June 5, 2010
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CHERRY HILL, N.J. - Washington captured the prestigious Jim Ten Eyck Memorial trophy for the fourth consecutive season, concluding an impressive run at the 108th annual IRA Championships.
All five Husky crews earned medals, including National Championships for the varsity 4+, second varsity 8 and the freshmen eight. The varsity eight captured silver after an intense duel with archrival California, while the open 4+ will bring bronze back to Seattle.
Once again, the Huskies used to IRAs to showcase the talent and depth the program have developed at Conibear Shellhouse.
"I'm really proud of the whole team," said men's coach Michael Callahan. "I think from top to bottom we should our depth and our speed, and to Washington, that's a lot of (what we do). To people back home, it's the most important thing. So I'm really pleased that we did well in all of our events today."
The UW team title made it the first time a program has achieved such a feat since Wisconsin made it four-in-a-row from 1999-2002. Next year the Huskies will have the opportunity to accomplish something no crew has ever done - a fifth consecutive Ten Eyck.
From the start, the Huskies accomplished an early season goal of putting a crew on the medal stand in each race of the IRAs. The open 4+ started with a bronze, making a strong move in the final 1,000 to rocket from fourth place into medal position. Cornell took gold, exhibiting their speed from start to finish on the 2,000-meter course at Cooper River. Wisconsin crossed the finish line in second, thwarting a Huskies move at the finish.
Then the Huskies turned it on. The varsity 4+ laid down a perfect row from start to finish, going wire-to-wire to capture Gold in a time of 6:17.395. This offered the Huskies a chance at redemption as well for assistant coach Ben Fletcher's crew, as the varsity 4+ was the lone boat that didn't take Gold at the 2009 IRA Championships at Lake Natoma.
The next two races that started offered some of the most tense racing of the afternoon, which reflected the hot temperatures and stiff tailwinds blowing down the course. The Grunties (as UW freshmen are known) began their race by rowing comfortably in front, only to see Cal and Cornell start to fight back. With 500 meters remaining, the Golden Bears cut an open-water lead to three seats, but it was the Huskies who had the strength remaining for a finishing sprint. The Huskies' time of 5:32.083 was two seconds in front of Cal's, and gave assistant coach Luke McGee his second straight title.
A kitchen-sink sprint saved the Huskies in the second varsity eight race. The crew entered as the favorites, but found themselves exchanging leads with Brown for the first 1,000 meters. Then at the halfway mark, Brown executed a move that put them three seats up on Washington, a margin they kept with smooth, powerful strokes entering the 500. At that point, three seat Simon Taylor screamed at fellow senior Blaise Didier, imploring him that it was now or never. The boat speed picked up with the call, but real estate was closing fast as the finish line approached. With 200 meters to go, the Huskies accelerated even harder, pulling even. Then in the final 10 strokes, UW pulled ahead and won by a seat.
"We went to that next level, I guess," Taylor said. "We just gave it everything." Finally, the varsity crews took to the starting line. Featuring the six fastest boats in the country, the race responded with the appropriate chaos and intensity. Washington took an early lead into the first 500, igniting the overflow group of UW oarsmen who packed the fan area. Going into the 750, it was Cal who slingshot into a 3-seat lead. Yet the Huskies were rowing composed, not exhibiting the frantic strokes of a crew with an emptying tank. But when the crews hit the midway point, Cal had pulled ahead with a half length lead. It was now or never for the Dawgs, who could not afford to cede any more seats to the Golden Bears. The Huskies called a sprint, and pulled even with Cal coming into the last 500. With 250 to go, the Huskies took a two seat lead.
Cal, however, responded with a furious sprint, edging ahead at the gun to take a one-seat win and the National Championship.
For members of the varsity eight, accepting silver was not the plan when the team jetted 2,500 miles across the coast. Yet they return to UW proud of their efforts and the program's fourth consecutive Ten Eyck. Senior Max Lang, who took the oar for the final time as a Husky and helped lead the renaissance when he captured an IRA National Championship in the V8 as a sophomore in 2007, felt no remorse.
"Fast conditions here with hot water, sometimes you run out of room," Lang said. "For us, it's not always the final destination; it's the journey. And I value that more than anything."