June 1, 2006
CHERRY HILL, N.J. - Their maiden voyage was a resounding success.
Thursday's heat victory during the first day of the men's Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championships came during the first race for UW's open four in its current configuration.
The crew includes three oarsman from the varsity four that finished second at the Pac-10 championships on May 14. A pair of freshmen were added to that crew, stroke Peter Carlson and coxswain Patrack Kavanagh. The three veteran members of the crew are juniors Alan Oriard, Dustin Kraus and Jon Engel.
They rowed like a seasoned unit Thursday. Rowed so well, in fact, that they received a day off.
While UW's other three crews are competing Friday, the members of the open four take the day to train. The other boats will battle in semifinal or repechage races, seeking berths in the six-crew grand finals.
The Huskies admit they were unsure how their first outing would turn out.
"We've had to make a lot of changes since the Pac-10s," Oriard explained. "So, there was some uncertainty coming out here. We never really had any real races with this boat, so we didn't know quite how fast we were. The way we performed in the heat is reassuring. We realize we added some boat speed and we're competitive with the rest of the field."
The Huskies earned the day off. They registered the fastest time of an open four. UW led from start to finish and won by open water with a winning time of 6-minutes, 28.07-seconds. Wisconsin had a second-place time of 6:33.11 in the same heat. Cal's mark of 6:29.17 was the second best among open fours.
The winner of each of the three heats advanced directly to Saturday's grand final race. They have the luxury of avoiding Friday's repechage races that will determine the other three crews for the six-boat final.
The UW crew had a far simpler goal in mind for the race.
"We came out and just wanted to stay relaxed and really focus on that first 500 (meters)," said Oriard. "We came out a little frantic, being the first race of the regatta. We have a couple freshmen in the boat, so it was a big race for them. We were able to get it done and we put a pretty good race together.
"We were a little frantic throughout, but we got the first-place finish so we'll be in the finals. We're in a good position. I think we have some more boat speed in there."
Saturday, the Huskies hope to add to their proud history in four-oared competition. Washington won a national championship in the fours in each of the last four years.
The Huskies won varsity four titles in 2003 and 2004. This year's UW four is entered in the open race in which IRA guidelines stipulate that each crew must contain at least one freshman rower. The Huskies were open four champions in 2002 and again last season.
Already waiting for Washington Saturday are the other heat winners, California and Yale.
Oriard says the Huskies will put the day off from racing to good use.
"We're going to have a practice Friday and we'll hopefully figure some more stuff out and just really get ready for this final."