The Princeton women’s lightweight varsity eight celebrates its third straight national championship.
Photo: Row2K; Ryan Kelly; Princeton Athletics

Two years ago, as Princeton athletics reemerged from pandemic restrictions, the rowing programs were among the first to find opportunities to compete against other schools. And in a final flourish to the belated 2021 spring season, the women’s lightweight varsity eight won a national championship, its first in 18 years.

That Tiger boat hasn’t lost since. Led by three seniors — rowers Sarah Polson and Daisy Devore and coxswain Margaret Murphy — the women’s lightweights completed a second straight undefeated season at the IRA Regatta, outracing second-place Stanford by more than six seconds to win the national title.

They were joined at the top of the podium by the men’s lightweight varsity eight, which pulled away from Harvard in the final 500 meters to win its first national gold since 2010. Princeton’s other varsity eights, the men’s heavyweight and women’s open crews, earned third place in their respective national finals at the IRA and NCAA regattas, making this the first time that all four finished in the top three nationally in the same year. (The women’s lightweight championship, the newest of the four, began in 1998.)

The two championship regattas were held in New Jersey — the NCAA in Pennsauken May 26-28 and the IRA in West Windsor June 2-4 — and each drew a healthy cheering section from within the boathouse. “It was very telling to see how everyone showed up for each other and celebrated each other,” women’s open coach Lori Dauphiny said.

All four programs also showed they have a deep well of talent backing up the varsity eight boats. The women’s lightweights won IRA gold in the varsity four and double sculls. The men’s lightweight second varsity eight also won gold, completing an unbeaten season, while the men’s heavyweight team finished fourth in the IRA team standings.

At the NCAA Championships, the women’s open team placed third in the points race and sent its second varsity eight and varsity four to the grand finals, placing fifth and sixth, respectively. “It shows that we have a healthy program — that we are really pushing each other and supporting each other at the same time,” Dauphiny said.

As a reward for the season’s success, each program will race at the Henley Royal Regatta this summer — another Princeton first.