WORCESTER, Mass. – The Columbia heavyweight and lightweight rowing teams put forth solid efforts while battling less than ideal conditions at the EARC Sprints Sunday. The Lions' lightweight varsity eight claimed fourth place in the grand final with the heavyweight varsity earning 12th place overall after competing in the petite final.
Both crews battled heavy tailwinds and choppy water in the preliminary heats, which calmed as the day went on, and off-and-on rain on Lake Quinsigamond.
The Lions' lightweights qualified for grand finals in all three events, highlighted by a fourth-place finish by the varsity eight. On the heavyweight side, the varsity eight and second varsity eight qualified for petite finals, while the third varsity eight competed in the third final.
Columbia's lightweight varsity eight just missed out on reaching the podium for a third consecutive year after a strong effort in the grand final. Cornell and Harvard pulled just ahead from the pack early to make it a two-crew race for gold and silver, but the Lions continued to stay in the mix for medal contention. The Lions continued a comfortable pace before a strong sprint to catch Penn for the bronze which fell just about three seats short. The Lions finished with a time of 5:45, two seconds behind the Quakers and five seconds off the Big Red's winning mark.
In the preliminaries, the defending IRA National Champion was the runner up to the Crimson in heat two to earn the fourth lane in the main event.
"Our team showed full belief in each other and our approach," lightweight head coach Nich Lee Parker said. "We continue to trend in a positive direction and now we have three weeks to prepare out in California before we can challenge a strong field again at IRA's."
The heavyweight varsity eight took third in the morning race, putting them just outside of the grand final. Rowing in lane one of the petite final, Columbia was not quite able to match its speed and placed sixth in the petite final with a time of 5:44.0.
"Despite the crazy conditions, the whole day of racing was extremely close all day long," director of rowing and heavyweight head coach Scott Alwin said. "Our guys are not satisfied with today's results and are eager for the opportunity to race again in Sacramento."
The lightweight second varsity eight out-rowed its seed, qualifying for grand final. The Lions (5:51.9) stormed out of the gates fast, pushing Harvard and Yale, but fell out off by just a hair around the 1,500-meter point. Overall, it was a closely contested race with all the boats finishing within seven seconds.
The second varsity heavyweight eight took part in another competitive petite final. Like the lightweights, Columbia started strong, but were overtaken around the midway mark. Columbia took fifth (5:48.7) in the race, six seconds off of George Washington.
Third lightweight eight earned a top three finish in the second heat to qualify for the grand final. The Lions placed sixth (6:08.0) to close out their regatta.
Columbia's third heavyweight eight placed sixth in one of the first races of the day, but bounced back with a better piece third final. The Lions placed second (6:05.5), finishing only behind Penn in that event.
As a result of the varsity eight's finish, the lightweights will send the V8 along with a pair of varsity fours to IRA's. The heavyweights received an at-large bid as well and will take the first and second varsity eights along with a varsity four. The 2017 IRA National Championships will take place from June 2-4 in Sacramento, Calif.