OPEN THROTTLE: The Princeton University women’s open crew varsity 8 churns through the water in a race this spring. The Tiger top boat, along with the second varsity 8 and varsity 4, will be competing in the NCAA Championships from May 27-29 in Sarasota, Fla. (Photo by Sideline Photos, provided courtesy of Princeton Athletics)
By Bill Alden
Heading into the Ivy League Championships earlier this month, the rowers in the Princeton University women’s open crew program experienced a range of emotions.
“They were definitely fired up for it; we hadn’t had an Ivy championship for almost three years,” said Princeton women’s open crew head coach Lori Dauphiny.
“The interesting thing is that most of them had not been in an Ivy championship. There was a little bit of anxiousness as to what is this all about. I thought the seniors did a really nice job of trying to walk them through what is was going to be like.”
There were some anxious moments at the regatta held on May 15 in Pennsauken, as Princeton found itself in a tight battle with Yale and Brown for the Sally P. Shoemaker Trophy given to the crew with the most points. A victory by Princeton’s varsity 8 in its grand final proved to be the tiebreaker as the three squads each had 74 points.
The Tiger top boat clocked a time of 6:11.703 over the 2,000-meter course on the Cooper River to edge Brown (6:13.730) to win its grand final.
“We knew they would be a tough competition,” said Dauphiny of Brown. “We did not change the race plan that we had but we were ready. We knew that it would be close. We talked a lot about that and to be prepared for that and stay internally in the boat. They did that because the team hit a goose in the race and a kid almost lost her oar. They also hit a log somewhere in the race so there were two bobbles in which they hit something. It was a great race. It just heightened the fact that they had a lot of resilience through the year with inconsistencies, different lineups, and sickness. They were able to race through some things that were thrown at them in the race.”
Dauphiny credited veteran performers Flo Donald and Annika Maxson with helping the boat keep an even keel.
“Flo and Annika were the two seniors in first varsity and they did step up,” said Dauphiny of the pair who were named first-team All-Ivy performers while boat mates Lydia Rosen and Camille Vandeermeer earned second-team All-Ivy recognition. “They did a really nice job of helping to lead the boat, getting them through a championship, and just being stable forces in the boat.”
The Tiger varsity four provided a highlight as it won its grand final in 6:52.30, more than four seconds ahead of runner-up Brown.
“They exceeded their ranking which is always exciting,” said Dauphiny of the boat which had finished second in its heat. “It was a real battle and I don’t think they knew they could win but then in the race, the coxswain said something, like ‘hey you can do this, you can win.’ It was ‘oh my gosh, this is an opportunity for you right now’ and they took it.”
While the second varsity 8 faltered in its grand final as it faded to fourth after a strong start, Dauphiny believed it learned a valuable lesson.
“The first half of the race was solid and then they had some trouble, nothing external, just in their boat,” said Dauphiny of the boat which had two first-team All-Ivy performers in Isabelle Grosgogeat and Lara Valt. “They weren’t able to handle the pressure of the competition around them.”
The title marked the second straight Ivy team crown for Princeton and the first time it has won back-to-back team trophies since 2011-13.
“I am so proud of the rowers and the coaching staff,” said Dauphiny, whose varsity 8 won its fifth straight Ivy crown. “They stepped up in one of the most challenging two years, getting through a pandemic and then performing at their best. There is no victory sweeter than to feel the accomplishment after such trying times. I keep looking at the pictures from the championship because the smiles on their face are just priceless. It just makes your heart swell.”
With the varsity 8 seeded second for the upcoming NCAA regatta, the second varsity 8 seeded 13th, and the varsity 4 seeded third, Dauphiny is cautiously optimistic about her crew’s prospects heading into the competition.
“I would say that we are excited and it is a really cool opportunity earned,” said Dauphiny. “I can’t wait to see what the boats can do. I am nervous but I think we are in a good place. It is going to be really hard, I am not taking anything for granted. I don’t know if we will be in the grand finals. It is one step at a time, it will be really tough. I think we are ready.”