July 16, 2011
SEATTLE - Strong as a Northwest timber, Patrick Marre possesses the ideal tools to be a productive rower at the University of Washington. Nevertheless, the 6-5 Portland, Ore., native has struggled to make a boat his first two years on campus.
Yet in a testament to the depth of the Husky rowing program Marre now finds himself bound for Amsterdam, where he'll don the USA jersey and compete in an all-Husky coxed four at the U23 World Championships beginning July 21. Joining Marre are Niles Garratt, A.J. Brooks, Jay Thompson and coxswain Seamus Labrum. Their selection is another feather in the cap for a UW program that's already won a National Championship and a Ten Eyck Trophy this season.
For Marre, it's especially important.
"To move forward like this has been huge for me personally," Marre said. "It's been a great bonding experience being with the guys in the boat, with all of us being from Washington."
This type of journey is far from typical in rowing, but indicative of the emphasis the Huskies place on developing rowers. Once Marre's technique matched his prodigious strength, men's coach Michael Callahan had an ideal asset for the U-23 bound boat. Internal motivation laid the bedrock for Marre's rise in the program, as the hard work he put in during the year paid dividends after the season.
Marre's path is not unusual at Conibear Shellhouse. Whether the rower comes from an elite junior system or is a walk-on, the Washington program prides itself on helping the oarsman reach his potential. Thompson, a walk-on from Colorado, has won three IRA gold medals during his career at UW.
Part of what can spur a rower's development over the summer is small-boat training. For years, the USRowing Development Camp at the UW has been a popular with rowers throughout Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, not just Huskies.
The idea to enter a four in the USRowing selection process came after Callahan spent weeks working with the Huskies during camp. After the team won at trials in Mercer, N.J., they automatically qualified for the U23 championships. In total, 10 Huskies (nine men, one woman) are heading to Europe to compete under the United States flag, the highest level of collegiate representation on the USRowing roster.
"There's an idea that we only recruit the top kids or foreign kids," said Callahan. "But we do a great job of recruiting walk-ons and local Pacific Northwest students. We teach people how to row our style, which helps them have successful international careers."
Brooks noted this comes from the program's strict adherence to creating a national team-type atmosphere within Conibear Shellhouse.
"It's exactly like the national team," Brooks said. "From the fall when we're (training) in pairs, working on everything from technique to power, and then moving to the winter where we spend time in the straight fours and on dynamic ergs."
Sending an all-UW boat to a World Championship event harkens back to historic days when the Huskies regularly competed for Olympic medals. Many in Seattle are familiar with the 1936 Husky eight beating Germany for a Gold Medal in front of Adolf Hitler in Berlin, one of the top feats in UW history. But Husky-powered fours have also had Olympic success, capturing gold in 1948 and bronze in 1952. A four of all Huskies also participated in the 1971 Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia, finishing third.
Two of the fours in Conibear Shellhouse bear the names of the Olympic boats: "Clipper Too" & "Little Husky." Etched inside those boats are the names of the rowers who medaled, a nod to tradition that's woven into the fabric of the Husky program.
"These guys are now part of the fraternity that has represented the USA as a whole Husky crew," Callahan said. "That's special."
Although the 2011 boat heads to Amsterdam light on international experience - only Brooks has raced with USRowing before - the Huskies bring a hardened racing attitude borne through an endless number of grueling practices on Lake Washington.
No reason to doubt them now.
The same goes for Marre, who didn't fold under the discouragement of not making a boat in two seasons. And the U-23 experience will provide invaluable experience heading into the 2011-12 season at Washington.
"Being self-reliant is one of the values of this program. Taking on the ownership to make yourself better is what we want our rowers to strive towards," Callahan said. "It has to be a lifestyle for these guys."