March 28, 2012
SEATTLE -Now it begins.
All the weights lifted, all the ergs pulled and all the winter dry land conditioning will be put to the test this weekend when the Huskies travel to the San Diego Crew Classic, which takes place March 31 and April 1 on Mission Bay.
Washington faces a remarkably deep field of women's crew programs, headlined by No. 1 Virginia, the preseason frontrunner in the CRCA/USRowing Coaches Poll. Joining the Huskies in the battle for the Jessop-Whittier Cup will be Pac-12 rivals such as California, Stanford, USC, UCLA and Washington State. Washington is ranked No. 8 in the poll.
It's an early litmus test against some of the best in the sport, which has women's coach and rowing director Bob Ernstexcited about the opportunity presented to his Huskies, who are looking to win their first Crew Classic title since the 2008 season.
"The first game in San Diego is to make it to the finals," Ernst said. "The No. 1 ranked team in Virginia is going to be there ... preseason rankings are hard to do, but when you mention that a lot of quality teams are going to be fighting for spots in the final, we just hope to be in the thick of it."
Washington will row in heats on March 31, with the top three crews from each heat advancing to the finals. The Huskies have been grouped in their first varsity eight heat with rivals Cal and Stanford, along with Purdue, Tennessee and Clemson.
Over the winter, Ernst felt the Huskies made exceptional gains not only in power but in improving technique, particularly over Spring Break. He felt this carried over to the intrasquad Class Day Regatta, where the juniors - featuring several Huskies who will row in the varsity eight - blitzed the field in a time of 6:25.30.
"I think we're fast enough to get to the final," Ernst said. "But the fun of it is that when you go down there, you have to walk the walk."
The Crew Classic is one of the top regattas in the world, featuring upwards of 4,000 athletes. Last year, the Huskies showcased their program's depth by taking home the Jackie Ann Stitt Hughness Trophy (2v8) after defeating the Cardinal by almost five seconds. Washington also won the Laurel V. Korholz Perpetual Trophy with a runaway win by their freshman eight.
In a change from previous years, the Huskies will also be taking a four down to San Diego. Ernst said this was done to bank ranking points heading into Pac-12 and the NCAA Championships.
"You better be decent out of the box, or you're hurting at the end of the year," Ernst said. "It's pivotal."
NOTES: The Washington women will race three boats at the Husky Open on March 31 on the Montlake Cut. The action begins at 8 a.m. against the University of Portland, which is in their first year fielding a Division I rowing program.