BOSTON, Mass. -- This has been an April to enjoy for most Northeast residents, with sun-lit days and balmy temperatures. But Columbia heavyweight rowing coach Mike Zimmer has been anything but pleased with the month.
"April has been tough for us," Zimmer noted after the Lions lost their third consecutive cup race, all in April, following three straight cup wins in March.
The latest came as a complete surprise to Zimmer. Buoyed by a full week of excellent practices, he and his staff anticipated a tight race for the Doc Lusins Trophy against the varsity eights of Boston University and Syracuse. Eastern coaches felt the same way -- the three were ranked 10th, 11th and 12th in the latest EARC coaches poll.
"We came off the line well," Zimmer recalled of the race's start on the Charles River. "We were aggressive early." By the 500-meter mark, Syracuse had taken a narrow lead, but Columbia was right behind the Orange and led B.U.
"Over the next 500 meters," Zimmer lamented, "we gave way to both. B.U. accelerated through us, and Syracuse went with them. We made a little move back at them, but the race was gone. B.U. and Syracuse left us behind.
"I thought the varsity race was going to be a really close race between all three crews. It was a really close race, between two crews."
The Lions have developed two personas, one in practice, another one on race day.
"We had a pretty good week of practice," he said, "but the race was not up to the quality of our practicing. I was surprised. We have to find a way to do what we're capable of, on race day."
The freshman eights race figured to be dominated by Boston U., ranked fourth in the EARC coaches poll, while Syracuse and Columbia were only 11th and 12th. From the start, however, it was a three-way battle.
Syracuse actually seized the lead early. By the halfway point, B.U. had drawn even with the Terriers, Columbia close behind. As Boston pulled away in the second half of the race, Columbia pushed back into Syracuse's lead.
"We had a rocky first 500," Zimmer recalled, "but we got back into Syracuse. We were catching up when our push stalled with 250 meters to go." If the race were a bit longer, he speculated, Columbia might have taken the lead. "We ran out of water."
The Lions will conclude their dual-meet season next Sunday against Navy for the Maxwell Stevenson Cup. The race, rescheduled from the original Saturday plan, will be held in late morning on Princeton's Lake Carnegie.
The results of the regatta:

The Doc Lusins Trophy (Columbia vs. Boston U.) / Conlan Cup (Boston U. vs. Syracuse)
Columbia, Syracuse, Boston University
April 21, 2012
Charles River, Boston, Mass.

Varsity Eights

1. Syracuse, 6:01.7
2. Boston U., 6:02.8
3. Columbia, 6:09.8

Second Varsity Eights
1. Syracuse, 6:08.2
2. Boston U., 6:10.3
3. Boston U. 3V, 6:26.0

Freshman Eights
1. Boston U., 6:17.9
2. Syracuse, 6:24.6
3. Columbia, 6:25.1

Today's Boatings:

Varsity Eight
Amelia Kudenholdt, cox; Connor Jones, stroke; Charles Wu, 7; Clemens Auersperg, 6; Sam Collins, 5; Mike Donohue, 4; Ben Coombs, 3; Daniel Kolbe, 2; Noah Whitehead, bow

Freshman Eight
Alex Xu, cox; Sam Harris, stroke; Matt Ridgeway, 7; Buck Goggin, 6; James Glynn, 5; D.J. Dlesk, 4; Max Lindemann, 3; Connor Murphy, 2; Zach Ellenbogen, bow

Varsity Four
Andrew Lake, cox; Elliot Meade, stroke; John Clapp, 3; Ian Winthrop, 2; Ryan Jones, bow