ORCHARD BEACH, N.Y. -- At the conclusion of last week's Governor's Cup, head coach Scott Ramsey noted that his crews "were excited to see how we'll stack up against our competition in the league."
The answer, supplied in Saturday's Connell Cup regatta against Yale and Penn, is "very well indeed".
Columbia couldn't beat Yale in the varsity eights race, but stayed with the favored Bulldogs right down to the final meters before losing by just four seats. Penn was four more seats back in third, producing one of the tightest finishes the Orchard Beach Lagoon has seen in years.
That the varsity race would be that close became evident early in the contest. Columbia shot off the starting line into the lead, and held it. But the Lions were unable to shake the Bulldogs. Although they never gave up the lead, they could not open up a margin greater than two seats through the first 1000 meters.
At that point, though, Yale hit what Ramsey called "a really strong push," and moved out smartly. It gave the Bulldogs some room against Penn, which had rowed level with Columbia for much of the first 700 meters, but could only increase their margin over Columbia to about three or four seats.
With about 500 meters to go, Columbia made its move. It dislodged Penn from contention, but not Yale.
"We pushed," Ramsey said, "but Yale had a better sprint." Even so, the Bulldogs' final margin of victory was no more than four seats, 6:31.0 to 6:33.1, with Penn third in 6:34.8.
"We were disappointed with the result," Ramsey said. "We learned valuable lessons. We can't win if we don't row a complete race."
Like the varsity eight, the second varsity "went out looking to win its race," the coach noted.
Columbia was overpowered by Yale, he said, but rowed with a great deal of heart. "We were stroking very high to stay up with Yale," he recalled, "and that took its toll. In the last 500 meters, we could not sustain our speed.
"We rowed with a lot of guts."
The Lions' A varsity four joined Yale and Penn in a group for the first 700 meters, but was unable to keep pace with the Bulldogs when Yale opened a 1.5 length lead. It lost to Yale by 5.7 seconds, and to Penn by 1.8 seconds. The B four never really got going.   
Next Saturday, Columbus travels to Boston to defend the Woodbury Cup on the Charles River against Northeastern, with Dartmouth rowing as a guest. The first race is expected to go off around 7 a.m.
The results:

The Connell Cup
Columbia, Yale, Penn
March 24, 2012
Orchard Beach Lagoon, Bronx, N.Y.

Varsity Eights

1. Yale, 6:31.0
2. Columbia, 6:33.1
3. Penn, 6:34.8

Second Varsity Eights
1. Yale, 6:40.9
2. Columbia, 6:46.7
3. Penn, 7:01.4

Third Varsity Eights

1. Yale, 6:59.5
2. Penn, 7:17.1

Varsity Fours, A
1. Yale, 7:29.4
2. Penn, 7:35.1
3. Columbia, 7:36.9

Varsity Fours, B
1. Yale, 7:33.2
2. Penn, 7:49.0
3. Columbia, 8:14.7
4. Penn 3V, 8:17.5

Today's Boatings:

Varsity Eight
Stephanie Ngai, cox; Rebecca Randall, stroke; Samantha Warren, 7; Nikki Bourassa, 6; Alexandra Delaney, 5; Lily Keane, 4; Lottie Galliano, 3; Bailey Griswold, 2; Fiona Duffy, bow

Second Varsity Eight
Gabrielle Barilla, cox; McKenzie Largay, stroke; Karli McMenamin, 7; Sara Romano, 6; Katherine Bergstrom, 5; Kellie Solowski, 4; Natalie Rutherford, 3; Hilary Going, 2; Alexandra Swift, bow

Varsity Four, A
Clare Hua, cox; Jessica Werlin, stroke; Jocelyn Bohn, 3; Caitlin Shufelt, 2; Louisa Mink, bow

Varsity Four, B
Anais Rodriguez-Thompson, cox; Amelia Brunner, stroke; Sylvie Krekow, 3; Sara Hyten, 2; Nikki Tomm, bow