April 26, 2007
The Washington men's and women's rowing teams host West Coast rival California in their annual dual regatta, Saturday, April 28. Racing begins at 9 a.m. on the Montlake Cut near the UW campus.
The regatta features a clash between the Huskies' top-ranked men's varsity eight crew and defending national champion California, which is currently ranked No. 2.
Bob Ernst is in his 33rd season of coaching at Washington, his 20th as head coach of the men's program. He spent a few minutes with GoHuskies.com, talking about the season and describing his thoughts on the upcoming race against Cal.
GoHuskies: How is the season going so far?
Bob Ernst: "The guys have certainly lived up to my expectations so far. We have a lot of really young guys, but some really nice talent in the varsity program right now. They're making progress, so it's fun to with them."
"When you've got them on your home turf and they're the defending national champions ... when all the other coaches in the country think they are the two best teams, that's a good throw-down. That's something you get out of bed on Saturday morning to come and watch."
GoHuskies: A lot of your athletes rowed together in the summer with various national teams. How much does that enhance the crew when you have a group of people who have been rowing together?
BE: "Nobody wins the IRA anymore unless they have a lot of guys that row in the summertime. It doesn't necessarily mean that they row together on the same country's team. We not only have the elite world championships in the summer now and the Olympic Games, but we have what we call the 23-and-under world championships. A lot of countries aren't lucky enough to have the bridge between the junior world championship level, which is 18, and the elite world championship.
"So 23-and-under is really catching on in the world and it's made to order four our college kids because you don't need to be on a national team's squad all year-round to be successful. The Americans usually win the eight at that. Last summer it was the Canadians, but it was all Cal and Washington guys so it's a great opportunity for the kids to do more rowing. The real good news for our guys is that the 23-and-under championships is usually like the fourth weekend in July so they get a little bit of a break before they go back to school."
GoHuskies: Was the U-23 women's championships beneficial for your varsity eight coxswain Katelin Snyder?
BE: "Katelin is a really good coxswain and certainly she benefited from doing that. But, I also think that the women's team benefited from having her. She is as good as they get. She has a great sense of the boat's movement."
GoHuskies: What can you tell us about the Washington-California rowing rivalry?
BE: "Well, we've been doing it for about 100 years or more now and I just don't think that there's any stronger rivalry anywhere. It means a lot to the California people to beat Washington and it certainly means a lot to the Washington people to beat the Cal guys. When you've got them on your home turf and they're the defending national champions and, for whatever value rating systems are, when all the other coaches in the country think they are the two best teams, that's a good throw-down. That's something you get out of bed on Saturday morning to come and watch."
GoHuskies: You have several important races on consecutive weekends. Do your athletes like that or would they prefer a weekend off between races?
BE: "These guys are racers. We've got racers in our program now. For the volume of training that they do all year long, we still have about a month until the IRA starts. So having three tough races in a row, it's not bad for these guys. The bottom line is that by far the most important race this week is the Cal-Washington race."
GoHuskies: How important is the first meeting of the season against a team like California that you will be meeting later in the season at the Pac-10 and IRA championships?
BE: "Well, dual racing is so much different than six-across racing like at the IRA. The Pac-10 is going to be three-across racing at least, because Stanford is good. I think at this point you just have to try and do what you do best and see where you stack up. And for us it's great because it's on our home course and we know the landmarks and we'll be able to get some good hard data out of this."
GoHuskies: Was the April 15 Windermere Classic win over then second-ranked Stanford a good barometer for where your varsity eight crew stands?
BE: "Oh, it was good for us. Racing three races in 26 hours is a lot for anyone and certainly I think that we have really good, solid rowers this year. They handled it really well down there. And it was good to see California races 10 minutes before we raced. I don't think they showed us any more than they had to. I don't think we showed them any more than we had to. That Stanford race was really good for us because they're a very strong team this year. It's a good regatta, a good beginning of the season regatta. And for the most part, no matter how stormy it is the lanes are pretty similar so you get a pretty good idea of where you're at."
GoHuskies: What are your thoughts on next week's Windermere Cup Regatta with a visit from the University of Waikato in New Zealand?
BE: "Sure, it's got to be the weekend right after the Cal-Washington race. I'll tell you what, we're very excited about having Waikato come here. We went down there a year ago, September. They hosted us and showed us the best possible time. For our guys and my family, for all these Huskies to get to go to New Zealand for two weeks, that was like a dream trip.
"We stayed at the national training center. They made meals for us and took us out and we went to parties with them. The whole thing was so storybook. It was awesome. I just hope that they have nearly as good a time here as we did down there. And maybe if we beat them and they still have their race down there, they'll invite us back again."
GoHuskies: Will it be the same crew that beat you in The Great Race in September of 2005?
BE: "They're going to bring good guys. I looked at their travel list and it looks like almost all the same guys except for one or two."