Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Princetonians Having Fun

For this past weekend of Princeton Athletics and Princeton athletes, very few were happier than Jesse Marsch.

If you don't know who Jesse Marsch is, he's the former Princeton men's soccer player who has gone on to an extraordinarily successful career as a coach. These days he finds himself as the head man of Leeds United, where he has become the second American ever to be the head coach of an English Premier League team.

Who was the first? Bob Bradley, who also happens to be a Princeton alum. In other words, if you are an American and didn't play soccer at Princeton, then you've never been an EPL head coach.

Marsch came to Leeds in late February, when the team was on the verge of relegation. In fact, it was still on the verge of relegation up until the very end, when the team got an away win over Brentford to finish in the magical spot of 17th among the 20 teams.

The bottom three move down to the Championship Division. The top three there move up. Leeds has lived to see another season in the Premier League.

Relegation, by the way, is crazy stuff. The way the EPL works is wild in the first place, with no playoffs, a spot in the Champions League for the top four and a ticket to a lower level for the bottom three. American sports could never handle that. 

Congratulations to Jesse. Much like Bob Bradley, he has had to overcome bias against Americans who coach in the top positions in Europe, and much like Bob Bradley, he has done so.

As TigerBlog said, very few Princetonians had more fun this weekend than Jesse. The women rowers of Princeton were among them.

Princeton open rowing had a great showing in Florida at the NCAA championships. Since the NCAA began having a women's open rowing regatta in 1997, Princeton is one of three schools who has reached the event every year. That included last year, when the Tigers made it after getting a really, really late start due to the pandemic.

This time around, Princeton came in off of an Ivy League championship and was primed for a big weekend at the NCAA meet. And that's exactly what happened.

All three Princeton boats qualified Saturday for the grand finals Sunday. And then Princeton had itself a huge Sunday.

It started with the varsity 4 boat, which won the national championship in that event.

Princeton's varsity 4 boat consisted of Roopa Venkatraman, Hailey Mead, Catherine Garrett Natasha Neitzell and Lauren Johnson. That group became the fourth Princeton boat to win gold at the NCAA championships, along with the 1997 second varsity and the first varsities of 2006 and 2011.

The varsity 4 fell behind Texas before making a run in the second 500 meters, building a lead of 1.4 seconds at the midway point. The final margin would be a hair less, and 1.2 seconds over second-place Ohio State, third-place Texas and fourth-place Stanford. Yes, the days of women's rowing as a sport for Eastern schools plus Washington and California are long over.

After Princeton's second varsity would finish fifth, it was time for the first varsity final. Texas was the heavy favorite, and the Longhorns sprinted away to win by nearly five seconds over Stanford, who came in second. Princeton was a strong third, ahead of Cal, for its best finish since the 2013 boat came in second.

As for the team points, Texas and Stanford tied for first, but Texas had the tiebreaker because of it's first varsity 8 win. The Longhorns, who didn't even qualify for the NCAA race until 2015, have now won consecutive national titles. 

Princeton came in third overall, its best showing since a second-place overall finish in 1997.

It was a remarkable performance by the Tigers, to be sure. When schools like Texas and Stanford go all in on a sport, they have a way of making it difficult for the competition. For Princeton to continue to do what it does in women's rowing is amazing, and it's a testament to head coach Lori Dauphiny and the athletes she is able to bring in and train. Rowing is, in many ways, the ultimate in team sports, with four or eight rowers in a boat who have to be completely in sync. Making that happen is not easy. Having the success that Princeton just did is even tougher.

It was part of a weekend of Princetonians who were having fun, and there were others ...

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