ORCHARD BEACH, N.Y. -- The Columbia heavyweight rowers fought off three New England schools -- MIT, Dartmouth and Holy Cross -- to retain the Alumni Cup Saturday and brighten a cold, overcast day for its fans.
The heavyweights captured their third consecutive cup by winning the varsity eights race with a sizable margin over MIT, its competitor for the cup, but by considerably closer margins over Dartmouth and Holy Cross, who both were rowing in the regatta as guests.
"That was a really competitive race," head coach Mike Zimmer said. "Dartmouth is a well-coached eight, strong and athletic. I'm very happy to have a win over them."
The Lions went right after the other three crews in the varsity eights race for the cup, getting off the starting line well despite being bothered by a strong crosswind. By the 700-meter mark, Columbia had taken control, leading Dartmouth and Holy Cross.
In the third 500 meters, the Lions, working hard, extended their lead to a full length on the Big Green. Not only did they keep their lead in the closing meters, they extended it to a little more than a length.
With the large crowd cheering, Columbia crossed the line in 5:48.73, to Dartmouth's 5:53.99. Holy Cross was 11 seconds behind the Green in 6:04.58, and MIT fourth in 6:24.64.
"They did a nice job," Zimmer said. "Both the cold weather and the fact we're rowing in salt water combine to slow boats down, but 5:48 is very quick for this course."
Columbia also won the varsity fours race, beating Holy Cross, the only other entrant, by 12 seconds.
"The four did a solid job," the coach said. "They were able to break away from Holy Cross."
Dartmouth won the freshman eights by six seconds over Columbia, which had all it could handle to hold off MIT.
"Dartmouth rowed very well in that race," Zimmer noted. "They were able to row at a low rate, and yet pull hard. Columbia and MIT were level most of the race, [until] we were able to establish a small lead in the third 500." The Lions edged the Engineers by less than a boat length.
The Big Green also won the second varsity eights over Holy Cross; Columbia didn't enter a 2V eight.
Columbia travels to Princeton next week for the venerated Childs Cup regatta on Lake Carnegie against Princeton and Penn,
Today's results:

The Alumni Cup
Columbia vs. MIT, Dartmouth and Holy Cross rowing as guests
March 31, 2012
Orchard Beach Lagoon

Varsity Eights

1. Columbia, 5:48.73
2. Dartmouth, 5:53.99
3. Holy Cross, 6:04.58
4. MIT, 6:24.64

Second Varsity Eights
1. Dartmouth, 5:58.54
2. Holy Cross, 6:04.08

Freshman Eights
1. Dartmouth, 6:05.69
2. Columbia, 6:11.94
3. MIT, 6:14.42
4. Holy Cross, 6:20.59

Varsity Fours
1. Columbia, 6:50.77
2. Holy Cross, 7:02.91

Today's Boatings:

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

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

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