Dec. 20, 2009
As 2009 comes to a close, GoHuskies.com will be taking a look back at some of the great Husky athletics accomplishments of the past calendar year. Over the next few weeks, we'll present a great moment from '09 each day. Make sure to have your say on your favorite memory of 2009 here.
In terms of finishes, it doesn't get more dramatic than the men's varsity eight National Championship victory in the Grand Final at the IRA Regatta in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The University of Washington had a banner day that afternoon in June, winning four of five races, but it was the conclusion of the marquee event that personified the rich spirit of Washington rowing.
The Huskies weathered a blistering start from their biggest rival Cal, and struggled to keep pace with Stanford at the onset of the race. At the 500-meter mark on Lake Natoma, Cal looked in control. Perhaps it was all part of the game plan?
"We knew we had to weather a really strong first 500 meters by California and Stanford to have a chance," said head men's coach Michael Callahan. "We were really just trying to stay close enough to make a run for it in the second 1,000."
Cal and Stanford proceeded to take turns at the lead, with the Cardinal gaining strength in the middle portion of the race. The Huskies were not far back, but could not make moves on any of their opponents. It wasn't until the last 500 meters, with Cal up three seats, that the Huskies made a charge. With just 15 strokes left in the race, Washington powered through the Golden Bears and took the championship by a second, relegating Cal to a second-place finish.
To make such a move so late in the race requires an inordinate amount inner strength honed through what Callahan called the "Washington culture," where everyone inside Conibear Shellhouse pushes each other to be at their very best.
"I think we always kept confidence in ourselves," said seven-seat Simon Taylor, "We never underestimated California. We know they're good. And with 500 meters to go, we were about three or four seats down and we knew we had a challenge on our hands, but at the same time, we knew that we could take it if we wanted it."
Men's Varsity Eight:
1, Washington - 5:50.91; 2, California - 5:51.80; 3, Stanford - 5:56.45; 4, Brown - 5:58.73; 5, Harvard - 6:01.64; 6, Boston University - 6:02.68.