FELLSMERE, Fla. — Eight-five degrees and sunny every day? Not only is it every vacationer's dream, it fulfilled the hopes of Columbia's rowing coaches and athletes, who saw their spring seasons open with fine showings in the Governor's Cup regatta.
"It was some of the best weather I've ever had in training," head women's coach Melanie Onufrieff said, as she pointed one of the Lions' boat trailers up I-95 back to Manhattan.
"It was a good week," she continued. "We still have work to do before we open up north, but we did the preliminary [work] in setting our boats for the season."
For the second year in a row, the Columbia women rowed five races in the regatta, and won all five. Only one race even appeared close, the freshman/novice eights, but Columbia, represented by its third varsity eight, was never threatened, winning by a comfortable length, 4.5 seconds ahead of Nova Southeastern.
The Lions won the varsity eights by 15 seconds, the second varsity eights by 45.5 seconds, and the two fours races by 24 and 12 seconds.
"All of our crews raced well," the coach said. "They raced well and hard."
Heavyweight coach Mike Zimmer was equally pleased with his crews.
"It was a great week of training," he said, "and today was a pretty good day of racing."
Columbia faced its toughest competition in its two varsity eights races, against Florida Tech, the host school at Canal 54 in this Melbourne suburb, and Jacksonville. In fact, the Lions had to come from behind to beat FIT, as it is known, in their first race of the day.
"FIT was quick off the line, like last year," Zimmer said, as he too rode a trailer up I-95. "They got off to a good lead early, 6-7 seats in the first 200 meters. After 500 meters, they led by a full length."
Columbia, Zimmer was pleased to see, kept its poise despite falling behind.
"We were ready for that," he said. "We tried to establish a consistent pace." By the halfway point, the Lions had reduced the Panthers' lead to five or seven seats. In the third 500, they made a key move to take the lead, and yet another move in the final 500 put them up by a full length. Columbia won in 5:47.9, 5.1 seconds ahead of FIT's 5:53.0.
"They rowed a really solid race," Zimmer enthused. "I was happy to win with such a young boat." Just three rowers took the water with varsity first boat experience, joining four sophomores.
Like FIT, Jacksonville jumped off the starting line, and Columbia jumped with them. By the second 500, Columbia had moved into the lead, expanding it in the third 50 on the way to a victory in 6:3.8, 14.5 seconds ahead of the Dolphins.
The heavyweights' other races were shared with the Columbia lightweights. The heavies won the second varsity eights by 11.8 seconds over the lightweights, and the freshman eights by 10 seconds over the lights, Jacksonville trailing in both. The heavies also won the varsity fours.
Despite facing a headwind, the second varsity "led wire-to-wire," as Zimmer recalled, and the freshmen "got off to a good start and really maintained their base speed."
Although outweighed by heavyweight shells in every race, Columbia's lightweights also rowed well. "It was," head coach Scott Alwin said, "a good week of training and race preparation."
The lightweights earned seconds behind the Columbia heavyweights in the second varsity and freshman eights, beating Jacksonville by five and 43 seconds, respectively. The four also finished second.
Columbia appeared to win one of its two varsity eights races, finishing second in the other, but the victory, over Jacksonville and Philadelphia University, was vacated by the official, who ruled that Columbia's shell had impeded the Dolphins. The Lion coaches appealed the ruling, but lost the appeal "on a technicality", as the shell was put back to second.
Although the official results did not include times, Alwin had them as 5:56.6 for Columbia, 5:58.1 for Jacksonville.
"I'm proud of our guys," he said. "They had a race they can be proud of."
In their other varsity eights race, the lightweights were just nipped by the FIT heavyweights, 6:01.6 to 6:02.9, with Philly U. third in 6:44.9.
The lightweights will remain on the shore next Saturday, March 26, but the women and heavyweights both begin the northern portion of their schedules.
The women travel to Yale to face Penn and the Bulldogs in the Connell Cup, while the heavyweights face Rutgers for the Collins Cup on the Raritan River. The lightweights make their debut April 2 with a rowing "doubleheader"; they oppose Princeton and Georgetown on the Tigers' Lake Carnegie Saturday morning, then remain there to meet Delaware in the afternoon.
Canal 54, Fellsmere, Fla.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Men's Rowing (Columbia)
Varsity Heavyweight Eights, Flight 1
1. Columbia, 5:47.9
2. Florida Tech (FIT), 5:53.0
1. Columbia, 6:03.8
2. Jacksonville, 6:17.8
1. Jacksonville Hwt, no time
2. Columbia 1V Lwt, no time
3. Philadelphia U. Hwt, no time
Note: Columbia set back to second by official's decision. Jacksonville awarded victory.
Varsity Eights, Flight 3
1. FIT Hwt, 6:01.6
2. Columbia Lwt, 6:02.9
3. Philadelphia U. Hwt, 6:44.9
Second Varsity Eights
1. Columbia 2V Hwt, 6:02.8
2. Columbia 2V Lwt, 6:14.6
3. Jacksonville Hwt, 6:17.7
1. Columbia 1F Hwt, 5:59.3
2. Columbia 1F Lwt, 6:09.4
3. Jacksonville Hwt, 6:52.7
1. Columbia Hwt, 7:00.1
2. Columbia Lwt, 7:23.1
Women's Rowing (Columbia)
1. Columbia, 6:44.1
2. Jacksonville, 6:59.8
3. FIT, 7:18.3
Second Varsity Eights
1. Columbia, no time
2. Jacksonville, 45.5 seconds behind
1. Columbia 3V, 7:24.4
2. Nova Southeastern, 7:28.9
3. Central Oklahoma, 8:08.4
1. Columbia, 7:44.7
2. FIT, 8:08.6
3. Jacksonville, 8:11.5
Second Varsity Fours
1. Columbia, 7:44.9
2. Nova Southeastern, 7:56.8