There was always a good chance that Alex Morss was going to be rowing on the Charles this weekend. It’s just a matter of what colors she would be representing.
Her father rowed in college and took Alex to the Head of the Charles annually. It was an easy trip from her hometown of Concord, Mass., and after Alex took a quick liking to the sport once she started competing as a sophomore at the Groton School, it seemed like Harvard could be a natural fit.
But her father, Stephen, didn’t just row at any school. He was a lightweight rower in the Princeton Class of 1981; he married his Princeton classmate, Elizabeth Hanna ’81, so you can assume they were hoping their oldest of three daughters would end up on Lake Carnegie.
“[My dad] tried not to push me either way,” Morss said. “But I think he’s pretty happy I ended up coming here.”
In truth, option B wasn’t Harvard. Morss was a standout soccer player for Groton, where she was a two-time team MVP and league all-star, and she considered going to Williams College to compete in both soccer and rowing. But Princeton won out, and the women’s lightweight program struck gold because of that decision.
Morss was a sophomore in 2011 when women’s lightweight coach Paul Rassam had a senior-laden squad that seemed poised to challenge Wisconsin for the Eastern championship. It had been eight years since Princeton won gold at Sprints, but Morss and the top-ranked Tigers took care of business.
“It was definitely pretty special,” she said. “The final didn’t even end up being all that close. It was a really good feeling.”
She was especially pleased to send those seniors out on a high note, and now she has younger teammates hoping to do the same for her. Morss, who competed at the 2012 U-23 World Championships in the lightweight single, is a captain for a program that is loaded with talent in its younger classes.
“Alex puts her heart and soul into the success of our team, and she deserves beyond everything she has earned for herself in rowing,” junior Maggie Stroebel said before the season. “She is one of the absolute top collegiate lightweight women in the country and an inspiration to our whole team. I have immense respect for her.”
Morss, a molecular biology major, helped Princeton through a rebuilding season last year, and the Tigers have reaped benefits already this season, including a win over Wisconsin. Princeton returns to the Charles this weekend, where Morss first experienced the sport, to test themselves against the nation’s elite.
Morss has been part of one special squad, and she’d love to punctuate her career with one more title.
The Princeton women’s lightweight rowing team will compete twice this weekend on the Charles River, including once against its anticipated top rivals for the IRA national championship final.
Third-ranked Princeton will open the weekend Saturday morning against second-ranked Harvard for The Class of 1999 Cup. The varsity eight will compete at 8:20 to open racing, while the 2V and novice 4+ will follow every 20 minutes.
Princeton owns a 12-3 edge over Harvard in this series, though both teams have split the last four Class of 1999 Cup competitions. The Crimson currently hold the Cup after a three-second victory over Princeton on Lake Carnegie last season.
Princeton will return to the Charles River Sunday morning to compete for the Invitational Lightweight Cup. Included in the field will be reigning national champion Stanford and reigning Eastern Sprints champion Wisconsin, as well as Princeton, Harvard, MIT and Boston University.
The six teams will have both 2V (7:00 and 7:20) and 1V (7:40 and 8:00) heats to open the morning, followed by both petite and grand finals. The 2V grand final will be at 9:40 am, while the 1V final will be at 10:20 am.
Princeton already owns a win over Wisconsin in the season opener, while Stanford won two close races over the Tigers during the San Diego Crew Classic.