April 17, 2004
SEATTLE - The fifth-ranked Wisconsin men's varsity eight overcame an early deficit to defeat Washington, also No. 5 in the USRowing poll, by nearly a boat length Saturday morning on the Montlake Cut in the annual W Cup match race.
The W Cup was initiated in 1993 to give the two schools another high-level race on the spring schedule. Each team hosts the event on alternating years with the winner receiving a trophy that features a "W" on top colored in both the purple of Washington and cardinal of Wisconsin. The Badgers captured the W Cup trophy for the second straight season after Washington was victorious in the first 10 meetings.
"Washington won the first 10, so it's only fair to give us a little chance," Wisconsin coach Chris Clark joked after the trophy presentation near the construction site of the Huskies' new shellhouse. "We're having a new boathouse built ourselves, so for the past year the W Cup has been in a shed. It's a beautiful trophy so now at least after November there will be a time that it gets to sit out on display."
The temperature neared 50 degrees as the two crews navigated the 2,000-meter course with a strong tailwind, rare for the Montlake portion of Lake Washington. Wisconsin completed the course in 5-minutes, 55.0-seconds while the Huskies finished in 5:57.5.
"I'm just really surprised. I never would have predicted that," said Clark of Wisconsin's performance. "It was a good race. This is a lot better than I thought it would go."
Washington started strong, opening a five-seat lead over the opening part of the race. Wisconsin drew even just before the midway point and gradually opened a boat-length advantage. The Badgers maintained that margin over the final quarter of the race, concluding with their coxswain alongside Washington's bow at the finish line.
"We had a really great start. We rowed our race and did exactly what we wanted to do, but we just didn't have it through the middle and at the end," described Washington senior coxswain Chris O'Brien. "We were up about six seats early and they evened it up at around the 1,000-meter mark. They just countered each one of our moves."
The outcome was almost identical to last season's encounter on Lake Mendota in Madison, Wis. when the Badgers took the lead at the 400-meter mark and controlled the rest of the race.
"Off the start they took off about three or four seats on us, which we expected. Last year they did the same thing," said coxswain Mike Lucey who was one of three Badgers returning from last year's W Cup crew along with stroke Alex Cockerill and five seat Micah Boyd. "After 500 meters we caught up even and took a move when they did. We pulled right out and got a stern lead over the next 1,000 meters. They kept pushing us and we just reacted by picking it up a little bit and held on the rest of the way."
"In a match race like this, Wisconsin raced us perfectly today," said Washington Coach Bob Ernst who has been constantly tinkering with his lineup following a third-place finish at the San Diego Crew Classic on April 4.
"I don't think there is any question that we weren't happy with our performance down in San Diego in the varsity. Since then, we've been doing a lot of shopping around. We're just trying to figure out who the heck wants to row in the first boat and make it go fast. It isn't like we haven't been here before, it's just not fun to be here that's all."
Ernst's Wisconsin counterpart was happy to catch the Huskies early in the season.
"It's so early, almost like the end of the preseason. You can't find much correlation between who wins this here and who wins later in the season," Clark remarked. "What Washington has in the long term is an enviable situation. They've got more than eight guys that should be in the first boat. It's hell while it's happening, trying to determine who should be in the first boat. But, it will sort itself out and they're going be great. Fortunately for our sake they haven't settled it out just yet, so we got lucky there."
After falling at Wisconsin last season, the Huskies proceeded to win the Pac-10 title and place second at the IRA national championships before winning the Ladies Challenge Plate at the prestigious Henley Regatta. Wisconsin placed fourth at the IRA championships last spring.
Despite having six rowers on the current roster from Washington's silver medal IRA crew, junior Giuseppe Lanzone was the only returnee from that group to compete against Wisconsin. A deep corps of quality rowers has created fierce competition all season for positions in the Huskies' varsity eight crew.
"I think anybody would rather have a set lineup that works perfectly and is undefeated at this point. Unfortunately we're not, so you have to take what you've got and see what you can do with it," Ernst explained. "I don't think there is any question that our guys are a little bit beat up from all of the training and selection that we have been doing since San Diego. That's just where we are right now, there's nothing that you can do about that.
"I'd like to say that we can taper for the Wisconsin dual race, but that's not the case. We put everything we had into the San Diego Crew Classic at that point and the varsity just didn't row well. Right now I'm trying to figure out who wants to row well. The thing I'm most concerned about is making progress as we go through the season, not any given weekend. I don't like losing races to anyone, but right now we're still in the development phase."
Things don't get any easier for the Washington men who travel to the Bay Area to meet No. 2 California on Saturday, April 24. The dual regatta, which also features the second-ranked California women and No. 7 Washington, takes place at Redwood Shores in Belmont, Calif.
The following week, on May 1, the Washington men race against No. 7 Navy and the national team from Italy in the annual Windermere Cup regatta. The women's Windermere Cup field includes Italy and UCLA.
W CUP RESULT
Wisconsin vs. Washington men's varsity eight
Saturday, April 17, 2004
Montlake Cut; Seattle, Wash.
1, Wisconsin 5:55.0
2, Washington 5:57.5
Wisconsin Lineup: cox-Mike Lucey, stroke-Alex Cockerill, 7-Tyler Resch, 6-Mike Tupek, 5-Micah Boyd, 4-Jason Devlin, 3-Anders Boyd, 2-Shawn Wanta, bow-Kyle Schaible.
Washington Lineup: cox-Chris O'Brien, stroke-Ian Harrison, 7-Scott Gault, 6-Dusan Nikolic, 5-Giuseppe Lanzone, 4-Ben Fletcher, 3-Martin Rogulia, 2-Ian Sawyer, bow-Matt Kopicky.