Monday, February 29, 2016

A Sadie Hawkins Victory Dance

Today is Feb. 29.

As everyone knows, there's only one of these every four years. The reason? It takes the Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds to make one complete revolution around the sun.

Did you know that there is no Feb. 29 in years that are divisible by 100, unless they're also divisible by 400? That's why there was a Feb. 29 in 2000, though there won't be one in 2100. 

Do you know anyone who was born on Feb. 29? TigerBlog doesn't.

He assumes that everyone who was born on Feb. 29 makes the same "today is my 10th birthday" if they're 40 joke. That's okay. If you only get to have one of every four birthdays on your actual birthday, you get to make that joke.

To Frederic, from the "Pirates of Penzance," it was no joke. He was to be an apprentice until his 21st birthday, and when he thinks he's reached it and is free, he finds out he was actually born on Feb. 29, which meant that he had 63 more years to go. Don't worry, it worked out just fine for Frederic and Mabel. That's how it works in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

TigerBlog has always wondered why they decided to make February have a 29th. Now that he thinks about it, why does February have only 28 days in the first place.

Who decided that? What did they have against February. 

Anyway, there's something mildly interesting about Feb. 29. It's something different. The last Feb. 29 was a Wednesday, so you probably have to go back to 2008, for the last time Princeton had events on a Feb. 29, which was a Friday that year.

The last weekend in Febuary saw Princeton win two more Ivy League championships, running the academic year total to nine, with two still up for grabs in basketball and Princeton very much in the hunt for both of those.

If you're keeping score, the Ivy titles for 2015-16 so far are in: women's cross country, field hockey, women's soccer, women's volleyball, women's fencing, men's fencing, women's hockey and now men's swimming and diving and men's indoor track and field.

Those last two won their championships this past weekend. Neither was easy, and both spoke volumes about how those two programs have been run all these years.

Both of the teams had to come from way back to win. There were large portions of the swimming championships at Brown and the track meet at Cornell where it looked like neither would actually pull it off.

But that's how these programs are. They've won a ton of league championships between them. Their coaches, Fred Samara for the men's track and field team and Rob Orr for the swim team, are among the greatest coaches Princeton has ever known.

The men's swimming and diving team won its seventh Ivy League championship in the last eight years. Was this one routine? Uh, no.

Princeton had to come from behind in the final four events. How far behind? The Tigers trailed by 116.5 points with four events to go. That's a big deficit.

Princeton came back to win by 21.5 points, which is a pretty narrow margin. They did it by having four point scorers in the 100 free and the 200 fly and then winning the final event, the 400 free relay in Ivy record time.

As for men's track and field, the Tigers were in third place after Day 1. They battled back to tie it early on Sunday and then, as Princeton and Cornell have done for so many years, it was a, well, race to the very end.

By the time it ended, Princeton had won by 20 points.

The two victories seemed to be quite similar to TigerBlog.

As he read the recaps of both, it was clear that this was not something accomplished by one athlete or a few stars. This was points here, points there, depth here and there, swimmers and divers and runners and throwers moving up a place or two and having that make all the difference.

Samara called it "probably the finest team win we've ever had," and there's a lot of truth in that statement.

These coaches coach what are essentially are individual sports. Their success, though, lies in their uncanny ability to build a real team culture and have that build off itself during the championship weekends.

TigerBlog would guess that's not the easiest thing in the world to do, with so many different events, skills, needs and such. It takes a special touch to get them all to pull for each other, understand each other and consider each other as teammates.

This past weekend, it was another lesson in how to do it right from Fred Samara and Rob Orr.

Today may or may not be Sadie Hawkins Day. It depends who you ask.

Traditionally, today would be a day where women were allowed to ask men to dance, or to get married. Today, though, such tradition is irrelevant, as woman can do that any day they want.

But if you are going to be a traditionalist for a day, then Feb. 29 isn't a bad day to do it.

So if you are a young woman and you happen upon a member of Princeton's men's swimming and diving team or indoor track and field team, then it is your right to ask them to dance.

You know, a victory dance.

Another one, for two of the most storied programs in Ivy athletics history.

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