Only seven qualifying boats entered the men’s lightweight crew final June 6 at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta in Lake Natoma, Calif., and Princeton, the Eastern champion and race favorite, faced a straightforward challenge: 2,000 meters of open water, with a national title waiting at the finish.
The Tigers started strong, taking a two-second lead in the opening 500 meters. They finished even stronger, beating second-place Yale to the line by 4.77 seconds. The win capped an undefeated season and a remarkable four-year run for the team’s seniors, who won IRA gold in the lightweight novice race as freshmen.
Coach Greg Hughes ’96 said the seniors in this year’s championship boat — Justin Teti, Tom Paulett, Dave Krueger, Alex Dillon, and coxswain Dave Cleveland — were natural leaders who worked to build more speed each week. The younger rowers — stroke Robin Prendes ’11, Jack Leonard ’10, James Donovan ’10, and Christian Klein ’11 — showed maturity as well, adjusting to unfamiliar courses and difficult race conditions to beat all challengers in a regular season that included races against each of the other six national finalists.
The crew needed relatively little coaching before its dominant wins at the Eastern and IRA championships, according to Hughes. “When you send them out there, and watch them take charge, and they don’t need you,” he said, “that makes you think that it’s been a job well done.”Princeton’s only other medal at the IRA Regatta was a bronze in the men’s heavyweight four. The women’s lightweight eight reached the grand final, placing sixth. At the NCAA Championships May 31 in Camden, N.J., the women’s open crew placed sixth in the varsity eights.