PRINCETON, N.J. -- To the scores of Princeton fans lining Lake Carnegie to watch the finish of the Columbia-Princeton-Delaware tri-meet Saturday, the thrilling finish was cause for jubilation. For Columbia head lightweight coach Scott Alwin and his rowers, however, it was something else -- "heartbreak", according to Alwin.
    
The final regatta of the regular season had been a good one for Columbia. They had won the opening event of the day, the varsity fours, in 7:29.4, topping both Princeton and Delaware. The Lions would then capture the third varsity eights, topping the Tigers by six seconds.
    
True, Princeton won the second varsity eights by 4.6 seconds over the Lions, but the closing varsity eights race figured to be yet another victory for the nation's third-ranked lightweight eight.
    
And Columbia got off to a good start, as has been its wont this spring. But Princeton stayed right on its stern, while holding off Delaware. The Lions pulled away to a 5-6 seat margin in the second 500 meters, but were unable to increase that margin.
    
Columbia sprung a move at the 1000-meter mark, which Alwin expected to open up a large margin, possibly as much as eight seats. But Princeton continued to keep it close. This concerned Alwin, who noted that as the Tigers remained competitive, they became more confident. The Lions held off a Princeton push in the third 500, but the Tigers did gain a few more seats.
    
"With 250 meters to go," the coach recalled, "we still had a slight lead. We were up by maybe a foot, but I could tell we were a little nervous and tight."
    
Crews typically sprint for the finish line in the closing 250 meters. "Princeton had a good sprint in the last 250," Alwin said. "We did not."
    
As the large crowd watched from the shore, Princeton pulled into the lead, and then opened it up. The final margin wasn't much, but it was enough -- Princeton by 2.7 seconds over Columbia, with Delaware closing to within 4.8 seconds of the Lions.
    
The second varsity eight was thrown off by a shuffled lineup necessitated by other boats' ill rowers. They also had difficulty combating Lake Carnegie's erratic crossing headwinds.
    
The third varsity eight also was beset by conflicts with class schedules and illness, practicing as a full boat only one time in the previous week.
    
"We had some veteran rowers in the third varsity," Alwin noted, "men like John Hold and Curtis Kachline. They really helped the confidence of our younger rowers." Alwin paused, and reflected, noting that few Columbia eights have had the depth to actually beat a Princeton 3V 8, and at Princeton, no less!
    
The fours also enjoyed what Alwin called "a very good row". Helped immeasurably by Mitch Esten, a volunteer assistant coach who was an Australian nation team rower, the Lions fell well behind early and didn't let it bother them at all. "We rowed right through Delaware and Princeton to win," Alwin noted.
    
With the completion of regular-season rowing, the Lions will now prepare for the Eastern Sprints May 19 on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass.
    
Today's results:

Columbia, Princeton, Delaware
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Lake Carnegie, Princeton, N.J.

Varsity Eights
1. Princeton, 6:00.1
2. Columbia, 6:02.8
3. Delaware, 6:07.6

Second Varsity Eights
1. Princeton, 6:07.9
2. Columbia, 6:12.3
3. Delaware, 6:20.0

Third Varsity Eights
1. Columbia, 6:22.6
2. Princeton, 6:28.5
3. Delaware 2F, 6:39.0

Varsity Fours
1. Columbia, 7:29.40
2. Delaware, 7:38.09
3. Princeton, 7:40.2

Today's Boatings:

Varsity Eight
Stone Cao, cox; Blake Pinell, stroke; James Winford, 7; Fredrik Aasaaren, 6; Jacob Buczek, 5; Colin Ross, 4; Roger Stone, 3; John O'Mara, 2; Griffin Whitlock, bow

Second Varsity Eight
Erica Cunningham, cox; Anders Smedsrud, stroke; Ben Blair, 7; Connor Dougherty, 6; Travis Simon, 5; Oliver Ingram, 4; John Zucchi, 3; Matt Bellesheim, 2; Steven Boyle, bow

Third Varsity Eight
Yih-Jen Ku or Matt Coughlin, cox; Lane Brokaw, stroke; Connor Murphy, 7; John Hold, 6; Curtis Kachline, 5; Andrew Batholomew, 4; Fletcher Sims, 3; Chris Hatzis, 2; Daniel Puttmann, bow

Varsity Four
Marial Quezada, cox; Colm Smith, stroke; Max Segall, 3; Brian McGrattan, 2; Darius Grayer, bow