Heavyweights Hope To Pull Past Tough Field And Reclaim EARC Sprints Crown
The clock doesn’t lie.
To get a sense of how tightly packed the 2014 Eastern Sprints grand final could be Sunday afternoon, check out some of the margins of either victory or defeat for Princeton this season.
Princeton defeated Navy by 1.4 seconds, Brown by 4.4 seconds, and Cornell by 4.8 seconds. It lost to Harvard by 1.1 seconds and Yale by 3.0 seconds.
That’s less than five seconds between Princeton and each of the other top-six seeded boats in the varsity eight field Sunday. Eastern Sprints is always exciting; this one could be pure chaos by the end.
The top boats in the East will meet Sunday at Lake Quinsigamond for the 69th EARC Sprints Championship. Princeton, which has won the event five times, enters as the third seed behind both No. 1 Yale and No. 2 Harvard.
“Harvard and Yale are both undefeated, which is pretty impressive in this league and they deserve the top spots for doing that in the regular season,” junior James Hamp said. “That being said, Sprints is a completely different style of competition, and there are definitely a few boats that have a shot at winning or making it close in the last few hundred. Even with Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Brown at the top, other teams will have had a few weeks to regroup and make some improvements to gain speed.
“Once you are in the final, it could be anyone’s race,” Hamp added.”No one can take anything for granted this year. We’re just going to go out and race the best we know how.”
Princeton is 8-2 this year, but it is building off its most impressive win. The Tigers topped fourth-seeded Brown on May 3 to win their second Content Cup since the 2006 championship season.
“I think that was huge, and I think we had gained a lot of momentum before the Content Cup race,” said senior captain William Gillis. “The Brown race reminded us that we’re right in there with the top boats in the country, and we have the type of explosive speed that you need to be competitive up in Worcester.”
Princeton has been plenty competitive over the years, but Gillis has his sights set on the medal dock. The Tigers reached the grand finals at both Sprints and the IRA national championships last year, but Gillis left both without any hardware around his neck. This boat seems determined for more.
“People are definitely more focused during this time of the year,” Hamp said. “It’s a unique event, and definitely one of the most fun races of the year. Greg likes to say its the best day of the year, better than Christmas. I feel like all boats are having their best training and practice right now, which is what you like to see.”
While Hamp knows that Princeton has improved, he knows the rest of the field has as well. There shouldn’t be many surprises, considering the Tigers will have seen the first, second and fourth seeds in their final three races. The only question is, has that challenging stretch built them up or wore them down?
“We definitely learned some pretty important lessons during the last three weeks of the season,” Hamp said. “Anytime you go up against a good boat, win or lose, you come away knowing where you could have been better and what you did right. Racing Harvard and Yale, there were definitely good points in the races, but we finished both races knowing there were areas that we needed to focus on in our race and improve on to get faster. We took those lessons to heart in practice, and against Brown it showed.”
While IRAs remain, the first goal mentioned by any heavyweight rower is always Sprints. Thus, there will be no more time for lessons learned. The opportunity has arrived, and they know it.
The varsity eight won’t be the only crew seeking gold this weekend. Princeton has the fourth-seeded 2V and 3V; the 2V has won four straight after losing to Harvard by .4 of a second, while the 3V lost to top-seeded Brown by less than five seconds in the season finale.