WASHINGTON, D.C. — On a weekend when all of Washington faced chaos due to the possible government shutdown, the Columbia women's crew brought order to the Potomac, winning 12 of 13 races to once again capture the women's championship of the George Washington Invitational Regatta, and carrying the United States colors to victory when its varsity eight triumphed over Oxford University in the inaugural Potomac Challenge Cup.
Although the president and Congress deserved most of the credit for averting the shutdown, Columbia did its part Saturday when it bathed the Washington Harbour area in a calming Columbia Blue by winning nine of 10 races.
The Lions picked up where they left off Saturday as the A and B varsity fours, racing in the same event, went 1-2 to beat out St. Joseph's of Philadelphia. Columbia's second varsity eight triumphed over two St. Joe's crews, the 2V and 3V.
But neither race was easy, as the Hawks proved an aggressive breed of predator.
In the varsity fours, featuring Columbia's A and B boats in the same race, it was the B's who took the lead off the line. The B's opened up a lead until the Lion A boat got into action.
The A boat caught up to the B's, and rowed through them into the lead, only to see St. Joseph's come up quickly. By the conclusion of the 2000 meters, though, the A boat had eked out a win by about 3/4 of a length, with the fast-closing Hawks just one to two seats behind the B.
St. Joe's ganged up on the Lions in the second varsity eights, sending its second and third varsities to the line in the same race.
The two second varsities got off to good starts. Columbia soon shifted down to its base rowing pace, expecting St. Joe's to follow suit.
The Hawks, however, stepped up their pace, opening up a solid one-length lead by the time they, too, shifted down to their base.
Showing no sign of panic or haste, Columbia kept up a steady pace. It began to come back on the Hawks, reducing the margin more and more. When the Lions finally drew even with the Hawks, they hardly paused, then poured it on again. Columbia went up by half a length, expanded it to a full length, and then to open water. The Lions flashed across the finish line in 6:42.5, 5.6 seconds better than St. Joseph's 6:48.1, with the 3V well back in 7:05.1
Those victories set the stage for the inaugural Potomac Challenge Cup. Much of Washington's rowing fandom, probably seeking a respite from government anxieties, turned out for the Cup, overflowing the finish line area and even crowding the reviewing stand. It would be the Columbia women vs. Oxford for the women's cup, and the Navy men, also vs. Oxford, in the men's competition. There were also Petite Finals featuring the other international, Brock University of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.
Although the Oxford eight wasn't entirely made up of Oxford Blues, the famed full varsity, it still represented a challenge for the Lions. But Columbia jumped out to a good start and began to build on it.
The Lions moved out to a full length lead, with Oxford mounting a futile challenge. The U.S. representatives — the race announcer never referred to the schools as Columbia and Oxford, but always the United States and the United Kingdom — were up by open water after 500 meters, drew further and further away, finally winning by two to three lengths of open water, 6:33.1 to 6:46.6.
At the conclusion of the Challenge Cup races, the four crews rowed in review past the reviewing stand. Cup officials then came out to each crew in turn as they waited on the Potomac. Each member of the winning boats stood, in the shells, to receive their medals and wave to the crowd.
"George Washington really did a nice job," head coach Melanie Onufrieff said. "It was an impressive ceremony."
In addition to the Potomac Challenge Cup, Columbia received the Wilkins Bowl for the third straight season as the overall women's champion of the George Washington Invitational Regatta.
Columbia will be off next Saturday. The Lions return to competition Saturday April 23, in the Dunn Bowl regatta against Brown and Cornell in Providence.
The George Washington Invitational Regatta
Sunday, April 10, 2011 (Day Two)
Potomac River, Washington, D.C.
Second Varsity Eights
1. Columbia, 6:42.5
2. St. Joseph's 2V, 6:48.1
3. St. Joseph's 3V, 7:05.1
Varsity Fours, A & B
1. Columbia A, 7:26.8
2. Columbia B, 7:30.5
3. St. Joseph's, 7:31.0
Potomac Challenge Cup (Inaugural)
Women's Eights, Championship Final
1. Columbia (US), 6:33.1
2. Oxford University (UK), 6:46.6
Columbia wins the inaugural Potomac Challenge Cup for Women's Eights. Navy won the inaugural Potomac Challenge Cup for Men's Eights, also over Oxford.
Boatings at GW Invitational:
Stephanie Ngai, cox; Nikki Bourassa, stroke; McKenzie Largay, 7; Alex Hammerberg, 6; Katie Mitchell, 5; Lily Keane, 4; Meredith Mead, 3; Rebecca Randall, 2; Samantha Warren, bow
Second Varsity Eight
Shannon Sullivan, cox; Kasey Koopmans, stroke; Fiona Duffy, 7; Bailey Griswold, 6; Mary Nemeth, 5; Natalie Rutherford, 4; Lottie Galliano, 3; Kenzie Bess, 2; Luisa Isbell, bow
Varsity Four A
Gabrielle Barilla, cox; Hilary Going, stroke; Alexandra Angelo, 3; Tamar Nisbett, 2; Karli McMenamin, bow
Varsity Four B
Jessica Geiger, cox; Jennifer Wukawitz, stroke; Jessica Werlin, 3; Louisa Mink, 2; Kellie Solowski, bow