The first day is all about surviving and advancing at the IRA national championships, and Princeton did a good job on Day 1.
The varsity eight took care of business in its opening heat, building a comfortable lead on Navy in the final 1,000 meters to assure itself a spot in the Saturday semifinals.
The Midshipmen were actually fastest off the line, and they led Princeton by more than one second after 500 meters. The Tigers had the fastest second split and found itself trailing Navy by less than one second at the midway point.
After 1500 meters, Princeton was still in second, but the first and third positions had changed. Ivy League champion and second-seeded Harvard made a big move and assumed the lead, while Princeton topped Navy by nearly four seconds in the third split to hold an advantage.
Both Harvard and Princeton were in control for the final 500 and moved into the semis. The Crimson took the heat in 5:47.62, while Princeton finished second — almost six seconds faster than Navy — in 5:49.18.
"I think we did a really solid job executing our race plan this morning," senior coxswain Keanan Clark said. "We knew it was going to be a fast heat, but we did exactly what we had to do to avoid the repechage and advance straight to the semifinal tomorrow. Our first 1000 was strong enough to get us into a qualifying spot ahead of the rest of the field, which allowed us to save some energy during the second half of the race, energy that we will definitely need to tap into tomorrow."
Princeton will test itself against the top three boats in the West Saturday in its attempt to reach the IRA grand final. The Tigers will row out of Lane 2 in the 11:30 am Pacific semifinal, and the next three boats across (Washington in 3, California in 4 and Stanford in 5) were all seeded higher than Princeton coming into the weekend. Wisconsin and Navy will join the Tigers in trying to break up the Western trio.
The Princeton second varsity had a very impressive performance in its morning heat, winning in 5:58.45 and never trailing over the final 1000 meters. Stanford held a brief lead after 500 meters, but Princeton had a blazing second split of 1:19.42 to grab a lead of more than two seconds over Harvard.
The Tigers held that edge over the final half of the race and won in 5:58.45, while Harvard also clinched a spot in the semifinals in 6:04.82.
The 2V will race at 11 am out of Lane 4, and will need to finish in the Top 3 to race for the national title. Joining Princeton will be Syracuse (1), Wisconsin (2), Washington (3), Northeastern (5) and Penn (6).
The freshman eight, comprised of four heavyweights and four lightweights from their novice boat, finished third in its morning heat in 6:10.14. It was the boat’s first full race together, and the performance was strong enough to get Princeton into the semifinals.
The freshman eight race at 10:45 against George Washington, Penn, Brown, Cornell and Drexel. The Tigers will come out of the fifth lane.
The varsity four will start the day in the C/D semifinals, as it just missed the final spot in the main semis. They compete at 9:45.
The competition is being held on Lake Natoma in Sacramento, and so far, the Tigers have been impressed with the course.
"Lake Natoma has a great course, not unlike what we are used to on Lake Carnegie," Clark said. "The course is completely buoyed and the meters are clearly marked, which makes it easy to know exactly where you are at all times. We raced in a slight crosswind this morning, but the water tends to stay really flat here. The only major difference so far has been the temperature. It is certainly much hotter right now in Sacramento than it is in Princeton."