ORCHARD BEACH, N.Y. — They hurtled down the Orchard Beach Lagoon course, four abreast, four of the top ten freshman eights in the latest EARC lightweight rankings. As most of the huge crowd — as many as 300, by one estimate — craned their necks in anticipation, the final four boats headed for the finish line.
   
As first MIT and then Georgetown dropped off the pace, Columbia and Cornell picked it up, with Columbia's fourth-ranked Lion Cubs beating the top-ranked Big Red by 5.3 seconds.
   
The victory was the only one for Columbia, as Cornell won two races, including the varsity eights for the Geiger Cup, and MIT took the other.
   
Columbia actually led after 1000 meters, the halfway point on the 2000-meter course. "If only the race could have ended at 1000 meters," head lightweight coach Scott Alwin mused. That was a result of the race plan.
   
"They did what we wanted," Alwin said. "We wanted them to be near the front at the 1000-meter mark, challenging for the lead." Unfortunately, Columbia could not stay up with Cornell and Georgetown in the second 1000, falling off the pace. "They paid the price for that first 1000," the coach said.
   
Cornell, which had lost to Yale in Connecticut Saturday morning, came through in the afternoon, with a victory in 5:59.6, a scant 4/10 of a second in front of Georgetown. The Lions were third in 6:04.6, followed by MIT's 6:23.9.
   
Columbia finished third behind two Cornell eights in the second varsity race, rallying to overtake Georgetown, and was second in the Freshman Fours, ahead of Georgetown but trailing MIT.
   
The freshman eights race featured the top-ranked Big Red, Columbia (4th), Georgetown (5th) and MIT (10th). Befitting their rankings, they got off the starting line together, and remained close through the first 500 meters.
   
That's when Cornell pulled away, to a full length lead by 1000 meters. "Our guys rowed a very mature race," freshman coach Ed Golding noted. "They recognized we were still in it."
   
Columbia began to move in the third 500, making up water on the Red and finally drawing even with 500 to go. Cornell tried to hold the Lions off, but, possibly fatigued from its morning race at Yale, the Red could not do it. The Lions rowed right through Cornell, to the cheers of the crowd, in the final 250 meters. "We have always been able to close well," Golding said.
   
Columbia won the race, the final one of the day, in 6:12.5, to 6:17.5 for Cornell, 6:29.3 for Georgetown, and MIT's 6:41.5.
   
The Lions have one more obstacle to overcome — Dartmouth in the Subin Cup, to be rowed Sunday on the Connecticut River, beginning at 12:20 p.m. "Now," Golding said, "it's staying focused until then."


   
After being wracked by high winds and driving rain in the morning, the Orchard Beach Lagoon was absolutely calm for the lightweights, whose first race was at 4 p.m. "An Easter blessing," Alwin called it.

   
Two mainstays of Columbia rowing support were honored after the racing when rowing pairs were christened with their names. The honorees, both former Lion lightweights, were David Charlow '85CC, '92Busn., and David Filosa '82CC.
   
Today's results:

The Geiger Cup
Columbia, Cornell, MIT  (Georgetown rowing as a guest)
April 23, 2011
Orchard Beach Lagoon, Pelham, N.Y.

Varsity Eights

1. Cornell, 5:59.6
2. Georgetown, 6:00.0
3. Columbia, 6:04.6
4. MIT, 6:23.9

Second Varsity Eights
1. Cornell 2V, 6:08.6
2. Cornell 3V, 6:18.3
3. Columbia, 6:27.0
4. Georgetown, 6:42.4

Freshman Eights
1. Columbia, 6:12.5
2. Cornell, 6:17.5
3. Georgetown, 6:29.3
4. MIT, 6:41.5

Freshman Fours
1. MIT, 7:16.7
2. Columbia, 7:26.6
3. Georgetown A, 7:29.7
4. Georgetown B, 7:33.6

Today's Boatings vs. MIT, Cornell, Georgetown:

Varsity Eight
Stone Cao, cox; Daniel Kirrane, stroke; Bruno Salemme, 7; John O'Mara, 6; James Kahmann, 5; Tucker Haunt, 4; Matt Hayto, 3; Brian Nickel, 2; Graham Pupo, bow

Second Varsity Eight
Jesse Qualliotine, cox; James Brown, stroke; John Zucchi, 7; Blake Pinell, 6; Alexander Ciucci, 5; Noah Buckley, 4; Carlos Rodriguez Castillo, 3; Tim Reichmann, 2; Elliott Velson, bow

Freshman Eight
Amelia Kudenholdt, cox; Anders Smedsrud, stroke; Curtis Kachline, 7; Connor Dougherty, 6; Chris Hatzis, 5; John Hold, 4; Steven Boyle, 3; Roger Stone, 2; James Winford, bow

Freshman Four
Erica Cunningham, cox; Elliot Meade, stroke; Youngmook Lim, 3; Jason Chin, 2; Moyo Ajayi, bow