Monday, April 26, 2021

To Recap

If you went to yesterday morning, the first story you saw was a recap of the crew races Saturday in Philadelphia.

That's a recap. Not a news story. Not a feature story. Nope.

Recap. In this context, that's a great word, right? 

TigerBlog has written hundreds of recaps in his time. Recaps are usually the most common stories on the webpage.

Ah, but the recaps Saturday? They were the first in 407 days. 

Princeton's four rowing teams competed Saturday in Philadelphia against Drexel and St. Joe's. It was a day of brilliant sunshine, both literally and figuratively.

Princeton's teams had been sidelined for 407 days due to the COVID 19 pandemic. The last time Princeton teams competed was back in March 2020, during those surreal few days that saw the program go from a full winter/spring overlap weekend into a total shutdown almost on a dime.

Do you want to know the last time Princeton went 407 days without a varsity athletic contest? Hint - Abraham Lincoln was the President of the United States.

The first Princeton varsity athletic event was a baseball game against Williams in November of 1864. Princeton had at least one varsity team compete every year since until the pandemic came along. 

Princeton's crews swept every race Saturday, winning almost all of them by at least 10 seconds. The women's lightweights were behind after 500 meters but came back to win comfortably by 2.6 seconds. The rest were blowouts.

It doesn't matter. It wouldn't have mattered if the results had been reversed. The big story was that Princeton was back competing.

It continued yesterday with the Princeton Invitational track and field meet at Weaver Stadium. Among the highlights were a school-record javelin throw from freshman Kate Joyce, whose 50.44 meter throw was better than two meters further than anyone else at Princeton has ever done.

To say that those 407 days were brutal for everyone involved would be an understatement. Tough choices had to be made on so many levels, including by the athletes themselves, many of whom chose to take the academic year off from school.

Through it all, what has really stood out to TigerBlog is how the Princeton Athletics connection has been maintained and even enhanced during this pandemic. There have been all sorts of ways in which Princeton's athletes, athletic alums, Friends' groups, staff, faculty fellows and others have stayed connected with each other and, more importantly, attacked any sense of isolation that may have arisen, as it has for everyone to a degree during the last 407 days. 

No matter what, there have always been people out there who were sharing this commonality of Princeton Athletics. There were all kinds of ways in which it manifested itself, through mentoring, sharing stories, alumni gatherings, team events, social justice initiatives, community service and so amh others. 

Yes, it's been a lot of Zoom, and who hasn't used the term "Zoom fatigue" lately. But it's also kept people from being alone. It hasn't just been talking about Princeton Athletics. It's been about the way Princeton Athletics has done more than its share to keep that connection.

Much of this has been captured on social media and on the webpage. The amount of content that has been produced has been extraordinary, considering that such a huge part of what usually is done is related to athletic contests.

Of course, the two best parts of Princeton Athletics have always been the people and the games. To be able to have athletes back to doing what they do best - and love the most - is impossible to overstate.

And that's why it was so great to get back to having actual competitions like the ones this weekend. There will be others too before the end of the academic year. Then it will be on to 2021-22. Hopefully that gets Princeton back to something resembling normal. 

TB has often written here about his favorite athletic events during his years at Princeton. At some point many months ago, he wrote that one of his favorites would be the next one, whatever it was.

It turned out to be rowing in Philadelphia. He was right. Those races are among his favorite events.

Like everyone else, TB will be thrilled when the games start up again full time. At the same time, there will always be something pretty special about the way the entire Princeton Athletics world handled this brutal time of COVID, from those who fought it on the frontlines (and are part of the "Tiger Heroes" series) to those who did everything they could for the current athletes whose experience was so wildly disrupted.

Here at Princeton, there has always been a huge emphasis on "Education Through Athletics" and the "Be A Tiger" values of athletic competition. Their worth has been even more fully apparent in the last year-plus. 

They aren't just words, and that's something that became even more obvious during the 407 days between events.

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