May 1, 2010
SEATTLE - One of the greatest venues for rowing in the world was treated to a show on Saturday afternoon.
Bookended by an estimated 40,000 fans along the Montlake Cut, the University of Washington crews put a stamp on its signature event, sweeping all four of the marquee races in the 24th annual Windermere Cup. In the Windermere Cup title races, the Husky men and women cruised past Syracuse and Oxford, the storied program from England that was making its inaugural trip to Seattle.
The spectacle made for a great day of racing at an event that features hundreds of competitors from the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
"There was a ton of people out there today and they got to see first-class rowing today," said women's coach and rowing director Bob Ernst. "That's fun."
Washington capped the morning with an open-water victory in the final race on the docket - the Men's Windermere Cup challenge. The Husky varsity eight boat accomplished its goal of finding their base rhythm in the middle part of the race before clicking into another gear in the last 500 meters. As the bow ball crossed the finish line in a time of 5:39.599, stroke Mathis Jessen pumped his fist in celebration. The Huskies raced out to a lead of several seats over Oxford and Syracuse, before pulling away from the pair at the 1,000-meter mark.
The Windermere Cup win - the fourth straight for the men - validated a week full of intense training, as the Huskies prepare to peak by the postseason.
"It was a great day for us for sure," Callahan said. "I think for how hard we trained this week the guys are going to be pleased with this race. We came back and got to work. It was a pretty heavy week."
Just as impressive was the women's win in their Windermere Cup race. Ernst has continually tinkered with his lineups in an effort to find boat speed, and he believed after Saturday's race that the Huskies are almost there. The UW crossed the finish line well ahead of their competitors with a blistering time of 6:27.514, almost 17 seconds ahead of second-place Syracuse. This comes a week after Washington hung tight with No. 1 Cal in the last 1,000 meters of their dual at Redwood Shores. During the week leading up to the Windermere Cup, the Huskies ascended to No. 7 in the polls. Rankings couldn't matter less on Montlake, though, as Ernst is more concerned with positioning his team towards a run at the Pac-10 Tournament, which begins for both crews in two weeks on Lake Natoma outside of Sacramento, Calif.
"It's going to be awesome racing two weeks from (Monday)," Ernst said after his crew picked up their fourth straight Windermere Cup title.
Overall, the Huskies won all but one race they entered.
The 2010 edition of the Windermere Cup created a consistent buzz around Seattle with the inclusion of Oxford. The crew from England is one of the most storied programs in the world, and their annual Boat Race with Cambridge is a must-see event for those who follow rowing. Many of the Huskies raised in Europe grew up watching the Boat Race.
"The Boat Race is always pretty famous. Everyone watches it," said varsity oarsman Hannes Heppner, who hails from Berlin. "It's not just England that watches, it's also Germany. Oxford has a good reputation and really good rowers that are experienced from World Championships."
Heppner is a key reason to the Huskies impressive boat speed this year. A hammer on the oar, Heppner has improved his technique to match up with the stroke pair of Jessen and Tom Lehmann. The sync has given the boat added run on the water, as evidenced by the Huskies posting their third-fastest Windermere Cup time in the event's 24-year history.
Both Huskies teams won the Erickson Cascade Cup races, further emphasizing the team's depth this season. This will all be tested, of course, at the Pac-10 Championships on May 16 in California.
Notes: The Windermere Cup will be televised on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. on FSN NW. Featured in the broadcast will be shots from a prototype helicopter camera that followed the marquee events down the Montlake Cut, as well as splits and shots from inside-the-boat provided by PowerhouseTiming.