March 9, 2010
SEATTLE - The University of Washington's rowing program has a history of bringing prestigious crews to Windermere Cup.
This season is no exception as the Huskies will host both the Oxford University Boat Club and Syracuse University on May 1 as part of their annual Windermere Cup celebration, a 2,000-meter race that takes place through the Montlake Cut and into Lake Union. Known worldwide as one of the premier races in rowing, the inclusion of Oxford and Syracuse adds luster to an already stellar event.
"The goal every year is to bring in the very, very best crews we can from around the world," said rowing director Bob Ernst. "It's an honor. Oxford is invited to everything; they go to races in New Zealand and Malaysia for example. To get them to come here is fantastic."
Oxford is one of two crews who helped originate intercollegiate rowing competition in a race with rival Cambridge that dates back to 1829. It's a four-mile race from the Putney Bridge to the Mortlake church tower on the River Thames in London. The competition has become such an event that it receives television coverage throughout England and abroad, bringing in millions of viewers.
"To have one of the founders of intercollegiate sports racing down the Montlake Cut is an incredible honor for the University of Washington and the city of Seattle," said men's coach Michael Callahan. "This wouldn't be possible without the support of Windermere Real Estate and the Seattle Yacht Club in the backing of this Pacific Northwest tradition."
For Washington, the race offers its men's and women's crews a chance to compete against the best in the world and nationally in Oxford and Syracuse.
This will be the first trip to Seattle for Oxford. Two other British clubs have made the trip for Windermere Cup in previous years - Cambridge in 1992 and Nottinghamshire Country Rowing in 1998.
Syracuse offers some local ties for rowing fans as well. Orange Coach Dave Reischman is a native of the Pacific Northwest, hailing from nearby Arlington, Wash.
"They're one of the original steward schools of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association and the National Championship we race in," Callahan said. "Similar to Washington, they have a longstanding tradition of excellence. (Coach) Reischman has an incredible track record of success in the Northwest and is one of the most well-respected coaches in the United States."
Washington has several ties with Oxford. Freshman coach Luke McGee rowed in the Oxford Blue Boat for the 149th edition of The Boat Race against Cambridge, and helped defeat the university's archrival as the five-seat in the boat. Ante Kusurin, who was a captain at Washington and an Olympian for Croatia, stroked the Blue Boat to victory in 2009 and will be making the trip to Seattle as a liaison for Oxford.
Last year, as part of an in-season foreign trip, the Huskies raced the Dark Blues on the River Thames in London. This year Oxford gets to experience one of the more unique venues for collegiate rowing in the nation - the Opening Day festival.
"This is just such a great event," Ernst said. "Windermere just treats all the student-athletes with such class. It's fun and it's such a festive environment. Our goal is to try and win the race, but it's a special, special opportunity for everyone."