PRINCETON, N.J. -- What a difference a week makes. For Columbia women's head coach Scott Ramsey, it made all the difference in the world.
Just a week ago, Ramsey had been numbed by disappointment in his women's rowers, who had committed numerous errors in a regatta with Northeastern and Dartmouth. Saturday, though, Ramsey could not contain his enthusiasm for the Lions' strong showing in the Class of 1975 Cup regatta against Princeton, Radcliffe and Cornell on Lake Carnegie.
"We had an excellent day of racing!" Ramsey exclaimed after his rowers had departed Princeton. "Last week was tough, but they learned to handle disappointment and deal with it. We learned to do well in adverse conditions."
Those conditions posed a formidable challenge for the Lions in the regatta, in which thy were rowing as guests. They were facing three schools in the nation's top 20 -- Princeton, sixth in the latest CRCA poll, Radcliffe (11th) and Cornell (16th) -- as well as strong winds and choppy water that attacked Lake Carnegie.
This week, though, as Ramsey noted, "we responded to the conditions. [In the varsity eights race] we got off to a fast start, with the other schools. The whole pack was close for the first 300 meters; at the 500-meter mark, we were hit by a strong headwind. All four crews hit a wall of wind."
Last week, that would have ended Columbia's chances. This week, though, they handled it well, staying right with the leaders.
Princeton moved into a narrow lead by the halfway point of the 2000-meter race, but could not pull away. In the third 500, Columbia really tightened the race, pulling a few seats up on Radcliffe, as Cornell pulled to within a few seats of the Lions.
In the last 500, Ramsey recalled, "It was anybody's race. Princeton took the lead, but we kicked it and moved away from Radcliffe and Cornell."
The Tigers finished first in the thriller in 7:14.1, with Columbia second in 7:19.1, Radcliffe 1.3 seconds behind in 7:20.4, and Cornell just half a second further back in 7:20.9.
The boat that carried the Lions to within five seconds of victory was not the same as the one that rowed against Northeastern and Dartmouth.  Ramsey and his staff made many personnel and seat changes, none more important than the elevation of sophomore Karli McMenamin from the second varsity to the varsity's seventh seat.
"Karli's been firing on all cylinders," Ramsey said. "She brought that fire to the crew. She has been rowing very well, with very good technique."
Ramsey also praised the former occupant of the seven seat, Samantha Warren, who moved into No. 6 with ease. "Sam brings power and poise," he said.
The second varsity eight also found itself in a hotly-contested race, finishing five seconds behind Princeton for first, but only 1.5 seconds behind Radcliffe for second.
Ramsey praised their race, noting that they did well maintaining speed through the entire middle 1000, and then pouring it on at the end.
"We kicked it up in the fourth 500," he said. "They are disappointed they could not overtake Radcliffe. Later in the year, they'll be able to do that."
Columbia's two fours did not row well, but that was a consequence, Ramsey explained, of injuries and illness disrupting the makeup of the boats. "They did as well as they could," he said.
 The Lions are off the water next weekend. They next compete April 21 in the Dunn Bowl regatta at Cornell with Brown.
Today's results:
The Class of 1975 Cup
Princeton, Radcliffe, Cornell; Columbia rowing as a guest
April 7, 2012
Lake Carnegie, Princeton, N.J.

Varsity Eights

1. Princeton, 7:14.1
2. Columbia, 7:19.1
3. Radcliffe, 7:20.4
4. Cornell, 7:20.9

Second Varsity Eights
1. Princeton, 7:16.9
2. Radcliffe, 7:20.4
3. Columbia, 7:21.9
4. Cornell, 7:25.6

Varsity Fours, A
1. Princeton, 8:05.4
2. Radcliffe, 8:10.1
3. Cornell, 8:10.6
4. Columbia, 8:41.7

Varsity Fours, B
1. Radcliffe, 8:30.6
2. Cornell, 8:39.8
3. Princeton, 8:59.5
4. Columbia, 9:09.7

Today's Boatings:

Varsity Eight
Gabrielle Barilla, cox; McKenzie Largay, stroke; Karli McMenamin, 7; Samantha Warren, 6; Nikki Bourassa, 5; Sara Romano, 4; Bailey Griswold, 3; Lottie Galliano, 2; Rebecca Randall, bow

Second Varsity Eight
Stephanie Ngai, cox; Jessica Werlin, stroke; Fiona Duffy, 7; Katherine Bergstrom, 6; Jocelyn Bohn, 5; Lily Keane, 4; Kellie Solowski, 3; Alexandra Swift, 2; Hilary Going, bow

Varsity Four A

Clare Hua, cox; Amelia Brunner, stroke; Caitlin Shufelt, 3; Natalie Rutherford, 2; Louisa Mink, bow

Varsity Four B
Anais Rodriguez-Thompson, cox; Nikki Tomm, stroke; Sara Hyten, 3; Nora Long, 2; Shani Watler, bow