Heavyweights Race For IRA Championship Sunday; Three Eights Advance
There is no such thing as a drama-free Saturday at the IRA Championships, but the Princeton heavyweights fought off a tense final sprint and a disappointing finish quickly in their second race of the championship weekend.
Now they get to deal with the greatest drama of all — the IRA national championship final.
The fifth-ranked Princeton heavyweights sent all three of its varsity eights to their respective grand finals Saturday, including the first varsity, which will race for its first national championship since 1998 and its first IRA medal since 2006 Sunday at 12:45 pm.
The Tigers did so in impressive fashion during Saturday's second semifinal, as they got out to a quick lead and never were threatened by a third-place boat, much less a fourth-place one. Sprints champion Harvard (6:03.90) did ultimately catch Princeton (6:05.93), but by then both were all but assured of a spot in the final.
Yale took third in 6:07.85, nearly four seconds ahead of Boston University. The eighth-seeded Bulldogs were the only boat outside the top six seeds to reach the final.
Princeton will take Lane 2 Sunday in the final, with Yale next to it in Lane 1. California surprised three-time reigning champion Washington in the first semifinal and will take Lane 3, while Harvard will be in Lane 4. Washington (5) and Brown (6) will have the final two lanes.
Princeton hasn't faced either of the traditional Western powers this season, and it is winless against Harvard in three attempts. The Tigers have split races against both Brown and Yale this season.
Of course, none of that now matters. Only the final 2,000 meters do, and Princeton is ready.
"Once you're there, it truly does come down to sheer guts racing," said head coach Greg Hughes, who won an IRA national championship as both a Princeton lightweight rower (1994, 1996) and the Princeton lightweight head coach (2009). "You have to be prepared on the biggest stage to really execute."
"I think we are certainly an A-final caliber crew," senior captain Will Gillis said. "I really can't wait to get out there with these guys and see what we can do."
The Princeton 2V and 3V will also race in their respective grand finals. The 2V, which earned a silver medal at Eastern Sprints, advanced in comfortable fashion. California won the first 2V semifinal in 5:56.04, while Princeton (5:58.09) topped Brown (5:58.33) for the second spot. Both were well ahead of fourth-place Cornell, which finished in 6:05.21.
Princeton will race in the 11:30 grand final out of Lane 5, and it will be joined by Navy (1), Sprints champion Northeastern (2), California (3), Washington (4) and Brown (6).
The 3V experienced a little more drama than its peers, but it managed to hold off Dartmouth by more than two seconds for a spot in the 10:50 grand final. Princeton will be in Lane 6, and will be joined by Boston University (1), Northeastern (2), Washington (3), California (4) and Brown (5).
The varsity four, which needed a repechage to reach the semifinals, missed out on its final. The Tiger V4 will race at 9:10 in the petite final out of Lane 1, and it will be joined by Temple (2), Navy (3), MIT (4), Northeastern (5) and Colgate (6).