Oct. 22, 2010
SEATTLE - There's more to the Head of the Charles experience than just a race in front of 300,000 fans. For the Washington women's crew team, it's also the team-building aspects among the elite group of eight rowers plus coxswain that earned the trip to Massachusetts.
This is how the Huskies treat their annual excursion to the East Coast, like when a college football team makes a bowl game. The team arrives a few days early, does the usual tourist bit around Boston and goes through team runs around Harvard Square. Soaking in the scene of New England, though, is not the goal of the trip. The Huskies want to win. But the ultimate goal for women's coach and rowing director Bob Ernst is that the selection process for HOCR properly motivates the team to work hard over the summer and come back to campus ready to compete.
"Getting to go to the race is a bonus," Ernst said. "The pair selection is what drives our training over the summer. The amazing amount of effort that it takes for the kids to prepare for this is incredible."
Selection for HOCR is famously fair at Washington. There is no seat racing or ergometer scores recorded. Instead, the Huskies race a pair trial and Ernst selects the top four finishers. This year, the No. 5 pair boat missed out on a trip to Boston by 1/1100th of a second. In fact, the range between pair No. 3 and pair No. 5 was 1.3 seconds. So while Ernst can understand his student-athletes' frustration in not making the trip, they also understand the incredible fairness of the process. So try to guess his one piece advice?
"Row faster next year?" Ernst said. "You race for it. That's what this is about. This is a sport that is about racing. If you want to make a decision and you can do it in a boat, it's a perfect decision for this sport. The kids who just missed, they had their shot."
This year, the Huskies will take a crew that consists of (from bow to coxswain): Adriene De Leuw, Madison Culp, Kirstyn Goodger, Erin Lauber, Marie Strohmayer, Hanne Trafnik, Kerry Simmonds, Veronica Tamsitt (stroke) and Ariana Tanimoto. The group headed to Boston will be looking to build off a second-place finish at HOCR last year, when Washington came in just behind Yale on the 3.2 mile course when it came to collegiate competition.
Ernst was quick to point out that making the Head of the Charles team is by no means a precursor for that athlete's place in boats down the road. Last year, Adrienne Martelli just missed out on earning a seat for Charles during fall selection after earning a Silver Medal at the U-23 World Championships. She rebounded by earning the captain's oar and rowing in the varsity 8+ all season. Now, Martelli is off to New Zealand where she'll compete with USRowing at the 2010 World Championships.
"That's one of the fears that (men's coach) Michael (Callahan) and I have when we talk about the selection process," Ernst said. "That one of your really good kids is going to be left out, by one second or two seconds."
Rowing at races like the Head of the Charles is a bullet point in a lengthy list of benefits that Washington can offer oarswomen. It's the reason Ernst eats the hefty fee it costs to fly athletes to Massachusetts and ship the shell across the country. But Ernst also reiterated why the trip is a unique experience for his women, the goal is static.
"We go there to try and win," Ernst said. "We compete when we get there."