NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Although tested mightily by fierce winds, choppy water and temperatures barely above freezing, the Columbia heavyweight crews opened their northern spring season with a successful defense of the Collins Cup.
   
The Lions persevered through difficult conditions to win both varsity and second varsity races over Rutgers, with a possible victory in the freshman eights race pending official results.
   
"All of the Columbia crews had difficulty in the rough water," varsity head coach Mike Zimmer said. "It was winter time racing, rather than spring racing."
   
Veteran rowers will testify to the difficulty of rowing on the Raritan River when windy conditions prevail. Columbia's varsity eight can attest to that after encountering testy conditions in the race's opening meters.
   
"We were a little shaky in the first 1000 meters," Zimmer noted, "but we had a much better row in the second thousand." Columbia beat Rutgers by 11 seconds, 5:55.7 to 6:06.7.
   
Despite going through a restart when a Rutgers oarsman caught an overhead crab in the first 400, the second varsity eight led most of the race en route to victory in 6:07.3 to the Scarlet Knights' 6:23.5.
   
"They rowed well," Zimmer noted. "They handled the restart pretty well."

Columbia's freshman eight incurred an overhead crab itself, but was rowing aggressively and well when it went under the wrong arch of a bridge in the second 1000. The Lions crossed the finish in front of Rutgers' first and second freshman eights.  All results were initially suspended pending the race official's determination, but the Columbia freshmen eventually were awarded first-place finishes in the race in a time of 6:04.4.
   
Nevertheless, Columbia's racing in the face of adversity delighted the coaches and the dozens of parents and supporters who braved the elements themselves to cheer the Lions on.
   
Columbia is scheduled to travel to Boston next week for the Alumni Cup against M.I.T., but may appear in an alternate event instead.
   
The results:

The Collins Cup
Columbia vs. Rutgers
March 26, 2011
Raritan River, New Brunswick, N.J.

Varsity Eights

1. Columbia, 5:55.7
2. Rutgers, 6:06.7

Second Varsity Eights
1. Columbia, 6:07.3
2. Rutgers, 6:23.5

Freshman Eights
1. Columbia, 6:04.4
2. Rutgers, 6:25.3

Today's Boatings:

Varsity Eight
Janelle Geddes, cox; Sam Collins, stroke; Mike Donohue, 7; Forrest Anderson, 6; Ian Winthrop, 5; Sebastian Kirwan, 4; Matt Celano, 3; Noah Whitehead, 2;  Charles Wu, bow

Second Varsity Eight
Andrew Lake, cox; Greg Hawxhurst, stroke; Tom Olivera, 7; Max Zinner, 6; Ryan Jones, 5; Kyle Schmidt, 4; Phillip Fletcher, 3; Erik Schiferle, 2; Mike Rawlings, bow

Freshman Eight
Seungki Lee, cox; Clemens Auersperg, stroke; Matt Lonski, 7; Connor Jones, 6; Ben Coombs, 5; Daniel Kolbe, 4; John Clap, 3; Nick Sinchak, 2; Brent Laurint, bow