Oct. 23, 2011
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Washington men’s crew program traveled across the country with the goal of more than simply proving themselves against the best competition in the world. No, the Huskies had eyes on defending their Head of the Charles title Sunday with a talented – albeit retooled – varsity eight lineup.
In the end, Washington was the second-fastest collegiate crew – and third overall – at the HOCR, finishing the 3.2-mile race in a time of 14.26.178. Harvard won the race with a searing effort on the Charles River, riding the momentum of a fast start to pull across in 14:17.678. For the Crimson, it was their first win at the HOCR in the Championship Eight classification since 1977.
In the past four seasons, the Huskies have finished either first or second in the prestigious East Coast head race, which annually features competitors from around the world and upwards of 300,000 fans in attendance.
“Harvard rowed an excellent race, they had great base speed all the way down the course,” said men’s coach Michael Callahan. “I liked that we showed toughness during the race. We have some power in the boat, and I’m looking forward to what these guys can accomplish during the winter.”
Presented with this challenge, the Huskies brought a lineup markedly different from the one that won the 2011 IRA gold medal last June. This year’s boat features three oarsmen new to the varsity eight, and Callahan admitted during the fall that he’s emphasized the importance of this development opportunity for his rowers. For rowers like A.J. Brooks, Mijo Rudelj and Dusan Milovanovic – who all won a gold medal with the Husky 2V8 fast June – this was the chance to acclimate to the pressure of racing with the top boat. Senior Ambrose Puttmann switched sides from starboard to port just two weeks ago, which put him in a challenging position for the race.
Washington was the first team off the starting line, an honor reserved for defending champions. The Crimson pushed the Huskies at the first turn, forcing the UW boat to take a wide turn at Eliot Bridge, which cost the boat valuable seconds.
“We can step on the gas pedal,” Callahan said. “We just need to find our transmission and link it all together. There are guys in this boat who have won some big races. And although we didn’t row together at times, we toughed it out.”
The Huskies finished ahead of several challengers, including Brown and archrival California. The Golden Bears also came off the starting line carrying a blistering pace, but the Dawgs were able to hold them off over the curving course that winds through picturesque Cambridge. But no crew could catch the Crimson, including a USRowing eight that featured several rowers that won at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico and finished second on Sunday.
The day before the Charles, the team took a trip just outside Boston in search of calmer waters. From that practice, Callahan could tell the potential was there with this Huskies boat.
“The boat really started to flow, and if we can learn to put it all together we can be pretty quick,” Callahan said. “But it’s going to take some work.”