Lauren Wilkinson '11 Looks To Continue Her Golden Run In London
GoPrincetonTigers.com will provide profiles, video interviews and Q&As of each of its eight rowers headed to the London Olympics. See the schedule below:
Monday: Caroline Lind '06
Tuesday: Robin Prendes '11 l Lauren Wilkinson '11
Wednesday: Sara Hendershot '10 l Sam Loch '06
Thursday: Glenn Ochal '08 l Gevvie Stone '07
Friday: Andréanne Morin '06 l Daily Olympic Schedule
Lauren Wilkinson '11 has lived a whirlwind over the last 16 months. Entering May, 2011, Wilkinson was the stroke of a Princeton boat hoping to erase the memories of a heartbreaking 2010 EAWRC Championship final.
Since then, it's been a golden run for the 2011 von Kienbusch winner, an honor bestowed on the top female student-athlete in the senior class. And she'll be looking for the most prestigious gold of all over the next two weeks.
Only two women have stroked the Princeton varsity eight to an NCAA title. The first was Monday's Olympic feature, Caroline Lind. When that magical 2006 season ended and a strong portion of that crew graduated, Princeton shifted into a bit of a rebuilding mode.
From 2007 through 2009, there were several highlights, but not nearly as many as Princeton fans had become accustomed to watching. The shift began during Wilkinson's 2010 season, when the team went undefeated during the regular season and lost to Yale in the Sprints final by less than one second. Wilkinson and the majority of her classmates would return to that boat with renewed determination in 2011, and the results would be spectacular.
After another perfect regular season, Princeton held the No. 1 ranking in the country and headed to Cooper River with only one goal: gold. That day would be like few others in the brilliant coaching career of Lori Dauphiny, as the Tigers won gold in the 1V, 2V, V4 and 3V.
That first varsity gold returned the Ivy League title to Princeton for the first time since 2006, and two weeks later, Wilkinson would stroke Princeton to another victory at the NCAA Championships.
"You are with those girls day in and day out, some of them for four years," Wilkinson said during the final weeks before the Olympics. "To reach the level where you could just shine, it was a great feeling. The trust that we had in our boat, and the fact that we could row to our potential, it was just a good feeling."
Wilkinson may have ended her Princeton rowing career with gold, but it was far from the end of her rowing career. After graduating Princeton with a degree in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Wilkinson returned to Vancouver and led the Canadian W8+ to gold at the U-23 World Championships.
There was only one more step up to take, and although there were precious few seats available in a veteran Canadian eight, Wilkinson did earn that spot.
"When I heard I made the team, I was just so excited," said Wilkinson, whose brother Michael will row for the men’s coxless fours in London. "It's been a lifelong dream for me. I was so happy."
From 1992 through 2000, the Canadian W8+ made the medal stand at each Olympics, including its golden finish in 1992. The Canadians have missed the medal stand the last two times, including a gut-wrenching fourth-place finish (by less that one second) in the 2008 final. This team is on a mission, and it comes into the Olympics with real momentum.
At a World Cup event in Lucerne, Switzerland, the Canadian boat took second to the U.S. by only .03 of a second. At the final World Cup event, held June 17 in Munich, the Canadians topped Romania by more than one second for gold. The U.S. didn't compete in Munich, but Wilkinson believes that a familiar bond could be the key to the Canadians keeping that golden feeling.
"One very big thing for me, being in a team boat, is trust in your teammates," Wilkinson said. "I have been with the ladies in my boat for several months, and just being with them and seeing how we push through pain and challenging workouts is how you build camaraderie and trust in your teammates. I know we have that."