Lightweight Crew Wins National Title

a crew team wearing medals and hoisting a trophy cup

Mike McLaughlin / Columbia Athletics

Lightweight crew won its second Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Collegiate Championship in three years on June 3, defeating Princeton by four seats on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J., to cap a highly successful season.

The Lions swept all of their regular season cup races for the first time since 2000 and lost only once, at Harvard on April 8. They avenged that loss by winning the Eastern Sprints — again for the first time since 2000, with Princeton second followed by Penn and then Harvard — and the IRAs, where Harvard finished third.

The final of the IRAs was held in extremely windy conditions, with the crews facing heavy headwinds for the first part of the race. Columbia got off to a rough start but quickly righted itself and took an early lead, with Princeton and Harvard close behind. “We definitely didn’t get off to the start we wanted. It was pretty rocky, a lot of waves. I’d say we got it back in our middle thousand,” captain Ben Landis ’18 told The Lions stayed in front throughout the race and held off a late charge by Princeton to win.

Shortly after they crossed the finish, Landis spotted his father, John, who lives in Germany, among the spectators watching the race from the shore. Rather than wait till the boat returned to the boatyard, Landis jumped overboard and swam to shore to meet him. “He flew all the way from Germany to see me, so I wanted to see him,” said Landis. “He was really happy we won.”

It was just the fourth varsity eight national championship since 1928 for any of the three Columbia crews. Landis and Jenson Carlgren ’19 are the first Lion lightweights to earn two gold medals at the IRAs, since both were in the varsity eight in 2016.

Meanwhile, Columbia’s second lightweight varsity eight enjoyed an undefeated season, sweeping its regular-season races, the Eastern Sprints and the IRAs. “Two guys who won the IRAs as sophomores are now in the second varsity,” said John Maloney ’18. “This is just a reflection of how much better our team has gotten this year.”