Headed into the 2011 EAWRC Sprints, it’s a similar storyline: everyone is chasing Princeton. The Tigers have not lost a race in the Varsity or Second Varsity Eights this season and come into the Sprints ranked first in the EAWRC in both eights, and tied for first in the national polls for the Varsity Eight.
“Every race this season has been against great teams. I believe we have one of the more competitive spring schedules out there which has been helpful,” said Princeton’s head coach Lori Dauphiny. “The field at Sprints is tight and a very competitive group.”
One might forgive Dauphiny a moment of wariness going into the regatta; her crew was also undefeated and top-ranked going into the regatta in 2010 only to lose an epic Grand Final to Yale. As all coaches know, the regular season can only tell so much, but Dauphiny sees her Tigers taking nothing for granted. “Our preparation has gone well. I feel we have learned something new about our team and every boat each week of this racing season. This year’s senior class has provided great leadership. We have a close and excited team!”
Behind Princeton, Brown is quietly poised to exploit any bobbles by the Princeton crews; Brown’s only loss on the season came early in the season to Princeton, and that margin was less than a length.
“I think that we have had a relatively good season so far this year and we are hoping for a strong showing in Camden,” said Brown’s John Murphy. “I am sure that I join all the other coaches when I say that I think the Princeton Varsity Eight has earned the right to be considered a favorite for 2011.”
Behind Princeton and Brown, Radcliffe, the defending champs from Yale, a surprising Cornell crew and surging Columbia make up the remainder of the “paper finalists” from the penultimate rankings. The racing in the middle of the pack in the EAWRC has been one of the great stories of this regular season: Radcliffe won its first cup race against Yale since 2003, Cornell just edged Radcliffe at their tri-dual with Princeton a week earlier while Columbia in turn nipped Cornell a few weeks later, a true “round robin” in the middle of the field.
Also keep an eye on the Dartmouth and Penn Varsity Eights, as both have raced the top crews closely this year and could be good for a possible surprise.
The preliminary seedings in the lower boats mirror those at the top, with an undefeated Princeton crew atop the 2nd Varsity Eight polls, just ahead of Brown, while Brown gets the nod at the top in the 3rd Varsity Eight and both Varsity Fours, with a big pile of crews in the mix beyond those two teams.
“Racing in the EAWRC has been tighter than usual with many crews close in speed which should lead to some great racing at the sprints,” said Brown’s Murphy. As is usual at this time of the season, lineup shuffles as coaches seek to find more speed in their boats makes the racing in the lower boats by turns unpredictable and exciting.
Beyond the Varsity Eight, the racing in the lower boats has tremendous implications for the overall team standings at the regatta, which play into the selections for the NCAA championships later this month.
“6 boat racing is different than dual racing and there are always surprises. With the field 5-6 crews deep in all three NCAA events really anything could happen on race day,” said Yale’s Will Porter. “Regardless of the final outcome it is exciting to have 5-6 teams that should receive NCAA bids. The EAWRC and the Ivy League are stronger than they have been since the NCAA era began.”
In the lightweight racing, the regular season has seen a shakeup atop the rankings, with Princeton supplanting Wisconsin atop the poll first the first time in about half a decade. The Tigers beat the Badgers at the PAC-10 Invitational by a sizeable margin in late March, but it’s been also been shown historically that it’s pretty tough to beat the Badgers in May.
Nonetheless, the Princeton lightweights have shown great speed this spring and will look to cap what has been a great season thus far with a win in Camden. Radcliffe, ranked third, will also look to stay in the medals picture, while Georgetown and MIT are applying the pressure from the field.