And sometimes it leads to four boats within three seconds battling for the EARC Sprints and Ivy League Championship.
Care to guess which one happened on Lake Quinsigamond Sunday evening?
Top-seeded Cornell held on in a furious four-team showdown to continue its unbeaten season and win the 2014 Eastern Sprints and Ivy League championship. The Big Red won in 5:39.417, which was less than a second faster than runner-up Yale. The Bulldogs avenged a narrow loss to Princeton at the Goldthwait Cup to win silver by about 1.2 seconds.
That left two teams battling for one medal. On one side was Princeton, which had gone 7-1 this season against every boat besides Columbia.
On the other side was, of course, Columbia. The Lions had prevailed in two thrillers over Princeton during the regular season, including one that needed video replay just to determine a winner.
The third time would be charming for Princeton, which finally had the answers late against the Lions. Princeton won bronze in 5:41.608, a time less than .3 of a second faster than Columbia for the final spot on the dock.
"I thought this was the best and most complete race we have had this season," sophomore Isaiah Brown said. "We were in the mix off the start, but fell behind in the first thousand. We stuck to our solid base speed and started to come back in the second half. We made a big push at the end to catch Columbia and close the gap on Yale and Cornell.
"With ten strokes left we were half a seat down on Columbia and Trip [Henningson] called for everything we had left- the boat responded with pure power and we were able to get ahead," he added.
"Despite losing to very tough Cornell and Yale crews, we were definitely excited to get Columbia back for a pair of tough losses, and even more pleased to get on the medals dock," Henningson added. "Going in to the last 500, I had no doubt that we could win the race, and we kept moving on the field, eventually overtaking Columbia."
Princeton also won a medal in the 2V final, as the Tigers finished second to Columbia in 5:50.197. The Lions won the gold by about 3.4 seconds, but Princeton won another close battle to move up on the medal dock. This time, the Princeton 2V held off Cornell by less than .4 of a second to earn silver.
Princeton placed two boats in the third varsity competition. The 'A' boat placed fifth in 6:03.07, while the 'B' boat won the petite final in 6:10.897.
The focus will now shift towards June 1 and the IRA national championships, which will be held only miles from the Princeton campus. Mercer Lake will serve as the championship host, and Princeton knows it is right there with the rest of a loaded field.
"All this considered, we know we are in a great position to put in an excellent body of work in the next two weeks getting ready for the IRA regatta," Henningson said. "I think everybody is motivated to give it everything in the time we have left. We are certainly a faster crew than we were two weeks ago and will have our eyes set on taking gold come June 1st."
"We have picked up a lot of speed over the last two weeks and I am confident we can find more over the next two," Brown added. "We are excited for another shot at Yale and Cornell and we will be training hard to catch them. We believe that it is a race we can win and will do all we can in the next two weeks to get there."
VARSITY EIGHT GRAND FINAL
1) Cornell 5:39.417
2) Yale 5:40.349
3) Princeton 5:41.608
4) Columbia 5:41.841
5) Harvard 5:46.152
6) MIT 5:52.180
SECOND VARSITY GRAND FINAL
1) Columbia 5:46.827
2) Princeton 5:50.197
3) Cornell 5:50.581
4) Yale 5:52.271
5) Harvard 5:56.844
6) Dartmouth 6:03.596
THIRD VARSITY GRAND FINAL
1) Columbia 5:55.845
2) Yale 5:57.827
3) Cornell 5:58.355
4) Harvard 5:58.568
5) Princeton A 6:03.070
6) Navy 6:11.934
THIRD VARSITY PETITE FINAL
1) Princeton B 6:10.897
2) Dartmouth 6:18.382
3) MIT 6:19.728
4) Georgetown 6:21.939