Princeton achieved one of head coach Greg Hughes’ major goals last year when the Tiger varsity eight reached both the EARC and IRA grand finals. Its performance in the Eastern final was an impressive one, as the crew sprinted past Wisconsin to earn the silver medal.
That performance matched the one from 2010, when the Tigers jumped from the fifth seed to the second spot and established themselves once again as a top Eastern program.
Of course, in both of those races, there was one hurdle the team could not overcome. Princeton will try again this Saturday morning when it heads to the Charles River to take on second-ranked Harvard for the Compton Cup. The regatta is scheduled to begin at 7:18 am (2F), and the varsity eight race should take place at 8:54 am. The races are being held in 24-minute intervals (2F, 3V, 1F, 2V, 1V).
Harvard, which was ranked first up until the latest USRowing men’s varsity eight poll, trails only Washington in the latest national poll. Princeton is tied in the fourth position with Wisconsin, and it has gotten off to a strong start in 2011. After the season-opening wins over Syracuse and Georgetown two weeks ago, the Tigers retained the Childs Cup last weekend with an impressive win over both Penn and Columbia.
The Crimson has defeated Ivy rivals Brown and Cornell, but its head-turning win came in the Copley Cup final at the San Diego Crew Classic. The Crimson came from behind to top third-ranked California for its first Copley Cup title since 1994.
While Princeton hasn’t gotten over the Harvard hump since 2006, few teams have raced the Crimson as closely as the Orange and Black over the last couple years. The Tigers lost to Harvard in both the regular season and the Eastern Sprints by less than two seconds each time.
Winning at the Charles has historically been a daunting task for the Tigers, who have captured the Compton Cup only twice in Boston since 1953. The most recent win came in 2006, when Princeton went on to win the EARC title and place second in the national championship final.
Harvard leads the all-time Compton Cup series 59-14, and it has won nine of the last 10 regular
season meetings between the two crews. The last showdown on the Charles was memorable for all involved, though not necessarily for the closeness of the finish. Princeton’s rudder cable broke during the race, and the coxswain was unable to steer the boat. It hit the Harvard boat and was unable to finish the race.
So Goal #1 is finishing this weekend. But Goal #2, knocking off the top-ranked boat in the country, would have a far greater lasting impact on a program that is continuing its march towards the top.