won't count out anyone else. The field is always tight, and a number of crews have a chance to become the big story of the weekend. Still, I'm confident that we've got some potent speed, and with that, Princeton could do something really special this weekend."
C Keanan Clark
8 Ian Silveira
7 Michael Evans
6 Brian Wettach
5 William Gillis
4 Paul Popescu
3 Tommy Lindeman
2 Jason Kopelman
1 Timothy Masters
C Raja Goel
8 Eric Schwarzenbach
7 John Scanlon
6 Dave Mackasey
5 Hugh Kohl
4 Gustav Rydevik
3 Christopher Harding
2 Michael Protesto
1 Allan Amico
C Jameson Pesce
8 James Hamp
7 Whitney Blodgett
6 Ryan Meder
5 David Octeau
4 Keith Dauson
3 Sebastian Grimberg
2 Richard Johnston
1 Tharald Fongaard