July 16, 2008: Sports
Sports Scores Updated weekly
On a field in Vancouver, women's soccer star Diana Matheson '08 practiced with her teammates on Canada's national squad. In a Knoxville, Tenn., swimming pool, Doug Lennox '09 refined his butterfly stroke under the guidance of a world-renowned coach. At an outdoor shooting range in Ridgewood, N.J., incoming freshman Sandra Fong steadied her rifle and aimed at a target 50 meters away. And on the waters of Princeton's Lake Carnegie, Caroline Lind '06 trained with America's top rowers. All four approached their workouts with one destination in mind: Beijing.
The athletes are among more than a dozen alumni and students vying to represent their countries in the 2008 Olympics this August and add to the University's legacy of success at the summer games. Since the modern Olympics were first held in 1896, Princetonians have participated in all but two summer Olympiads, earning medals in 17 of 25 of the quadrennial competitions.
Rowing has been Princeton's strong-est Olympic sport, and that appears to be true again this year. In addition to Lind, Tigers on the national team radar include Lia Pernell '03, the Princeton captain during Lind's freshman year; two-time Olympian lightweight rower Paul Teti '01; Simon Carcagno '98, an alternate on the 2004 Olympic team; and Steve Coppola '06, a classmate of Lind who is training with the men's heavyweight camp. Sam Loch '06, Coppola's former teammate, has secured a seat on the Australian men's heavyweight eight.
The U.S. Olympic selection camps, based at Lake Carnegie and Mercer Lake in nearby West Windsor, rely on intrasquad rivalry to identify the top rowers. So while the athletes bond in challenging, three-a-day workouts, they also realize that they must beat some of their campmates to win a spot in the Olympic boat. Lind, who helped the U.S. open eight win gold medals at the World Championships in 2006 and 2007, tried to make the most of a stressful situation. "I think we have an amazing team, and I just feel fortunate to be a part of it," she said in mid-June. The rosters for America's "big boats," to be announced June 28, were not available for this issue of PAW.
Princeton athletes faced similar stresses at the Olympic trials in June and July. Alicia Aemisegger '10 was slated to lead a handful of Tiger hopefuls at the swimming trials in Omaha, Neb., June 29–July 6, and in track and field, two former Princeton stars — high-jumper Tora Harris '02 and distance runner Cack Ferrell '06 — were scheduled to compete at the trials in Eugene, Ore., June 27–July 6. Results from the trials also were not available for this issue.
For the athletes who already have secured Olympic berths, summer is a time for intense training. Matheson, at age 24, has played in more than 70 international games, including last year's Women's World Cup in China, but this will be her first trip to the Olympics. Fitness will be a factor when soccer teams take the field in August, Matheson said, partly because of air quality in Beijing. "It is definitely noticeable," she said. "It's just gray — even looking down the street, a few blocks away, you can tell that the air is badly polluted, unfortunately. The longer you're there, it kind of builds up in your lungs. But it's an even playing field. Every team has to deal with it."
The air also will be a factor for Fong, a competitor in the three-position rifle event, though wind, not air quality, is her primary concern. When you're 50 meters away from a target that's roughly the size of F.D.R.'s head on a dime, even a light breeze matters. Technique and mental focus also are at a premium. Competitors spend about two and a half hours trying to remain as still as possible. "It's not really a spectator sport," Fong joked.
Fong, a New York City native, learned to shoot from her father and practices with her sisters, Abigail '10, a nationally ranked shooter, and Danielle, who will represent the U.S. at this summer's Paralympics. Fong's first athletic passion was swimming, but she shifted her focus to shooting in high school, realizing that she had a chance to compete against the world's best. She still swims to train for shooting (a low standing heart rate helps to keep her aim steady), and she hopes to find tickets for some of the swimming events in Beijing.
If Fong visits Beijing's National Aquatic Center, she might be able to watch Lennox, an NCAA All-American in the 200-yard butterfly who will compete with the Puerto Rican team. Lennox, a Lake Forest, Ill., native whose mother is from Puerto Rico, has worked through lingering shoulder injuries in recent months, but his biggest concern is dealing with the nerves of swimming in the world's most competitive meet. "If I can stay relaxed and enjoy the experience, that will be a major victory," he wrote in an e-mail in June, "because I know if I can do that, I will swim my best."
Lennox is one of more than 300 athletes who have joined Team Darfur, a coalition that aims to raise awareness about the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. The group was started by fellow undergraduate Joey Cheek '11, an Olympic speedskating champion in 2006, and UCLA water polo player Brad Greiner. "The Olympics are not only an opportunity to step up and compete with the world's greatest, but to also represent something greater than oneself," Lennox explained. "Hopefully, the press the Olympics bring to China will help the world realize how much more progress we have to make so that we can achieve more humane treatment in faraway places, as well as at home."
Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, the new home of the Princeton men's and women's soccer teams, neared completion in June after workers laid sod for the game field. (The facility also will have an adjacent artificial-turf practice field.) The Tigers plan to open the stadium with a Sept. 5 doubleheader: The Princeton women will host Boston University at 5 p.m., and the men will play Lehigh at 7:30 p.m. A formal dedication will be held Oct. 4, when both teams take on Dartmouth to start the Ivy League season.
WOMEN'S LACROSSE coach Chris Sailer, above, was elected to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame May 24. In her 22 seasons as Princeton's head coach, Sailer's teams have won 282 games and lost 96. The three-time national coach of the year has led the Tigers to three national championships, 11 Final Four appearances, 17 NCAA postseason berths, and nine Ivy League titles. Sailer will become the first woman with Princeton ties to join the Hall of Fame when the 2008 honorees are enshrined in November. Her men's counterpart, head coach Bill Tierney, was inducted in 2002.
Jolee VanLeuven '09 of the WOMEN'S TRACK team earned All-America honors at the NCAA Championships June 14, completing the 10,000-meter run in a personal-best 34:09.51 to finish ninth. Teammate Ashley Higginson '11 also competed at the NCAA meet in the 5,000-meter run. In MEN'S TRACK, high-jumper Justin Frick '10 reached the NCAA finals and placed 11th, clearing 2.14 meters (7 feet, 1/4 inch).
In MEN'S CREW, the Princeton lightweight varsity eight rowed to a fourth-place finish at the IRA National Championship Regatta in Camden, N.J., June 7. The men's heavyweight varsity eight missed the grand final but placed fourth in the petite final (10th overall). WOMEN'S CREW also reached the lightweight varsity eight grand final at the IRA Regatta, finishing fifth. The women's lightweight varsity four captured a silver medal in its national championship race June 6. At the NCAA Championships in Sacramento, Calif., May 30–June 1, the Princeton open women placed 12th in the team standings.
Director of Athletics GARY WALTERS '67 was one of 29 recipients of the Astro-Turf Athletics Director of the Year award, presented June 9 by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. Princeton has won the unofficial Ivy League all-sports championship in each of Walters' 14 years as athletics director, and Tiger teams have won 153 Ivy League championships in that time.
Four athletes shared top honors at the Princeton Varsity Club's SENIOR
AWARDS banquet May 29. Mike Moore (men's hockey) and David Nightingale
(men's cross country and track) were recipients of the Roper Trophy, given
annually to Princeton's top male athletes. Meagan Cowher (women's basketball)
and Diana Matheson (women's soccer) were honored with the Von Kienbusch
Award as the top female athletes. Mechanical and aerospace engineering
major Landis Stankievech '08 (men's hockey) won the Class of 1916 Cup
as the varsity letter winner with the highest academic standing. Ted Gudmundsen
(men's lightweight crew), Michael Honigberg (men's swimming), and Katie
Lewis-Lamonica (women's lacrosse) shared the Art Lane Award for selfless
contribution to sport and society.