LEONIA, N.J. -- In a classic confrontation fought fiercely through its entire 2000 meters, Yale narrowly captured the 2012 Dodge Cup when it defeated Columbia by only 2.1 seconds Saturday.
The race, one of five in the Dodge Cup regatta in Overpeck Park among the men's lightweight crews of Yale, Penn, and the host Lions, matched three of the top 10 varsity lightweight crews in the latest U.S. Rowing poll.
Yale, the defending national lightweight champion, boasted three seniors and four juniors in its 2012 boat, plus two sophomores from its 2011 Eastern Sprits freshman gold medalist. But Columbia was able to counter with its own veteran crew, including four seniors, two juniors, and several sophomores from the Lions' 2012 Eastern Sprints silver medal winners.
With Yale ranked second only to Harvard this spring, Columbia sixth and Penn ninth, it figured to be a great race. Which is precisely what it was.
"It was a good, competitive race," head lightweight coach Scott Alwin said. "We are making progress. It was nice to see that on race day, as well as in practice."
Columbia got off to a fast start, and rowed right up with Yale and Penn in the first quarter of the race.
"We were happy to stay with the other crews in the first 500," Alwin said.
It quickly became apparent that Columbia had enough speed to compete with Yale, but the Bulldogs were able to muster more power.
Yale made a big move in the second 500, and was able to take over the lead. As Penn fell back, Columbia stayed right with the Bulldogs, often coming within three seats of the leaders. Yale, however, refused to relinquish the top spot.
The race came down to the wire, but Yale maintained its lead to the end, winning by 2.1 seconds, 5:57.3 to Columbia's 5:59.4, with Penn third in 6:12.2.
The Bulldogs also won the second varsity eights, by 6.5 seconds over Columbia, and the freshman eights, by 6.8 seconds over Penn, with Columbia 7.3 seconds behind the Quakers.
The Lions notched their only victory of the day in the Second Freshman Fours, edging Penn by 2.6 seconds.
"I'm pleased that the four got a victory," Alwin noted. "Those guys work hard! But they get very little attention and credit. They represented Columbia well."
Columbia will hit the highway next weekend, meeting MIT and Cornell in the Geiger Cup regatta on the Charles River Saturday, and Dartmouth for the Subin Cup Sunday in Hanover, N.H. Both races will be run in the morning -- the Geiger Cup tentatively slated to begin about 9:15, and the Subin Cup at 10:20.
The results of the Dodge Cup regatta:

The Dodge Cup
Columbia, Penn, Yale
April 14, 2012
Overpeck Lake, Leonia, N.J.

Varsity Eights

1. Yale, 5:57.3
2. Columbia, 5:59.4
3. Penn, 6:12.2

Second Varsity Eights
1. Yale, 6:09.6
2. Columbia, 6:16.1
3. Penn, 6:36.9

Third Varsity Eights
1. Penn, 6:41.1
2. Yale, 6:45.6

Freshman Eights
1. Yale, 6:15.9
2. Penn, 6:22.7
3. Columbia, 6:30.0

Second Freshman Fours
1. Columbia, 7:27.3
2. Penn, 7:29.9

Today's Boatings:

Varsity Eight
Stone Cao, cox; Daniel Kirrane, stroke; Bruno Salemme, 7; John O'Mara, 6; James Kahmann, 5; John Hold, 4; Curtis Kachline, 3; Noah Buckley, 2; James Winford, bow

Second Varsity Eight
Amelia Kudenholdt, cox; Roger Stone, stroke; Graham Pupo, 7; Blake Pinell, 6; John Zucchi, 5; Connor Dougherty, 4; Lane Brokaw, 3; Anders Smedsrud, 2; Chris Hatzis, bow

Freshman Eight
Logan Pirkl, cox; Griffin Whitlock, stroke; Ben Blair, 7; Fredrik Aasaaren, 6; Travis Simon, 5; Thabet Mahayni, 4; Matt Bellesheim, 3; Paul Nungesser, 2; Max Segall, bow

Second Freshman Four
Marial Quezada, cox; Steven Boyle, stroke; Moyo Ajayi, 3; Darius Grayer, 2; Jason Chin, bow