Princeton and Harvard, the last two Ivy League champions, will both make the trip to Ithaca, N.Y., this weekend to compete in the annual Class of 1975 Cup regatta with Cornell.
Both Princeton and Harvard had thrilling moments during the 2012 postseason. Harvard won the varsity eight and Ivy League title at the inaugural Ivy Sprints, while Princeton followed up by qualifying all three boats into the NCAA Championships and claiming an Ivy League-best fourth-place finish in both the varsity eight and team competition.
While all three squads have big goals for the upcoming postseason, the 38th Class of 1975 Cup regatta is in the forefront of their minds. Princeton will also be seeking its 26th and 27th straight dual victories against Ivy League competition.
“Obviously winning is a major goal for this weekend, but rowing well and becoming better racers on the way to a win would be ideal,” said senior Sarah Wiley, who rowed in the varsity four during the first two weeks. “That said, a big part of rowing the 4+ is learning how to be aggressive and smooth at the same time. So this week we’re focusing on holding technical changes at higher rates.”
While the varsity eights determine the Ivy League champion, it is the combination of the varsity eight, second varsity eight and varsity four that will ultimately determine the NCAA champion. The 2V, golden winners of the last three EAWRC/Ivy League Sprints, is 2-1 on the season, and its lone loss came to 2012 NCAA runner-up Ohio State during the season opener.
“I believe that so far this season the boat has made great strides, and we are really starting to come together,” said senior Sara Kushma, who was part of gold medal-winning boats in both 2011 (V4) and 2012 (2V8). “Each week we continue to try to find more speed, and make the changes that will allow us to do that. I believe we were able to make key adjustments as a boat in our race against Columbia that improved our performance from the previous week.”
The varsity four also made progress last weekend. After falling to both Brown and reigning NCAA V4 champion Ohio State in the opener, the fours took care of Columbia last weekend on Overpeck Lake.
“I think that the biggest change from the Brown/Ohio State race to the Columbia race was that we rowed our second race with a better feel for what I call ‘relaxed aggression’,” Wiley said. “It’s an approach to racing that is especially useful in the 4+. In the 4+, rowers have to be able to race hard in a way that is calm but not wild. Too much relaxation, and the boat is flat; too much aggression and it’s not smooth. A sense of confidence in the training we’ve done has to be there, but we also have to be ready to race against some fierce competitors.
“The A4 and B4 have a really great racing dynamic right now, and we’re all working together to become better racers,” Wiley added. “As we get more racing under our belts, whether that racing be internal on our team or against our competitors, I’m sure that the ‘relaxed aggression’ will continue to develop.”
Racing will begin at 8:35 am with the third varsity eight, and will go every 30 minutes from there. The varsity eight will compete for the Class of 1975 Cup at 9:05, and the second varsity, varsity four and fourth varsity will follow.
The open women will be joined by the lightweight men, who will compete for the Platt Cup on the Cayuga Inlet. The men’s races will also be spread out every 30 minutes, though they will begin five minutes prior to each women’s race. The first varsity race for the Platt Cup will begin at 9.
Princeton is well aware that each weekend is part of the overall push towards the Ivy League Sprints, held May 19 on Cooper River. As Harvard showed last year, anything can happen in one 2000-meter race, so all this Tiger team can do is prepare itself as well as possible.
“I think overall as a team we are in good place, but there is definitely room for growth,” Kushma said. “It’s not over until all boats have crossed the line at Ivies, and until then we know we have to continue to push ourselves to find the most speed that we can. We face fierce competition each weekend, so there’s no room for complacency. Our end goal is that by the time we line up for Ivies we can say that we have done everything we can to find the most speed and hope that that speed, coupled with our intense desire and motivation to win that Ivy title, will get us across the line first.”