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Men and women look to repeat 2013 success on Lake Carnegie and beyond

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Men look eventually toward IRA National Championships in West Windsor

Men’s heavyweight crew will try to continue its spring season in the same way it ended the 2013 fall season: in a winning fashion. The Tigers ended their fall season on Oct. 27 with a thrilling win, in which they took down EARC rival Northeastern to take gold in the Princeton Chase. The heavyweight men won the closest event that day in the championship 8+, as their time of 13:08.14 edged Northeastern by less than two-tenths of a second. The B boat’s seventh place finish made Princeton the only Ivy team with two boats inside the top 10. The heavyweight’s 4+ also ended its fall on a high note, as it took third overall at the Chase behind California and Northeastern and was first among the Ivies in 14:53.345.

Now, the Tigers look to keep their momentum as they stand one month out from the beginning of a competitive spring schedule. Princeton will have its sixth annual season-opening scrimmage with Syracuse and Georgetown on March 29 at Lake Carnegie. Last year, the men’s heavyweight boats made the races look effortless, as the varsity one boat blew out Syracuse and Georgetown by roughly nine and 12 seconds, respectively. The varsity two, varsity three and varsity four boats experienced similar success in their races.

The following weekend, the Tigers will trek down to Annapolis to try and retain the Navy-Princeton Cup on the road as they race the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy. Last year had marked the first time that Princeton met Navy since 2007, and the then fifth-ranked Tigers embraced the challenge by taking down the then 10th-ranked Midshipmen. 3.3 seconds was a slim margin of victory for the Tigers’ varsity one boat over Navy’s, and with the scene shifting from Lake Carnegie to Annapolis, Princeton will have to be ready for Navy’s quest for vengeance.

Two more road weekends in Philadelphia and Boston will follow in April before the Tigers race on Lake Carnegie again. The battle for the Carnegie Cup will commence on Saturday, April 26, as the Tigers will look to take down Cornell and Yale. The Tigers will host Brown the following weekend as they seek to regain the Content Cup that Brown snatched last season.

The Tigers then head into the heart of their season, as they head to Worcester, Mass. for a showdown in the EARC Championships on Sunday, May 18. The quest for a national title will not require a trek to the West Coast this year, however, as the IRA National Championships will be held from May 30 to June 1 right down the road in West Windsor.

Women hope that a team effort will yield another Ivy championship

A winning effort at last spring’s Ivy Sprints saw women’s openweight earn the program’s 13th Ivy League title. Two weekends following, Princeton’s varsity eight won silver in the NCAA Championships while the team placed third overall in the competition. It will be difficult to top a season so replete with success and high-class performances.

Senior co-captain Kathryn Irwin was part of last year’s outstanding varsity eight. When asked what most excited her about the upcoming season, she commented that the team was eager to get back in the boats and begin building a team dynamic on the water.

“First of all, I’m really excited for the lake to unfreeze,” she said. “Yesterday was the first day we saw any water on the lake, which was really exciting. I think it’s going to be fun to be back on the water. We had a training trip to Florida over Intersession. It was really the first opportunity we had to use all the strength and fitness we’ve gained over the winter. And I think it’s going to be really important for us once we get back on the water and the lake is not frozen anymore to work on growing together and learn how to mesh as a boat and a team.”

The women will compete in six events in a lead-up to the Ivy finals and NCAAs in late May. In the regular season, the women will race in two home competitions to kick off the spring. Opening day will come March 29 with a battle for the Class of 1987 Trophy against Brown and Michigan State. The following weekend, the women will race Columbia at home.

The first away test will come for the women on Boston’s Charles River in the Class of 1975 Cup competition against Harvard and Cornell. Besides the national championships, this was the only race last year in which the Princeton side did not finish first.

“We’re really strong as a team this year,” Irwin said of her goals and expectations for the year. “Our big goal this year is to have every boat — we have a first eight, second eight, a four, a second four, a third eight and sometimes a fourth eight — place as high as possible at the Ivy League Championships. And that will hopefully lead to a qualification for the NCAA Championships.”

On the water, all oarsmen work as one to chase the fastest possible time. Therefore, with all individual efforts being melded into one, it can appear difficult to discern which rower performs the best. Particular boat positions are determined through a somewhat complex process of “erging” and intra-team competition. This method remains ongoing through the off-season. At this point of the year, the teams are preparing for one of the most important formal assessments in the Princeton boathouse.

“A lot of it has to do with your score on the erg, which is the rowing machine,” Irwin explained. “We have a 5K test and a 2K test. We actually have our biggest 2K test coming up this Saturday. The erg score really measures your strength and your fitness. So that’s a big part of it. And the other component is your technical ability. That’s on the water and in the boat. The combination of the two determines your speed in how fast you move the boat. And once you’re in the water, the way you can finally determine who sits where in what boat is what we call seat racing. You’ll have two boats and run a race. Then you’ll switch people between boats and race again to see if one boat speeds up or slows down.”

Though erging is an individual exercise and success in crew relies so much on individual technique, Irwin noted that her team’s success — especially the outstanding finish in the NCAA Championships — has come especially from a collective effort.

“It was really a team effort from the bottom to the top,” the senior said. “That constant internal competition really helped that first boat to succeed. We definitely improved throughout the season. There were ups and downs. But it was an incredible feeling. And it says something about the team as a whole in addition to the eight girls in that boat.”

Looking toward potential rookie standouts for this upcoming season, Irwin pointed to a number of freshman rowers who she believes will contribute even in their first season due to their outstanding talent levels and work ethics. They include Georgie Howe of Melbourne, Australia, Bridget Jacques of Belfast, U.K. and Catherine Babiec of Alexandria, Va.

The boathouse is quite a trek down campus. But Princeton crew in its four forms — men’s heavy and lightweight along with women’s open and lightweight — form one cohesive unit down on Lake Carnegie.

“It’s kind of nice that there’s a group of 150 people around campus that are going through the same thing that you are,” Irwin added. “Everyone is really close.”

Next week, look for our preview of the men’s and women’s lightweight seasons.

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