The Princeton men's heavyweight crew took one big step forward during its first season under head coach Greg Hughes last year, and the team is looking forward to taking an even bigger one when its 2011 season opens Saturday morning on Lake Carnegie.
This is not a new scenario for Hughes, who took over a struggling men's lightweight program in the middle of the decade and helped build the foundation of a program looking for its third straight EARC, Ivy League and IRA national title this season. Even before its run of postseason dominance, the men's lightweights were able to make a jump from middle of the pack to the medal stand at either EARCs or IRAs in each of Hughes' first two seasons.
When he came back to the heavyweight program, where he once served as novice coach and took the 2003 Tiger 1F to wins at Easterns, IRAs and Henley, Hughes didn't lower his expectations. Princeton had struggled throughout the 2009 season and placed 13th at Eastern Sprints; one year later, it was neck-and-neck with Harvard down the stretch of the grand final. While the Crimson would hold on by less than three seconds, Princeton proved that it was back among the collegiate elite.
Hughes isn't one to take his eye off the goal, and having the strongest team in April pales in importance to having the strongest team for Sprints and IRAs, but he also wants to see the team pick up wins as it grows throughout the season.
With a solid group of junior and seniors, led by senior captain Jack Lindeman, and an infusion of sophomore talent that is coming off a bronze medal at the 2010 IRA grand final, there is plenty of reason for optimism. Princeton was picked fourth in the preseason USRowing men’s varsity eight poll; that spot is second among Eastern crews, while Washington and California deservedly stand in the top two positions after their brilliant race in the IRA grand final.
Unlike most of their brethren inside the Shea Rowing Center, Princeton won't have to worry about logging too many travel miles this season. Four of Princeton's five regular-season regattas will come on the familiar water of Lake Carnegie, while the lone road trip will take them on the short trip down to the Schuylkill for the annual Childs Cup regatta against Penn and Columbia on April 9.
Factor in that IRAs will take them down to Cherry Hill, N.J., and the only long road trip in Princeton's future will be to Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester for the 2011 EARC Championships.
And if history is our guide, the team making that trip will be far more prepared for its run at gold than the one which opens Saturday morning.
APRIL 2 HOME RACING SCHEDULE
PRINCETON HEAVYWEIGHTS vs. Georgetown and Syracuse
PRINCETON MEN'S LIGHTWEIGHTS vs. Georgetown and Syracuse • The Fosburgh Cup
PRINCETON WOMEN'S LIGHTWEIGHTS vs. Bucknell and MIT