November 8, 2000


Olympic boats have a Princeton flavor

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Olympic boats have a Princeton flavor

If you are a gymnast with Olympic aspirations, you pack your bags and head to Bela Karolyi's Texas training center to pursue your dream. But if rowing is your sport, then you make your way to Lake Carnegie. The picturesque waters of Princeton University have increasingly become home to many of the world's top rowers.

Chris Ahrens '98, who served as stroke for the U.S. men's eight during the recent summer Olympics in Sydney, says, "For many years, Princeton didn't have much representation on the national teams. Now, it seems as if every national team is influenced by Princeton. A lot of the credit [goes] to the coaches and the university. The relationship between the Princeton coaches and national coaches has really benefited both programs. And without the support of the university, we wouldn't have gotten anywhere. Allowing us to use Lake Carnegie and their facilities to train enabled us to prepare."

Eight Princeton students and alumni made the trip Down Under to compete in rowing events at this year's games, while two Princeton University coaches guided teams. Ahrens and Tom Welsh '99 were members of the American men's eight crew, a team that had won three consecutive world championships entering the Olympics. That squad was coached by Mike Teti, a four-time Olympic rower who spent eight years as the Princeton freshman coach before taking the top U.S. Olympic job. His brother, Paul Teti '01, competed for the lightweight four team, which was coached by Princeton crew's head coach, Curtis Jordan. Princeton graduates Kevin Cotter '96 and Sean Kamman '98 were U.S. alternates.

Two of the rowers in the Canadian men's eight boat were Morgan Crooks '96 and current Tiger Tom Hershmiller '01. The U.S. women's eight boat was stroked by Lianne Bennion-Nelson '95, who was denied a seat on the 1996 Olympic team, but battled four years later to earn her share of the Olympic experience.

Ahrens said of the games, "Initially, it was just exciting to be around all the American athletes. To walk in that stadium with 120,000 people going nuts was a huge thrill."

For Ahrens and Welsh, the trip was not simply about savoring the experience, but about winning. The Americans were favored to strike gold. Expectations were high, but the competition was also fierce. Great Britain, Romania, Russia, Germany, and the Australians all had legitimate shots to dethrone the U.S.

From the outset, the men's eight crew was concerned about its times. They weren't racing at the speed they had in the past. In their preliminary heat, they finished second behind the Croatians with a time of 5:35.70. Failing to win the heat outright forced the Americans to compete in the repechage, where they had to finish first or second to advance to the final race. They defeated Romania in a photo finish with a time of 5:43.22. They moved onto the finals, but knew it would be a long shot to win considering the times they were producing.

"Defeating Romania in the repechage took a lot out of us," said Ahrens. "It was probably the hardest I'd ever raced in my life. We realized we were in trouble heading into the finals and continued to try to make some technical changes to pull us out of our slump."

Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. The U.S. men's eight finished fifth behind Great Britain (gold), Australia (silver), Croatia (bronze), and Italy. The Americans were disappointed with their finish. "It was frustrating," said Ahrens. "We had a group of people that had a real opportunity. We could point to a variety of elements, but the bottom line is, you don't have to be that far off to be struggling."

None of the American rowing teams earned medals in Sydney, but the women's eight and men's lightweight four did qualify for the final race. Crooks and Hershmiller's Canadian men's eight team did not qualify for the finals, but edged the Netherland crew to win the B race with a 5:36.30 finishing time.

Ahrens is now back home in Wisconsin recuperating. The intense training and two weeks in Sydney took its toll, and he's currently unsure about what his racing future holds.

"I'm going to take a break right now," he said. "This whole experience has been great, but the last six years of my life have been so dominated by rowing. Sometimes, the sound of having a normal life sounds pleasant."

For those of us watching at home, representing your country as one of the world's best athletes doesn't sound so bad, either.

By Mark Gola


Mark Gola is the author of the Louisville Slugger Complete Book of Pitching.


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Susan Rea '00 has been named New Jersey's NCAA Woman of the Year. The former soccer and basketball player earned seven varsity letters at Princeton while maintaining a 3.96 grade-point average in chemical engineering. Rea was particularly accomplished in soccer. She was an All-Ivy selection and led the Tigers to the NCAA tournament as a senior. Rea was actively involved with the Urban Crisis Food Ministry in Trenton, New Jersey, was a volunteer and committee head for the Special Olympics, worked with the Martin House project, a home-repair and beautification program for low-income families in Trenton, and served as a Big Sister while at Princeton. For her efforts, Rea earned the Art Lane '34 Citizen-Athlete Award for outstanding community service by a Princeton athlete. Rea is also a Marshall Scholar who began work toward her Ph.D. at Cambridge University this fall.

Another distinguished graduate, Bill Bradley '65, recently turned down an offer to become chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Bradley felt that he could not devote the time necessary to do the job properly, according to the head of the USOC's nominating committee. However, Bradley has agreed to become a board member of the organization.

Heisman Trophy winner and football hero Dick Kazmaier '51 turned up in the October 2 issue of Sports Illustrated. An ad by Suzuki titled "Suzuki presents Heisman Heroes" featured Kazmaier as its subject. The full-page ad profiles his career and refers to his decision to spurn the NFL's Chicago Bears and attend Harvard business school.

Princeton has promoted Michael Cross to associate director of athletics. Cross, in his second year at Princeton after earning a Ph.D. at Michigan, serves as the athletic department's compliance coordinator and liaison to admissions. Also promoted was Jim McLaughlin, who assumes the title of assistant director of athletics. Among his responsibilities will be oversight of the athletic ticket office. Erin McDermott was recently hired as assistant director of athletics, and Mark Garneau has been named director of aquatics.

Women's basketball head coach Liz Feely resigned to accept the head coaching job at Smith College. She will be replaced on an interim basis by Kevin Morris, previously head women's coach at Fordham. Former field hockey star Kirsty Hale '99 returns as an assistant to head field hockey coach Beth Bozman. Hale holds field hockey records for career points, career goals, and career assists and led her teams to four NCAA tournament berths and three Final Four appearances. Jennifer Sewell, a four-year letter-winner at Ohio University, was named assistant softball coach. Rob Burke joins the staff of new head men's basketball coach John Thompson III '88. Burke spent the last three seasons at Siena and was a teammate of Thompson's at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. Terri Dadio Campbell has been named assistant coach for the women's basketball team. Dadio Campbell was formerly the head coach at Washington & Lee.

Former assistant football coach Steve DiGregorio has made the transition from the field to the booth. "Digger" is now calling Tiger football games on the radio for WHWH AM 1350 in Princeton and WHTG AM 1410 in Eatontown, New Jersey. Broadcasts can also be heard on the Web at

On September 13, Princeton legend and former football coach Eddie Donovan was honored at the Nassau Club in Princeton. On hand to pay tribute to Donovan and his contributions to the university were several Princeton athletic luminaries, including Cosmo Iacavazzi '65 and director of athletics Gary Walters '67. Bill Bradley and former Tiger hoops coach Butch Van Breda Kolff telephoned during the gathering to show their appreciation for all that Donovan has meant to the university.

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