March 31, 2012
SAN DIEGO - Whenever Washington races in the heats the San Diego Crew Classic, its first-day approach is always to the point - make the finals.
So it was mission accomplished for the Husky women's crew program, which had a promising start at the prestigious regatta on Saturday morning. The Huskies advanced all boats to Sunday's finals, highlighted by a win in the varsity eight heats over a pair of Pac-12 rivals.
In that race, the Huskies were less than a second faster than both California and Stanford, finishing the 2,000-meter course on Mission Bay with a time of 6:43.40. The victory guarantees the Huskies an opportunity to race for the Jessop-Whittier Cup on Sunday. Also advancing to the finals - in addition to the Golden Bears and the Cardinal - were USC, Virginia and UCLA. USC won its heat with a time of 6:37.28, besting the No. 1 Cavaliers by more than a second.
What really pleased women's coach Bob Ernst was the level of maturity his Huskies displayed. Stanford shocked the field by taking almost a full length at the 500-meter mark, setting the tempo with a high stroke rate. But the Huskies didn't panic. Instead, the Dawgs slowly began to reel the Cardinal back in, and then pushed away from both Stanford and Cal to win.
"It was a very mature race," Ernst said. "It was a gratifying win for them. They trusted their technique and power, and you could see all the offseason work is really starting to pay off."
The Husky 2V8 moved on to the finals with a second-place finish in their heat. Washington was two seconds behind Virginia in that race, crossing the finish line with a time of 6:54.20. The battle for the Jackie Ann Stitt Hungness Trophy will feature six high quality crews, as Texas, UCLA, California and Washington State also moved on to the finals.
In the novice races, the Huskies were winners in their heat, besting archrival Washington State for the first-place finish. Under the direction of first-year coach Conor Bullis, the Huskies rowed through the course with a time of 6:58.26, nearly three seconds faster than the second-place Cougars. What impressed Ernst about the result is the fact the Huskies are using walk-ons almost exclusively throughout the boat, with six of the eight rowers never having touched an oar before arriving on campus.
"Conor has done a great job of turning athletes into rowers," Ernst said. Washington finished second in the women's collegiate 4+ heat, advancing with a time of 7:44.27. That was a shade behind heat winner Tennessee (7:42.93), which was almost two seconds in front of the Dawgs on the Mission Bay course.