The final day of the 2014 open women racing season was less a tale about speed, and more a tale about resolve and character.
Though there was plenty of speed to be mentioned as well.
Princeton finished sixth as a team at the 2014 NCAA Championships, which completed Sunday at Eagle Creek Park. Top-seeded Ohio State captured both the varsity eight and team national championship, while Brown finished second in the varsity eight final and California finished second in the team final.
A half second on Saturday could have made the difference between seventh and a potentially much higher finish for Princeton, which missed out on the grand final by .23 of a second. The Tigers roared back to win their petite final, but the number of team points they could score in that event was limited.
Regardless of the result, though, there was plenty for the coaching staff to feel good about.
"I'm proud and pleased, and I do think they made good progress this year," head coach Lori Dauphiny said. "There were some disappointments, and some kids leave here feeling like they need to do more, and that's good. But my staff and I were pleased with the development."
The resolve was what pleased Dauphiny most on Sunday. The varsity eight needed to bounce back from a crushing result Saturday, and it did so with an impressive win over No. 4 Virginia in the petite final. The 2V had to come back from a disappointing result at the Ivy Championships, and it did so with a silver medal, the boat's best finish at NCAAs since 1997. The varsity four featured a brand new lineup for the final weekend of the year, and it posted an admirable final race in its petite final.
It was the kind of stuff that can make a coach feel great pride. The varsity eight, which has won three of the last four Ivy League championships and was a half second away from winning its semifinal, topped the Cavaliers by more than four seconds to win the petite final.
"Their race showed a lot of heart and integrity," Dauphiny said. "That [semifinal] was heartbreaking. To come back after that in the petite final and show their speed and integrity is outstanding to me."
The second varsity went undefeated during the regular season, but then it saw Brown take home an Ivy League title. The Tigers went back to work over the last two weeks, and the results paid off in the NCAA final. Princeton went out extremely fast in the first 500 meters and held a lead at the midway point.
Ohio State, which showed its impressive depth throughout the weekend, passed the Tigers during the third split, but Princeton fought off Virginia for the silver medal by less than .7 of a second. It was Princeton's best 2V finish since 1997, when the Tigers won their only gold medal in that particular event.
"I am really happy for the 2V," Dauphiny said. "It was redemption for them after Ivies. They fought hard and earned that with a really gutsy race."
"Given the conditions it wasn't our cleanest race, but it was by far the grittiest race of our season," junior Liza McBride said. "Our semifinals race was a turning point for our boat. We really clicked together and pushed our limits to a whole new level. Our boat has had such a strong season and we felt that Ivies didn't capture that. It felt great to end our season racing at our full potential."
The fours may have had the most significant growth of any Princeton boat this season, and it added a rower that dealt with injuries all season just before NCAAs. The fours fought through a repechage just to make the semifinals, and it finished fifth in Sunday's petite final in 8:07.05.
"The four really put in a courageous fight," Dauphiny said. "That's a difficult task getting a new rower, but they did a good job managing it and working hard."
Princeton finished the Championships with 102 points, one more than both Washington and Michigan. Ohio State won the event with 126 points, while California (118) held off Brown (116) for the team silver medal.
"This was a great championship event and a terrific showcase for the sport," Dauphiny said. "I really have to give Brown a lot of credit. They raced really well throughout the whole weekend, and I congratulate them on their terrific finish."
VARSITY EIGHT PETITE FINAL
1 - Princeton 6:51.80
2 - Virginia 6:55.91
3 - Notre Dame 6:57.52
4 - Indiana 7:00.09
5 - Harvard 7:03.29
6 - USC 7:04.96
SECOND VARSITY EIGHT GRAND FINAL
1 - Ohio State 6:59.43
2 - Princeton 7:02.03
3 - Virginia 7:02.69
4 - Stanford 7:04.89
5 - California 7:05.14
6 - Brown 7:09.55
VARSITY FOUR PETITE FINAL
1 - Ohio State 7:53.05
2 - Michigan 7:55.68
3 - Indiana 7:56.66
4 - Wisconsin 7:57.29
5 - Princeton 8:07.05
6 - Notre Dame 8:07.65