Enhanced Culture Should Help 4th-Ranked Heavyweights Chase Eastís Elite
VIDEO PREVIEW WITH WILL GILLIS & TOMMY LINDEMAN
Now in his fifth season as head coach, Greg Hughes understands that program success doesn’t simply come from the fastest 2,000 meters in the middle of May. It comes from a culture that is developed inside a program, and it is a culture he is watching build within the fourth-ranked Princeton heavyweights, who open their 2014 season Saturday morning against both Georgetown and Syracuse.
“We are developing a better competitive environment within our own squads,” Hughes said, one year after leading Princeton to the grand final at both the Eastern Sprints and IRA national championships. “The great teams have great cultures for success, and that needs to be in place. It’s hard to build it, and when it is there, it’s hard to keep it. But that is what we are working towards.”
Culture doesn’t simply lead to success in the top boat, but throughout the team. There were plenty of signs that it was forming last year; while the V8 reached both major finals, the 2V was undefeated during the regular season, and the 3V won eight of its nine regular season races.
It also demands terrific leadership, and Hughes is confident in that area as well. He and assistant coach Spencer Washburn continue to be a cohesive duo, and the pair brought in Nick D’Antoni, who has coached with the Junior National Team. He also holds his senior captain, Will Gillis, in the highest regard.
“He’s been an outstanding leader on many levels,” Hughes said. “Not only is he a consistent performer and completely reliable, but he is also everything you look for off the water too, especially academically. A captain like that sets the standard for the rest of our guys.”
"Will Gillis has been invaluable to this team both on and off the water," sophomore Patrick Eble said. "He has now rowed at two Under-23 World Championships, performing well in both. His presence on the water is felt by all. But it is his leadership off the water that has been great for our team. He has really begun changing the culture of the guys on the team, building it into one where excellence and hard work are expected every single day."
Gillis was the Princeton stroke when it placed fourth at Eastern Sprints and sixth at IRAs. He also earned Academic All-Ivy League honors, but he knows there are even greater opportunities this year.
“We have a lot of returners and a lot of developing experience in the boat,” Gillis said. “A lot of guys left that race at Sprints and left the IRAs hungry and looking for more and learning from what we didn’t do as well in those races. We also have a good group of young guys, freshmen and sophomores, pushing the level up of the group.”
That group spent countless long hours inside the boathouse this winter while Lake Carnegie remained frozen far longer than usual. While early time on the water often translated into a stronger start to the season, Hughes is far more concerned about the final chapters.
“It’s a long season,” Hughes said. “There can be a sense of needing to get on the water as early as possible, but maybe it is before we really need it. Those extra hours in the erg room was good for the team.”
The extra training time has allowed a cast of young rowers, ranging from freshmen like Tom George and Nick Mead to a deep sophomore group, to create a deep level of competition for seats in the V8 and 2V. Hughes talked about the standard being raised, and how he thought it would benefit the entire program.
"This winter has been brutal and seemingly never-ending," Eble said. "However, because of this I feel like the team is better fitness wise than it has ever been. The Crash-P results confirmed our team’s fitness and with more time spent on the water in the coming weeks I am positive that we will have some very fast boats."
“It’s a friendly rivalry between each other,” senior Tommy Lindeman said. “We know that the competition is going to make this team faster, and we know that pushing each other makes us all faster.”
Lindeman is part of a Class of 2014 who would love to be part of a historic season for the Tigers, who haven’t claimed gold at Sprints since 2006. After a silver finish in 2011, the Tigers have missed the medal podium by one spot each of the last two years.
“Last year was a good step, in that it allowed the guys a taste of that level of achievement,” Hughes said. “And they still have an opportunity to go get it. Those guys have a sense of maturity and perspective, and they have worked really hard to be in a position to have a chance at it. They are great leaders for the whole team, and they make it fun to be part of the program."
The official racing season opens this weekend for three of the rowing teams, and each will compete at Lake Carnegie. Below is the full Saturday schedule.
Princeton Heavyweight Men vs. Syracuse & Georgetown
8:00 AM - First Varsity
8:10 AM - Second Varsity
8:20 AM - Third Varsity
8:30 AM - Fourth Varsity
8:40 AM - Fifth Varsity
Princeton Open Women vs. Brown & Michigan State
9:00 AM - Varsity Four C
9:20 AM - Varsity Four B
9:40 AM - Third Varsity/Novice
10:00 AM - Varsity Four A
10:20 AM - Second Varsity
10:40 AM - First Varsity, Class of 1987 Trophy
Princeton Lightweight Men vs. Georgetown
11:00 AM - Third, Fourth & Fifth Varsity
11:20 AM - Second Varsity & Third Varsity
11:40 AM - First Varsity, Fosburgh Cup