Crews Competitive in the Head of the Charles, Rowing's Fall Spectacular
Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics/Gene Boyars
BOSTON, Mass. — Competing before tens of thousands of rowing enthusiasts who packed the waters and overflowed the banks of the Charles River, Columbia's three eights acquitted themselves well in the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta Sunday.
The Lion heavyweight eight finished 11th in a field of 35 in the Championship Heavyweight Eights race, and the women were 13th of 30 in the Championship Women's Eight, excelling at what head women's coach Melanie Onufrieff calls "one of the biggest spectacles in the sport, maybe all sports."
The men's lightweights also turned in a solid performance, finishing seventh in a field of 21, but were stung by a one-minute penalty that set them back to 18th place.
The three-mile "head race" was the first competition of the fall season for Columbia's women and heavyweight men, and the coaches were pleased.
"We did what we wanted to do," Onufrieff said. "The fall is key preparation for the spring. This shows that we are progressing well."
Although many of her rowers were new to both the event and the Charles River course, they more than met the challenges of a course that features turns, twists and bridges. Their rowing created opportunities to pass a number of crews.
Onufrieff gave much of the credit to her coxswain, Shannon Sullivan, a first-year student. "Shannon has raced on the Charles before," the coach said. "She did an outstanding job of managing the course."
Heavyweight head coach Mike Zimmer called his eight's showing "a pretty good result, very good for their first race."
With so much "traffic" on the river, crews have to be able to pass, and no one passed much better than the heavyweight eight. "We started way back," Zimmer noted, "but we got through quite a few crews."
The coach also had high praise for his coxswain, Janelle Geddes.
"Janelle did a fantastic job!" Zimmer said. "She had never coxed on the Charles before, but she prepared really well for this. She watched video of past races." Geddes was the starting coxswain for last spring's varsity eight. The coach also praised junior Mike Rawlings, rowing stroke for the first time.
Zimmer was most pleased with his team's consistent row, although he saw several things the Lions need to work on before their next competition.
Head men's lightweight coach Scott Alwin thoroughly enjoyed his crew's performance, at least until the penalty was assessed.
"We rowed a really good piece," he said. "We were nice and aggressive. We were a little sloppy in the third mile, but it was a clean race."
Columbia's seventh-place finish assured them of an automatic bid to next season's Head of the Charles, a benefit they lost due to the penalty.
The mishap allegedly occurred at the beginning of the third mile, a long turn to the coxswain's left. As Columbia went into the turn, a crew came up from behind to pass. According to the race rules, the Lion eight was required to make way for the passing crew, moving to the right or left.
"At first our coxswain didn't realize that the other boat wanted to pass," Alwin explained. "Halfway through the turn, when he realized it, he started to yield. He yielded, but not early enough, according to the race official there.
"We were assessed a one-minute penalty for 'interference - failure to yield', setting us back to 18th."
Alwin absolved his coxswain of any blame.
"He rowed an aggressive, competitive course," the coach noted. "I thought he was competitive, but certainly not unsportsmanlike." Alwin entered an appeal of the decision, but it was disallowed.
The Head of the Charles marked the completion of the lightweights' fall campaign. The women and heavyweights compete next Sunday, October 31, in the Princeton Chase on the Tigers' Lake Carnegie.
The results:

The Head of the Charles Regatta (three-mile head races)
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Charles River, Boston, Mass.

Women's Championship Eights

13th of 30, 16:39.377
Shannon Sullivan, cox; Nikki Bourassa, stroke; Fiona Duffy, 7; Kasey Koopmans, 6; Katie Mitchell, 5; Alex Hammerberg, 4; Samantha Warren, 3; Rebecca Randall, 2; McKenzie Largay, bow

Heavyweight Championship Eights

11th of 35, 14:23.010
Janelle Geddes, cox; Mike Rawlings, stroke; Ian Winthrop, 7; Sam Collins, 6; Matt Celano, 5; Ben Coombs, 4; Mike Donohue, 3; Tom Olivera, 2; Connor Jones, bow

Lightweight Championship Eights
7th of 21, 14:36.989 (set back to 18th of 21 due to a one-minute penalty)
Jesse Qualliotine, cox; Daniel Kirrane, stroke; Bruno Salemme, 7; John O'Mara, 6; James Kahmann, 5; John Hold, 4; Alexander Simmonds, 3; Anders Smedsrud, 2; Curtis Kachline, bow