NATIONAL POLL l SAN DIEGO CREW CLASSIC SCHEDULE
Any head coach knows that one freshman who can have an immediate, positive impact on the team can create a legitimate energy throughout the roster.
Paul Rassam has three this spring that — at least to this point — can meaure up with any freshman trio he has seen as head coach of the Princeton women’s lightweights.
And it has created both energy and speed.
Princeton returns six rowers from a varsity eight that earned the silver medal at Sprints last year, but Rassam credits newcomers Juliette Hackett, Katie Mirabella and Christina Warren for improving everybody’s standards inside the boathouse.
“They’ve raced fairly extensively before getting here,” Rassam said. “They made everybody start raising their games. They’re having fun, but they also realize they have to step up in their own ways. We’ve been firing early in a way we haven’t before.”
Hackett has raced at Youth National and set a record at the 19 & Under women’s lightweight tandem for Concept2 Rowing, while Mirabella won the 2013 Canadian Henley rowing in the Vesper Boat Club’s senior lightweight 8+. Warren, a former highly ranked USTA tennis standout, has competed in multiple Head of the Charles events and brings a top-level athleticism to Princeton.
It’s a fairly impressive trio to bring in to a program that had a regular season win over Wisconsin last year and placed second at Sprints.
Rassam is also confident in the leadership within his program.
Senior Maggie Stroebel and junior Rebecca Kreutter were both in the V8 last year, and they share the duties of co-captain this season.
“They both bring different qualities,” Rassam said. “Maggie has been rowing for a while. She has seen it all, done it all. She is very technically adept, and she has a lot of racing and training experience. She brings confidence in her abilities.
“Becky walked on freshman year with talent and drive,” he continued. “She was immediately one of our top athletes, and she is really getting to an elite level. Her technical side is really picking up. She trains hard, and she is very disciplined. There is no offseason for her.”
The team will also benefit from the return of coxswain Eden Full, who took two years off to pursue a Thiel Fellowship for an engineering project called SunSaluter. During her time away, she coxed the Canadian National Team’s senior women’s openwieght 8+ to win the Remenham Challenge Cup at the Royal Henly Regatta.
“You can’t teach that kind of experience,” Rassam said. “With young rowers, especially this spring, you want to have a coxswain in full control. I feel really good about having her back in control.”
He has also been pleased with the technical advances this team made in the offseason. When you are stuck inside because of the brutal winter and can't develop boat chemistry, you can certainly do everything in your power to grow individually.
"There are a lot of teams in the division with impressive erg scores," Kreutter said. "What differentiates crews in the spring is how well they can row together. When there is a lot of pressure in a big race, we want to be able to count on each rower to not get frantic or rushed. We’ve been focusing on technical improvements in the offseason so that when we’re racing we will have the muscle memory to keep pulling well even when our mind is telling us we’re crazy to keep going."
As always, Princeton will test itself early against Stanford, and it has key home races against both its two oldest rivals.
But the team knows what the ultimate goal is, and Stroebel has her sights set on the perfect end to her collegiate career.
“You always want to win those big Cup races against Georgetown and Radcliffe,” Stroebel said, “but the cake is at the end of the year, and being on the podium with the gold medal at Sprints and IRAs.”
Rassam may have an idea of what his lineup will be this postseason, but both injuries and improvements can lead to unexpected changes during the season. He isn't interested in thinking about injuries right now, but Rassam did tip his cap to assistant Hank Zimmerman when talking about improvements outside the varsity eight.
"Hank is doing a really nice job of getting walk-ons enthusiastic about the sport and then helping them develop," Rassam said. "Ths year and next we will see our depth improve as a result."