May 13, 2011
SEATTLE - Maxwell Weaver, the Huskies captain who rows six seat in the team's 2V8, said it's difficult at times to truly comprehend the speed his boat is able to produce. Washington second eight is in the middle of an impressive season, one that's seen the boat eclipse times of other program's top boats. When the Huskies met archrival Cal earlier this season, the second eight was less than a second off the time set by the Golden Bears' varsity.
With the Washington men's crew program showcasing an unprecedented level of depth in recent years, Coach Michael Callahan has found the level of competition to be at an all-time high. Yet by sticking to the team's strict code of boating by meritocracy, there are times when a rower with sterling credentials is usurped by someone who has proven they can make the varsity boat move faster.
"Everything here is earned," said Callahan, making sure to emphasize the last word. "When you make the second varsity here, you make it. There is a lot of excellence there and a lot of pride in representing that boat. You're still rowing for Washington at the Pac-10s, at the IRAs and it's a place to learn your skills and get better."
But even Callahan can only shake his head when he ticks off the resumes of some of the oarsmen in his JV boat.
Last year, the Husky 2V8 had a pair of rowers in Blaise Didier and Simon Taylor who had impeccable credentials as junior rowers. But their experience and skill was a better fit for the 2V8, which cruised through the regular season and all the way into the IRA Grand Final. There it ran into a fast crew from Brown that had taken a boat length's lead 1,500 meters into the race. Taylor yelled for a sprint, and the Herculean effort pushed the UW bow ball just in front of Brown's at the finish. Perhaps the best aspect about the Washington program is the respect the oarsmen have to earning boat selections. Instead of silently carping about not making the varsity, the eight rowers in the 2V8 have set a mission on setting course records.
"Everybody is happy to be in that boat," said Weaver, who won an IRA title with the UW 2V8 last season. "It has very good chemistry. We push each other doing pieces. Everyone is motivated."
The 2V8 rowers feel their goal in each practice is to push the varsity boat. By doing so the oarsmen are also trying to prove they are not only fast enough to row in the program's top eight, but fight off the members of the 3V8 who are angling for spots in the JV.
Because the rowers are so close in speed, both on the water and the ergs, Callahan said it's been extremely difficult to determine where the rowers should be boated. There have been ample seat races this season where times are within a razor's edge of one another, making for hard decisions.
"They have to be ready for that opportunity," Callahan said. "It's always there, such as if they win (a seat race) by a significant margin or a big race. If they can give us some spark, they'll always be considered. But it shows the depth and character of our team."
The boat has pride in their tradition as well. Since 2007, the Huskies 2V8 have won the IRA Grand Final, part of the reason the program has won the Ten Eyck Trophy (overall points' championship) the last four years. The Husky oarsmen understand the legacy of the boat, and want to add to its rich history.
"This is a crew who wants to prove something," Weaver said.
Of course, the perception on the outside suggests a team with rowers of that caliber would be upset with their placement in a JV boat. Callahan perforated the suggestion by noting the bonds between his rowers are strong.
"They don't understand why the team does as well as it does and they want to know the secret," Callahan said. "Well the secret is the culture on our team. The first guy to the last guy, everyone plays a part. They're all a part of the excellence on our team. We all wear the same jersey, and we all represent Washington the same way."