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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Columbia's varsity women's eight exploded off the starting line at the Connell Cup regatta with such speed and power, it leapt into the lead and never relinquished it, besting both Yale and Penn to win its first Connell Cup Varsity Eights race ever.
    
"We exploded off the line," head coach Scott Ramsey recalled. "We got into a strong base rhythm and kept pushing."
    
Rowing races often are decided in the first 500 meters. Columbia's varsity eights race certainly was.
    
"We took control in the first 500 meters," Ramsey said. Referring to one of the landmarks on the Schuylkill River course, he said that, "We turned right at the Strawberry Mansion. We were in Lane One on the outside of the turn. When we came out of the turn still ahead, we were in a very strong position."
    
 Guided skillfully by freshman coxswain Aneesha Baliga, the Lions poured it on. At one point, Yale drew within abut one length, only to see Columbia pull away.
    
"Yale is always strong," the coach said. "When you prepare for a race with Yale, you're preparing for a fight."
    
"Give all the credit to our rowers," Ramsey urged. "There's a lot of training volume in our program. We put them through a lot. The same goes for our second varsity and our fours.
    
"We have the top-end speed we need to be competitive nationally. We need that kind of speed in our 2V and fours."
    
Columbia showed that speed when it hurtled across the finish line, wire-to-wire in 6:21.1, 5.6 seconds ahead of Yale's 6:26.7, with Penn right on the Bulldogs' heels at 6:29.9.
    
Unfortunately, Columbia was unable to beat Yale in any other races, finishing second to the New Haven school, but ahead of Penn n the second varsity, varsity fours A, and varsity fours B. That cost the Lions the Connell Cup, which was awarded to the winner of the aggregate results, rather than solely the varsity eights kingpin.
    
But that did nothing to diminish Columbia's accomplishment, as Ramsey noted. A native of the Philadelphia area who rowed countless times on the Schuylkill while in high school and attending Penn, he admitted that "the river and city are dear to me, and always will be. I learned to row here, I learned to coach here.
    
"Our win in the varsity eights race of the Connell Cup was my favorite ever on the Schuylkill, and I think the best for our rowers. Give them all the credit; they had something to prove."
    
Columbia makes its home debut next Saturday, meeting Princeton at Overpeck Park in Ridgefield Park, N.J., at 10 a.m. One day later, Sunday, April 7, Columbia attempts to bring the Woodbury Cup, named in honor of the late Melanie Woodbury, back to New York when it meets Northeastern, the present cup holder, and Dartmouth at Overpeck Park at 1 PM.

Today's results:

The Connell Cup
Columbia, Yale, Penn
March 30, 2013
Schuylkill River, Philadelphia, Pa.

Varsity Eights
1. COLUMBIA, 6:21.1
2. Yale, 6:26.7
3. Penn, 6:29.9

Second Varsity Eights
1. Yale, 6:28.0
2. COLUMBIA, 6:46.9
3. Penn, 6:47.6

Third Varsity Eights
1. Penn 3V, 6:55.3
2. Penn 4V, 7:04.9
3. Yale, 7:11.2

Varsity Fours A
1. Yale, 7:17.4
2. COLUMBIA, 7:29.5
3. Penn, 7:34.6

Second Fours B
1. Yale, 7:21.7
2. COLUMBIA, 7:29.5
3. Penn, 7:34.6

Connell Cup standings: Yale 21, COLUMBIA 18, Penn 6

Today's Boatings:

Varsity Eight
Aneesha Baliga, cox; Rebecca Randall, stroke; Fiona Duffy, 7; Samantha Warren, 6; Amelia Brunner, 5; Karli McMenamin, 4; Jocelyn Bohn, 3; Nikki Bourassa, 2; Lottie Galliano, bow

Second Varsity Eight
Clare Hua, cox; India Knight, stroke; Kellie Solowski, 7; Caitlin Shufelt, 6; Alexandra Delaney, 5; Jessica Werlin, 4; Hilary Going, 3; Alexandra Swift, 2; Sylvie Krekow, bow

Varsity Four, A
Jill Klein, cox; Natalie Rutherford, stroke; Elisa Mirkil, 3; Colleen Condon, 2; Carli Tashjian, bow

Varsity Four, B
Madeline O'Brien, stroke; Sara Hyten, 3; Lauren Peirce, 2; Hayley Weil, bow

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