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Lightweight Women Hope Middle Progress Leads To Title Finish At 2014 IRAs

Courtesy: Princeton Athletic Communications                                                                      Release: 05/29/2014
Courtesy: Aleka Gurel
Princeton will seek its sixth IRA national championship this weekend at nearby Mercer Lake.
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Senior Maggie Stroebel knows the start is there. She’s experienced it.

She is confident that the end is there. She believes in it.

It’s the middle that has been the focus of the last month, and may ultimately determine whether Princeton can shock the field and win the program’s sixth IRA national championship.

Fourth-ranked Princeton will compete this weekend at nearby Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J., during the 2014 IRA Championships. The Tigers will open the competition Saturday in the 8 am heat, needing only a top-two finish in a five-boat showdown (joining Tulane, Boston University, Harvard and Tulane) to head directly to Sunday’s 11:55 am grand final.

Should Princeton finish outside the top two, it will have a second shot at the grand final during a Saturday afternoon repechage.

The Championships will come four weeks after the Eastern Sprints, when Princeton made a brilliant charge at the start to take an early lead over undefeated and top-ranked Harvard. It was a bold statement for a Princeton team seeking gold, but it was one the Tigers simply couldn’t maintain over 2,000 meters.

But it was a learning experience as well.

“I think the big takeaway for us from Sprints is that we have the top speed we need for IRAs,” said

Stroebel, a co-captain preparing for her final weekend of collegiate rowing. “Since then, we’ve really been focusing on finding that base speed for the middle of the race, where a race is really won. If we can combine our top speed with a fast middle 1000, we’re really ready to go.”

Should Princeton make the final, it would face one of the toughest trios ever seen in an IRA final. Third-ranked Wisconsin was the dominant power in the East over the last decade, though second-ranked Stanford is team that rowed away with the last four national championships.

And neither has had an answer for top-ranked Harvard this season.

Princeton may be something of a forgotten fourth seed, but Stroebel has no problem with that.

“Upsets happen all the time at IRAs,” she said. “Stanford upset us at IRAs in 2011 following an undefeated season. No one should ever be counted out in the final, and I think flying under the radar when entering the final is a great position to be in.  We’ll see what we do with it.”

She knows it won’t be easy, but that’s why the work over the last month has been so crucial. Princeton has focused on those middle 1,000 meters, knowing that if they are in the hunt after the third split, then intangibles can make the difference.

“The final 500 meters is total willpower,” Stroebel said. “The most painful and difficult part both physically and mentally will be the middle part of the race, and once you’re through with that part, the final sprint is all heart.”

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