WORCESTER, Mass. – The Columbia lightweight varsity and second varsity eights continued their outstanding seasons with gold medals at the EARC Sprints Sunday afternoon. The first-place finishes were the first for the program since the varsity eight was victorious in 2000 and just the second time in program history. The Lions also claimed the Jope Cup as the overall winners for the first time ever and with the varsity eight
All four lightweight crews qualified for the grand finals. The third and fourth varsity eights each placed fifth in their respective races.
The varsity eight were strong right from the start of the day, building a big lead in the preliminary heat to coast into the grand final as the top seed. In the afternoon, Columbia joined Princeton and Harvard as the frontrunners coming out of the gates. Just like the preliminaries, the Lions continued to build on its lead and claimed a three-second margin over the Tigers. The podium finish was the third in the past four years for Columbia.
"We were able to pull it off, but honestly, it wasn't our best race," senior Ben Landis told Row2K.com. "It was windy out there, and at times we lost our composure, but in the end the training paid off, and we didn't even need a perfect race to win, that's what we train for, so we prepared perfectly."
The Lions’ second varsity remains undefeated after winning their morning heat and then coming away with an open-water triumph in the grand final. In Columbia’s afternoon performance, Columbia led nearly wire-to-wire and inched away from the competition as the race went on.
"The two guys who won the IRA as sophomores and are now in the second varsity is just a reflection of how much better our team has gotten this year," said senior John Maloney, who was in the varsity eight during the 2016 IRA Championship race, to Row2K.com. "As much fun as it is to win the varsity eight, it's so much better to have the whole team out here."
"It's pretty crazy," Maloney continued. "We were pretty nervous for the whole day, even after the second varsity came down and won, (we were not) relieved until the varsity eight finished."
Columbia’s heavyweight varsity and second varsity eights were the runner-up in the third level final. The varsity eight finished behind Navy, while the second varsity was edged by Penn. In the third varsity eight, the Lions finished seventh in the petite final.
The lightweights earned an auto-bid to the IRA National Championships from May 31-June 3. The Lions' heavyweights will wait to see if they earn an at-large berth when the IRA holds its selection show Tuesday, May 15. Fans can watch the show live on