This year’s NCAA Championships was the final chance for Georgie Howe ’17, and that is what made the Princeton open women’s crew team’s 10th place finish at nationals so hard.
Princeton had been dreaming of a national title, and the Tigers first-varsity boat’s unbeaten regular season and one-loss seasons for its second-varsity and varsity four further encouraged those aspirations.
“That’s rowing,” Howe said. “That’s why you race.”
The first-varsity boat had six of the nine members back from a year ago. It went into nationals on the heels of winning the Ivy League championship in a Cooper River course record 6:07.38, almost eight seconds faster than any boat had ever rowed. The second-varsity took second place in its Ivy final, and the varsity four placed third in its race.
“They had put their whole hearts into it from the start of the season,” said Lori Dauphiny, who repeated as Ivy Coach of the Year after Princeton won its fifth league crown in seven years. “Although we fell short at nationals, I am very proud of the progress they made throughout the year.”
The national championship standings consist of the combined results from each school’s first-varsity, second-varsity, and varsity four boats. Princeton finished 10th with 85 points, one point behind 9th-place Wisconsin.
Coxswain Amanda Rutherford ’17, stroke Emily Kallfelz ’19, Hadley Irwin ’20, Claire Collins ’19, Howe, Ellie Sawyer ’19, Isabella Nappa ’18, Dagmara Lapins ’17, and Emerson Solms ’20 took third in the first-varsity petite final after narrowly missing a spot in the grand final.
“We just weren’t as lucky as we needed to be,” Howe said. “We got taken a little by surprise in terms of the intensity. I think that won’t happen again.”
The second-varsity returned five members from its boat last year. Cox Kate Elfers ’18, stroke Catherine Babiec ’17, Rachel Reed ’18, Lauren Barnard ’19, Sadie McGirr ’19, Hannah Paynter ’19, Erica Swartwout ’18, Melissa Curtis ’18, and Diana Kenealy ’17 lost only once in the regular season. They placed fourth in the second-varsity petite final.
The varsity four of cox Emily Erdos ’19, stroke Kanoe Shizuru ’17, Molly Milligan ’20, Ciara Nutter ’18 and Anna Kalfaian ’17 became only Princeton’s sixth varsity four boat to reach a grand final at nationals, where they placed sixth.
“They definitely will build upon what they learned this year,” Dauphiny said. “For the freshmen it was a new experience, and for the sophomores and juniors it was a call to fight. They had a wonderful season and that motivates them to see that their hard work pays off. Falling short at the national championship gives them more information about what it takes.”
Princeton is one of only three programs to have competed in all 21 NCAA Championships in women’s open rowing. With 16 members who competed at nationals returning next year, Princeton is highly motivated to come back faster and finish higher.
“There’s a fire lit under them,” Howe said. “Hopefully they know what it feels like now to just fall short and never let that happen again. It’s these experiences that give you the motivation to gain speed. I have no doubt it will happen.”