Lightweight Women Claim Repechage, Head To Sunday's Championship Final
It took 2,000 meters more than they had hoped, but the Princeton women's lightweights completed the only task that mattered Saturday. The Tigers advanced to Sunday's IRA grand final, where they will compete for the program's sixth national team championship.
Princeton finished third in its semifinal, which was the first race of Day 2 of the IRA national championships, held at Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J. While that left the Tigers out of direct qualifying for the national final, there was a big positive to be taken from the race (more on that later).
Princeton had to regroup and compete less than four hours later, but they handled the adversity in impressive style. The Tigers went out and won the repechage, which included a Wisconsin boat that topped Princeton a month ago at Eastern Sprints, and will race out of Lane 6 Friday at 11:55 am in the national championship.
"The athletes went out and controlled the rep against a hard charging Wisco," said head coach Paul Rassam. "It was a perfect response from our eight. Tomorrow is a brand new day. The wind looks more fair across the lanes and mild, and we are firmly in the mix to win a medal."
Princeton will be looking for its first IRA medal since its silver at the 2011 IRA Championships, one of the most competitive finals in the history of women's lightweight rowing.
The Tigers will be an under-the-radar contender Sunday, especially against undefeated Radcliffe and four-time national champion Stanford, but there were reasons for optimism to come out of Saturday.
Which leads us back to that semifinal. Though Princeton did finish third, the deficit behind Radcliffe was about 3.7 seconds, the closest the Tigers have been to the No. 1 team in the nation. Furthermore, it came from a lane that was originally seeded second; because of the conditions, race officials changed the lane format shortly thereafter, meaning the Tigers rowed in a more challenging lane.
Of course, none of that will matter when the top six boats in the nation hit the starting line Sunday morning. Princeton just cared to be there, and it got the job done.
The same held true for the varsity four, which fought off MIT by less than one second in the repechage to earn a spot in the 9 am grand final.
"The four also had a gutsy race," Rassam said. "They passed MIT in the final strokes of the rep to make the grand final."
VARSITY EIGHT SEMIFINAL #1
VARSITY EIGHT REPECHAGE
VARSITY FOUR SEMIFINAL #2
VARSITY FOUR REPECHAGE