Tuesday, February 20, 2007

2007 Season Preview - Princeton University

Princeton, in 2006, was another crew with a specific personality. Or two, or three, or four... At times the Tigers looked dominating, while at others they seemed to flounder. Much of this season will depend upon which crew shows up to race - the boat that won the Radcliffe dual and its IRA heat, or the one that struggled over the line at Sprints. While the Tigers had some good memories from last season, the overall taste that lingered throughout the summer had to be bitter. By now, Princeton is a crew that has forgotten the past and is pacing in its icy cage, waiting for the spring thaw.

That thaw officially comes on April 1st, when Bucknell visits Lake Carnegie for a dual. Bucknell showed its speed last year making this a solid opener for the Tigers. (This will be a summer reunion for two opposing rowers.) A week later MIT and UCF come to town. A few years ago one might look at races like these to open the season as a way for Princeton to ease into hard rowing. Needless to say, those days are over. It's a safe bet that at least one, and possibly all three will be in the IRA grand final, with the fastest of the three pushing for a medal. On the 14th Princeton heads out to California for the Windermere Crew Classic, where they'll race UCF again, as well as Stanford and LMU. We heard some unfortunate news about UCF lightweights rowing with the heavies this season, but I can't believe they'll send a team all the way to either Princeton or California just to get embarrassed. Even if it's not the ultimate IRA boat, I have to believe it will still be fast. Meanwhile, after a dismal showing at IRAs last year, Stanford will be highly motivated to show the world it was a fluke. Like Princeton, Stanford is a highly rated academic school that also welcomes and takes pride in its athletes and their achievements. No one in Palo Alto will want another season like last year and crews take the Cardinal lightly at their peril. LMU shouldn't pose a major problem for Princeton, but it is a program that has consistently boated competent lightweight crews and is due to surprise. Knecht Cup is this weekend and it's likely we'll see the Princeton freshmen there.

The Tigers may as well stay on the bus because the weekend following Windermere they head to Washington for a race against Georgetown and the next weekend head to Boston to race Radcliffe. These are two smart moves for Princeton since it gives them a chance to see the Hoyas and the Black and White, both of whom they would normally race at Knecht. Mid May brings Sprints followed by IRAs in June.

Princeton won the Head of the Charles and even though history shows that's a predictor of, well, nothing, it's still better to win it than not. Perhaps more importantly, Princeton only lost the coxswain from last year's IRA boat. Last year Princeton learned that it's no fun to row back to the dock when boats are being called to the medal stand, and they have no intention of experiencing that feeling again this year. If I can drag out the musical theme for one more preview, if UCF is here for the party, Princeton has a slightly different outlook. They've learned their lesson, and that lesson is that in the lightweight league of 2007, you have to be ready to race your best every weekend. For the Tigers, this ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around. They'll be ready. (Calendar updated)

Below is Princeton's start at last fall's HOCR (thanks again to Dan Morken):

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