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 VOL. 23, NO. 24JUNE 12, 1998 

Men’s Crew Finishes 2nd in the Nation

On to the Henley Royal Regatta

Dan Richman, CC‘98, adorned with his silver medal, rests after the race. Photo by Bill Steinman.


On a 2-kilometer stretch of the Cooper River in Camden, N.J. on May 29, Columbia’s Lightweight Varsity Crew stroked to a silver medal in the national rowing championships, and to a place in the University’s athletic pantheon.

  Its showing at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships (IRA) ranks Columbia’s varsity boat second in the country, the best performance of a Lion crew in more than a quarter-century. And the victory will send the crew across the Atlantic, to the Henley Royal Regatta in England.

  But for Columbia, crossing the finish line at the IRA ahead of Harvard and Yale and just two seconds behind Princeton’s undefeated eight marked the arrival of not only a great crew among the country’s perennial rowing powers, but of an entire program. Beginning perhaps when the seniors in this boat were freshmen, Columbia has fought its way steadily into the group of lightweight rowing’s elite collegiate crews—a group dominated by the H-Y-P triad. The race on the Cooper River proved that the Lions had at last won that fight.

  “We’ve worked tremendously hard for this, and we’ve gotten faster with every race,” Tom Terhaar, Columbia’s lightweight crew coach, said. “It’s good to be up there with the fastest, finally.”

  This spring the Varsity, JV and 1st Freshman boats posted identical 7–1 regular-season records, losing only to Yale. The freshmen would avenge their loss at the Eastern Sprints, the post-season regatta that gathers the best crews in this half of the country (only lightweight varsities also go on to the IRA). They took the silver behind Princeton, a rival not on the Lions’ regular-season schedule. The JVs also won a medal, the bronze, losing only to Princeton and Yale.

  With the Varsity’s fourth place—edged for third at the final stroke by Yale—the Columbia lightweights had their best showing ever at the Sprints.

  In the Jope Cup, the competition based on a team’s overall performance at the Eastern Sprints, Columbia—in a tie for second with Yale—was beaten only by Princeton.

  Extraordinary as this performance was, it did not come unexpectedly to followers of collegiate rowing.

  “Columbia’s results have been among the best [by] lightweight crews in the country for the past couple of years under the tutelage of Tom Terhaar,” wrote Chip Davis in an article from the Independent Rowing News that was reprinted in the IRA program. Davis’s confidence in the Lions’ potential was such that he went on to claim that “Columbia could go home with a medal, including the gold.”

Perfect Day for a Race

At the IRA the light-blues made Davis appear clairvoyant by clocking the second-fastest time in the morning heats without really pushing themselves. For the final that afternoon, a large crowd gathered to watch in perfect racing conditions: flat water, without wind or current to so much as ruffle it, and plenty of sunshine. The six crews blasted off the start together, but it wasn’t long before Cornell and Rutgers slipped back. Columbia stuck with the lead pack of Harvard, Yale and Princeton, having learned from its overcautious start at the Sprints that, once down, it was nearly impossible to come back on them.

  With 1000 meters gone and 1000 to go, Princeton made a move to the front. Columbia responded, easily passing Yale and getting well up on Harvard. In the final several hundred meters Princeton sprinted. The Lions didn’t counter the Tigers this time, though. Seeing that they didn’t have the water to take back from Princeton what they had lost, the Lions decided to consolidate their brilliant showing by keeping Yale and Harvard well in their wake as the boats churned the final meters to the finish.

  A huge roar hailed Columbia’s name as the loudspeaker boomed the race results to the crowd evidently delighted to learn of a newcomer in the elite’s midst.

  “It was awesome,” Terhaar said.

On to Henley

But the coach remains undistracted despite the elation surrounding the IRA and the plans to go on to England’s Henley Royal Regatta, July 1st through 5th, where the crew will have another chance to dethrone the Tigers, and the talk by Harvard and Princeton of scheduling regular season races against Columbia.

  “From now on it’s not going to get any easier,” he said, “but now that we know we can get in the medals, our next step is to win.”