That was the watchword of the lightweight crews in the late 1990's and early 21st century.
"Whatever It Takes." That was Columbia's head lightweight coach, Nich Lee Parker, as he spoke to the rowers and assembled guests who had gathered for the award presentations following a wind-ravaged day of rowing at Overpeck Lake.
"Whatever It Takes." Parker uttered the words again. He had spoken with alumni of that era, and had learned their significance.
"They had the letters on tee shirts," he said, and more. "WIT. This is how we race, this is how we live."
Established by the rowers of the Columbia Class of 1998, the WIT Cup was earmarked for the winner of the Columbia-Rutgers lightweight varsity eights. But when the Rutgers administration withdrew funding for men's rowing in 2006, the Scarlet Knight lightweights faded into history.
The Cup was revived this season, for the winner of the Columbia-Navy varsity lightweight race. Princeton joined the fray after their race with Navy was canceled due to ice.
And so it was, as the Lions, Tigers and Midshipmen battled the fierce winds, and each other Saturday, in the varsity eights race for the WIT Cup, Columbia lightweight captain James Winford and his boatmates called once again on the magic in those words: "Whatever It Takes."
"It was rough out there," Winford said, shortly after his eight had defeated second-ranked Princeton (by one second!) and fourth-ranked Navy. "Columbia had been up by one length at 1000 meters. But at the 1000-meter mark, you hit the wall."
The blasting crosswind at the 1000 virtually brought crews to a stop. "We fell behind, and Princeton went in front. Going into the last 250 meters, they led, but we all thought of WIT, Whatever It Takes. WIT mentally brought us back in that last 250."
Suddenly here came the Lions. "We really cranked the last 250," Winford recalled. It was barely enough, as Columbia came up on Princeton and nipped the Tigers at the line by a tenth of a second, 6:03.2 to 6:03.3, with Navy third in 6:13.4.
The race was the last of the day, as race official Reagan Johnston called off the rest of the racing due to the winds playing havoc with the water surface. Just before she called it, Princeton had won the second varsity eights, in 6:15.0 to Columbia's 6:19.4 and Navy's 6:26.0.
"Those were pretty amazing races in the last two races of the day," Princeton head coach Marty Crotty told the crowd at the awards ceremony. The newly-revived WIT Cup was presented to Columbia, the Murtaugh Cup to Princeton, and the venerable Little Man also went to the Tigers.
The Lions row in the Dodge Cup on the Housatonic next Saturday, against Yale and Penn.
The WIT Cup (Columbia vs. Navy)
The Murtaugh Cup (Princeton vs. Navy)
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Overpeck Lake, Leonia, N.J.
1. COLUMBIA, 6:03.2
2. Princeton, 6:03.3
3. Navy, 6:13.4
Second Varsity Eights
1. Princeton, 6:15.0
2. COLUMBIA, 6:19.4
3. Navy, 6:28.0
Third Varsity Eights
1. Princeton, 6:29.1
2. COLUMBIA, 6:31.8
3. Navy, 6:41.4
Fourth Varsity Eights
1. Navy, 6:45.3
2. Princeton, 6:52.9
3. COLUMBIA, 7:51.7
Fifth Varsity Eights - canceled due to wind conditions
Today's Columbia Boatings
Erica Cunningham, cox; Griffin Whitlock, stroke; Petros Krommidas, 7; Fredrik Aasaaren, 6; Jacob Buczek, 5; Matt Bellesheim, 4; David Mottola, 3; Connor Dougherty, 2; James Winford, bow
Second Varsity Eight
Yih-Jen Ku, cox; Anders Smedsrud, stroke; Steven Boyle, 7; Colin Ross, 6; Max Fenner, 5; Oliver Gruterich, 4; Bryan Ptucha, 3; Oliver Ingram, 2; Lane Brokaw, bow
Third Varsity Eight
Darius Grayer, bow; A. Bartholomew, stroke; Ben Blair, 7; Chris Hatzis, 6; Daniel Puttman, 5; John Hold, 4; Brian McGrattan, 3; Noah Rivkin, 2; Conor Murphy, bow
Fourth Varsity Eight
Julia Gron, cox; Warner Brown, stroke; Colm Smith, 7; Max Segall, 6; Thabet Mahayni, 5; Ben Deal, 4; Jason Swann, 3; Ryan Madani, 2; Solomon Seckler, bow
Fifth Varsity Eight
Julia Gron, cox; Warner Brown, stroke; Colm Smith, 7; Max Segall, 6; Thabet Mahayni, 5; Ben Deal, 4; Christopher Chang, 3; Ryan Madani, 2; Solomon Seckler, bow