Entering his fourth season as head coach, Greg Hughes believed there was more that his program could achieve. He asked more of everybody, starting with himself, and he couldn’t be any happier that he did.
“For me, [assistant coach] Spencer Washburn and the rest of the coaches, we made a conscious effort this year to make some changes,” Hughes said. “Both as a staff and the guys on the team, we had goals we really wanted to strive for. We knew what we had been doing, and we wanted to do more.
“The guys embraced that this year, but it was hard,” Hughes said. “We’re seeing the benefits of that. It’s been a big challenge, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
It could become even more fun this Sunday. After all, while the Cup races over the last two weeks have been meaningful, the ultimate goal always remains Eastern Sprints.
The Princeton varsity eight earned the fourth seed for Sprints, held Sunday on Lake Quinsigamond, and will begin the chase for its sixth Ivy League championship during its 11:36 am heat. The varsity eight will be one of four competing for Princeton gold on Sunday morning, and two will enter as the top-seeded boats in the field.
For senior captain Michael Evans, it’s both a last and best chance to bring Princeton to the top of the league.
“I feel a lot more optimistic with this boat than I did last year,” he said. “Last year, we lost races to Brown and Harvard by eight seconds, which is a huge margin to make up. This year, I think we lost by three seconds, which is a more attainable margin.
“Training and practice has been going really well,” Evans added. “I think confidence is high going into Sprints for everybody in the boat.”
The Princeton varsity eight is 7-2 on the season, including a 4-2 mark against Ivy teams. The lone losses came to the last two EARC/Ivy champions, including top-seeded Harvard. Northeastern grabbed the No. 2 seed, while Brown is the third seed and joins Princeton in the third heat. Two will advance to the 5:00 grand final, meaning both Princeton and Brown will be looking to hold off the likes of Penn, Navy, George Washington and Holy Cross.
The two that advance will be looking to do something that nobody else in the East has done this year: Beat Harvard.
“Harvard has proven themselves,” Hughes said. “They kept their bow in front in every race, which in our league is an achievement. But I think there is some speed out there. I think it will be exciting racing this weekend.”
There is a healthy mix of both youth and experience in the eight, but Hughes isn’t concerned about either the younger guys feeling overwhelmed or the older ones succumbing to the pressure.
“We’re going out to get sheer enjoyment of the racing, to be in the biggest races and just race it,” he said. “That’s what the program is about, and the culture is about.
“There are definitely some younger guys, but no matter who you are, you know what Sprints are,” he added. “Guys are in the varsity because they are the guys who made it. You have a task at hand. Focus on the race, and focus on execution.”
The Princeton 2V will be looking for its first EARC Trophy since 1999, when the Tigers completed a string of four straight JV titles. The Tigers hadn’t won a 2V title before the 1996-99 run, and they haven’t won since, but they’ll enter Sunday as the top seed after a 10-0 season.
The gold there won’t come easily, though. Princeton earned wins over Harvard, Cornell and Brown by about three seconds apiece at the 2V level. Princeton will race in the 10:36 heat against Cornell, Wisconsin, Penn, Dartmouth and MIT.
The Princeton 3V went 8-1 on the season, though its only loss came to Harvard’s freshman eight. The Tiger 3V is a top seed and will race at 8:48 against Cornell, Wisconsin, Dartmouth and Holy Cross.
The Princeton 4V (5-2) will race in a six-boat grand final. The Tigers will be in lane 2 and will compete against (1) Navy, (3) Brown, (4) Cornell, (5) Harvard and (6) Holy Cross.
HEAVYWEIGHT HEATS/FINALS: LANE ASSIGNMENT & TIMES1V • Heat #3 at 11:36 am (2 to final) • Grand Final at 5 pm
Heat (Lanes 1-6): Brown, Princeton, Penn, Navy, GW, Holy Cross
2V • Heat #1 at 9:56 am (2 to final) • Grand Final at 4:18 pm
Heat (Lanes 1-6): Princeton, Cornell, Wisconsin, Penn, Dartmouth, MIT
3V • Heat #3 at 8:48 am (2 to final) • Grand Final at 2:06 pm
Heat (Lanes 1-5): Princeton, Cornell, Wisconsin, Dartmouth, Holy Cross
4V • Grand Final at 1 pm
Final (Lanes 1-6): Navy, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, Harvard, Holy Cross
2013 BOAT-BY-BOAT RESULTS
Varsity Eight (7-2, 4-2 Ivy)
March 30: Princeton 5:47.2, Syracuse 5:56.4, Georgetown 5:59.1
April 6: Princeton 6:08.0, Navy 6:11.3
April 13: Princeton 5:45.0, Columbia 5:47.5, Penn 5:56.2
April 20: Harvard 6:03.3, Princeton 6:06.7
April 27: Princeton 5:28.3, Cornell 5:32.2, Yale 5:35.4
May 4: Brown 5:46.3, Princeton 5:49.6
Second Varsity Eight (10-0, 6-0 Ivy)
March 30: Princeton 5:51.7, Syracuse 5:58.1, Georgetown 6:26.1
April 6: Princeton 6:17.9, Navy 6:32.8
April 13: Princeton 5:49.8, Penn 5:57.3, Columbia 5:58.8
April 20: Princeton 6:13.2, Harvard 6:16.5
April 27: Princeton 5:34.2, Cornell 5:36.9, Yale 5:42.9
May 4: Princeton 5:53.6, Brown 5:56.3, Brown 1F 5:58.1
Third Varsity Eight (8-1, 5-1 Ivy)
March 30: Princeton 6:04.6, Syracuse 6:16.9, Georgetown 1F 6:28.6
April 6: Princeton 6:22.3, Navy 6:30.4
April 13: Princeton 6:00.1, Penn 1F 6:03.7, Columbia 6:11.0
April 20: Harvard 1F 6:26.4, Princeton 6:31.2
April 27: Princeton 5:42.8, Cornell 5:46.8, Yale 5:48.6
May 4: Princeton 6:04.2, Brown 6:07.0
Fourth Varsity Eight (5-2, 4-1 Ivy)
March 30: Princeton 6:26.6, Syracuse 6:32.8, Princeton 5V 6:57.7
April 6: Navy 1F 6:45.8, Princeton 7:05.4
April 13: Princeton 6:06.9, Penn 2F 6:13.0, Princeton 5V 6:40.0
April 20: Princeton 6:35.3, Harvard 3V 6:44.0, Harvard 4V 6:51.4
April 27: Cornell 5:45.5, Princeton 5:54.5
May 4: Princeton 6:29.7, Brown 6:41.5