Last week, Harvard’s student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, ran a piece describing 2011-12 as “A Historic Run for Harvard Sports.” While reading about how Harvard is now “King Midas of the Ivy League,” thanks to its success in college and professional sports, I couldn’t help but remember one thing: In the middle of possibly its best athletic year ever, the Crimson has won five Ivy League championships. Princeton has eight so far, with a few more likely coming in the spring.
(In case you’ve lost count, Princeton’s Ivy titles are in field hockey, men’s cross country, men’s squash, men’s fencing, women’s fencing, women’s basketball, men’s indoor track and field, and men’s swimming and diving.)
This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Last year, Princeton won 15 Ivy League titles, setting a conference record. (Harvard had five, two behind Yale.) The year before, the Tigers took 12. According to the athletics department, Princeton has placed first in the Ivy League all-sports points standings for 25 consecutive years. (For the breakdown by program, check this PAW graphic.)
Sure, Ivy League titles aren’t the only measure of success. Harvard drew national attention largely for dominating the two marquee sports, football and men’s basketball. But Princeton’s fingerprints were all over the latter story: The Tigers erased Harvard’s national ranking in February, then gave the Crimson a bid to the NCAA Tournament with a victory over Penn a month later. (And let’s not forget what happened the last time these two teams met on a neutral court.)
Princeton also provided perhaps the most dramatic triumph in any Ivy League sport this year, coming from behind to end Trinity’s streak of 13 national squash championships.
Admittedly, Harvard’s sports success has not all come at the collegiate level. With three players currently in the NFL and Jeremy Lin tearing up the NBA, Crimson alumni have been making plenty of national headlines. But Princeton can claim three pretty good marquee-sport professional athletes as well, including one in a major market. Ross Ohlendorf ’05, now with the Red Sox, might not match the hype of Linsanity (Ross-steria?), but he, Will Venable ’05 (an outfielder for the San Diego Padres), and Chris Young ’02 (who last pitched for the New York Mets) have been solid major-league baseball players for several years.
This spring, Princeton expects to be among the Ivy League’s top contenders in men’s track and field, baseball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s tennis and various crews. Some Tigers likely will compete for national championships in a few of those sports.
All of which highlights one apparent truth: Top to bottom, this is still Princeton’s league.
FENCING concluded a stellar season with a second-place finish at the NCAA Championships, its best showing in modern program history. Nine of the 12 competing Tigers earned All-America honors, none bigger than Jonathan Yergler ’13, who won the national championship in men’s epee. Yergler, who finished second last year, became Princeton’s first fencing champion since Soren Thompson ’05 in 2001.
MEN’S SWIMMING also competed at NCAAs this weekend; as has been the case for much of his career, the focus was on Jon Christensen ’12. In his last college meet, the senior finished seventh in the 200-breaststroke, breaking his own Ivy League record in the prelims, and took ninth in the 100-breaststroke while swimming as a part of four relays. Kaspar Raigla ’13, Michael Strand ’15, and Harrison Wagner ’15 joined the 400-yard medley relay, which finished 11th to earn All-America Honorable Mention.
Sixty minutes was not enough to settle MEN’S LACROSSE’s second Ivy League game of the season at Yale. Nor were 64, 68, 72, or 76, as the Bulldogs and Tigers went into five extra periods, the longest game in either team’s history. Finally, more than halfway through the fifth overtime, Alex Capretta ’12 scored with a line-drive shot for a 10-9 win. Princeton is now 2-0 in league competition and all but assured of an Ivy League Tournament berth, but Harvard and Cornell also are still perfect; the three squads probably will settle things among themselves in a de facto round robin over the final three weeks of the season. WOMEN’S LACROSSE also is 2-0 in the conference; just like the men, their hardest tests are still to come.
With 20 points in a season-ending loss to Pitt last week, Doug Davis ’12 passed Kit Mueller ’91 for second place on Princeton’s all-time MEN’S BASKETBALL scoring list. But really, it is important to highlight the gap between Bill Bradley ’65 and everybody else. Davis finished his career with 1,550 points, falling a mere 953 points shy of Bradley’s career mark of 2,503 – and remember, Bradley played when freshmen were not varsity-eligible, so he got his in only three seasons!
Ian Hummer ’13 is very likely to pass Davis for second place among Princeton scorers next year. To reach Bradley’s total, Hummer would need to average about 43 points per game for his entire senior season.
For SOFTBALL and BASEBALL, this coming weekend is when the fun really starts. Disregard the non-conference records (at this point last year, the baseball team was 4-13; it went on to win its Ivy division by five games); all that matters to Ivy League teams are the 20 games of conference play. The game(s) of the weekend will take place at Clarke Field, where the baseball team hosts Dartmouth, the Tigers’ opponent in last year’s Ivy League Championship Series.
Kevin Whitaker ’13 is an economics major and Daily Princetonian sports editor.