Lori Dauphiny and her Princeton open crew has experienced both the highest highs and a brutal low in just the last two years of the EAWRC Championships, and she is hoping Sunday’s inaugural Ivy League Sprints feels closer to the high.
A history lesson first:
In 2010, Princeton went undefeated in the Ivy League and entered EAWRCs as the clear favorite. The Tigers left most of the field during the final, but an improved Yale boat never faded. The Bulldogs ended up winning the event and the Ivy League title by less than one second.
Last year, Princeton went undefeated in the Ivy League and entered EAWRCs as the clear favorite. Sound familiar? The similarities ended there, though, as the Tigers swept each of the top four finals, and their win in the varsity eight final gave Princeton its 13 Ivy League title.
This year’s championship event will be held on Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J., but it won’t be like previous EAWRC Championships. In fact, it won’t even be the EAWRCs.
This is the first year for the Ivy League Sprints, which will offer an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships starting in 2013. While the 2012 event may not offer a ticket directly to Nationals, which will be held in two weeks at the nearby Mercer Lake, it will give Princeton a great opportunity to bolster its résumé.
The Tiger varsity eight is currently 8-2 and just completed its third straight perfect Ivy League regular season. The Tigers haven’t faced second-seeded Brown since March 24, and third-seeded Yale has made a big push over the last three weeks, so Princeton knows it has its work cut out.
But it has worked towards improving itself all season as well.
“What makes the crew experience so gratifying is being part of something that is constantly in the works and has the potential to keep getting better,” said Heidi Robbins, a member of the NCAA champion V8 last season. “So, in that sense, it’s been great to witness progress over the season. As a boat, we always strive to take steps forward, and I think we have.”
Princeton will enter Sunday as the top seed in all three NCAA Championship boats (V8, 2V, V4), as well as the 3V. Those four boats went a combined 26-0 against Ivy League competition this spring, which should make Princeton the big target for the rest of the field.
“Yes, I suppose we do have targets on our backs,” Robbins said. “I think it’s an awesome position to be in. The goal this week will be to groove in what we have learned moves our boat so that on race day we can have confidence in what we know. We will need to bring determination and heart and our best on Sunday because there is no doubt that the competition will be tough.”
Princeton brought its best last year, and ended up winning the varsity eight final by more than four seconds over Brown. Four of the members of that championship boat graduated, but Robbins has confidence in those who have already performed well in their first year in the top eight.
“We have all had to step up this year, both those who were in the boat last year as well as those who weren’t,” she said. “There has been pressure to fill some big shoes, and as a result we have all learned a lot. The contributions of every seat have been and will continue to be critical to the boat’s success.”
The 2V is also 8-2 this season, with a perfect 7-0 mark in the Ivy League (both the V8 and the 2V lost to both No. 3 USC and No. 5 Michigan). Its top competitors figure to be both Radcliffe and Yale, both of whom finished within five seconds of the Tigers during the regular season.
The winningest boat at the Shea Rowing Center this year was the V4, which went 10-0 on the season. It edged Yale by 2.3 seconds during the Eisenberg Cup weekend, and the Bulldogs enter the weekend as the second seed, with Cornell and Radcliffe following.
The third varsity eight is 6-0, 5-0 in the Ivy League, and is seeded just above Brown and Yale.