WORCESTER, Mass. -- From the first day of practice last fall, Columbia heavyweight rowing worked on building speed. The fruits of those efforts were on display at the 2014 Eastern Sprints Sunday, as the Lions fashioned a solid showing to place ninth and earn a qualifying spot for the IRA National Championships later this month.
    
"We had gotten faster all season," head coach Scott Alwin noted. "We got faster week in and week out. Today had been circled on the calendar; all that work building speed paid off on a day we wanted it to pay off."
    
Although all three Lion heavyweight crews rowed reasonably well in their opening heats Sunday morning, none did well enough to advance to the Grand Finals. The varsity eight was third of six -- only the top two finishers qualified for the Grand Final -- and the second varsity eight was fourth of six. The third varsity eight finished fourth of five.
    
"All three crews rowed okay in the morning heats," Alwin said. "When they came in off the water, they all had identified what they needed to do in the afternoon races to increase their speed."
    
The first varsity certainly put that knowledge to good use. Columbia passed Navy, Penn and Dartmouth on its way to second place in the Petite Final, just two seconds behind Wisconsin.
    
In doing so, the Lions reversed their regular-season outcome against the Midshipmen, and extended the margins by which they had beaten Penn and Dartmouth in regular-season races.
    
The inexperienced second varsity eight, with two sophomores and four first-years among its nine competitors, overcame some of the effects of its youth to place second in its Petite Final, ahead of Syracuse and Yale.
    
"The second varsity had a solid performance," the coach noted. "They definitely rowed up to their ability."
    
And the third varsity?
    
"The third varsity exceeded our expectations," Alwin said. "They picked up a lot of speed the last two weeks."
    
The 3V Lions finished in a virtual tie for fourth with Harvard in their Petite Final, placed fifth after the Crimson edged them by 19/100 of a second. They were just six seconds behind Wisconsin and Dartmouth, in a virtual tie of their own. "The 3V beat its seed by two full places," Alwin said.
    
Clearly the morning races had delineated the path to more speed. "For each crew," the coach said, "their afternoon performances were the best they could have had."
    
The Eastern Sprints are a principal qualifier for the IRA National Championship Regatta, which this year will be held May 30-June 1 on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J. Automatic berths go to the top nine placewinners in the varsity eights race at the Sprints -- the six crews in the Grand Final, and the next three finishers in the Petite Final.
    
After a low-flying swan found its landing area on the lake occupied by the Cornell first varsity eight, and tangled with the shell during the opening heat, the race committee awarded the Big Red eight a spot in the Grand Final -- they rowed in Lane Zero -- thereby limiting the IRA qualifiers from the Petite Final to two. Thanks to Columbia's newly-built speed, the Lions joined Wisconsin (Scott Alwin's alma mater) as the two qualifiers.
    
They'll be joined there by the Columbia's men's varsity lightweight eight, which will compete on the IRA's final day, June 1, in the National Lightweight Championship.
    
Today's results:

Columbia heavyweights at the
EARC Eastern Sprints
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Lake Quinsigamond, Worcester, Mass.

Note: only the events in which Columbia participated are listed

Varsity Eights - Petite Final
1. Wisconsin, 5:35.998
2. COLUMBIA, 5:37.901
3. Navy, 5:38.710
4. Penn, 5:40.241
5. Dartmouth, 5:47.379

Varsity Eights - Opening Heat
1. Princeton, 5:34.417
2. Brown, 5:36.592
3. COLUMBIA, 5:41.475
4. Penn, 5:46.365
5. Holy Cross, 5:50.224
6. MIT, 5:52.783

Second Varsity Eights - Petite Final
1. Wisconsin, 5:46.018
2. Cornell, 5:46.473
3. Dartmouth, 5:48.462
4. COLUMBIA, 5:51.247
5. Syracuse, 5:51.356
6. Yale, 5:56.723

Second Varsity Eights - Opening Heat
1. Princeton, 5:40.581
2. Harvard, 5:41.510
3. Cornell, 5:41.705
4. COLUMBIA, 5:53.857
5. Holy Cross, 6:00.129
6. Georgetown, 6:15.359

Third Varsity Eights - Petite Final
1. Yale, 5:50.005
2. Wisconsin, 5:52.207
3. Dartmouth, 5:52.912
4. Harvard, 5:58.358
5. COLUMBIA, 5:58.547
6. Syracuse, 6:03.022

Third Varsity Eights - Opening Heat
1. Brown, 5:45.835
2. Cornell, 5:47.061
3. Yale, 5:48.081
4. COLUMBIA, 5:58.810
5. Penn, 6:05.345

Today's Columbia Boatings:

Varsity Eight
Colin Keane, cox; Emmett Gross, stroke; Connor Jones, 7; Buck Goggin, 6; Alex Barkume, 5; Clemens Auersperg, 4; Ben Coombs, 3; Josh Fram, 2; Matt Ridgeway, bow

Second Varsity Eight
Daniel Hong, cox; Elliot Meade, stroke; Andrew Bair, 7; Daniel Kolbe, 6; Connor Coughlin, 5; Christian Aral, 4; Alastair Clements, 3; Sam Harris, 2; Jonathon Rosow, bow
 
Third Varsity Eight
Oliver Jennings, cox; Brent Laurint, stroke; Nicolaas Woudenberg, 7; John Sluis, 6; Jack Michaud, 5; James Glynn, 4; Tucker Klutey, 3; John Clapp, 2; Killian Brackey, bow