May 30, 2007
CHERRY HILL, N.J. - Most Seattle residents will be asleep at the time. Eight rowers and a coxswain from the Washington men's varsity eight crew will be very much awake.
The No. 1-ranked Huskies received the top seed to the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Championships that begin, Thursday (May 31) on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J.
UW is scheduled for the first of four varsity eight heats, lining up on the starting line at 4:36 a.m. Pacific Time (7:36 a.m. Eastern). The field of 24 will be whittled to 12 for Friday's semifinals with six crews advancing to the grand final on Saturday.
Undefeated Washington seeks to complete a perfect season with its first national title in 10 years. The Huskies last won the championship in 1997, also the last season a UW varsity eight crew posted a perfect record against collegiate competition. Since then the Huskies' best finishes were a trio of silver-medal performances, in 1998, 2003 and 2004.
Despite holding favored status this year, claiming the crown won't be easy. UW will be challenged by Nos. 2 and 3 seeds Harvard and California. Those two rowing powers combined to win the last eight IRA titles. Cal won last year, halting Harvard's three-year championship run. The Golden Bears won during four consecutive years from 1999-2002.
"It is three days of really tough, really intense racing," projected UW coach Bob Ernst. "It is just going to be a wonderful regatta. There are going to be so many really good crews."
The Huskies were victorious in two meetings against Cal this season, including a win in their last outing to claim the Pac-10 championship.
Three other UW men's crews are competing in New Jersey, including the conference champion second varsity eight that is seeded third behind Wisconsin and Harvard.
The Huskies won the IRA's freshman eight title last season. This year's frosh crew is the No. 4 seed. California is seeded first, followed by Brown and Harvard.
Washington also has an entry in the open four competition, an event that is not seeded. The Huskies won the open four championship in 2006.
2007 IRA Championship Regatta Seeds
Cooper River; Cherry Hill, N.J.
May 31-June 2
Second Varsity Eights
8. Orange Coast
9. Boston University