May 30, 2002
INDIANAPOLIS - The maiden voyage takes place during the NCAA Championships.
The top-ranked Washington women's crew begins defense of its national title Friday and the varsity eight will be rowing in a brand new boat. Their original boat was damaged in transit to the championships.
The defending champion Huskies have an entry in all three of the feature events at the NCAA Championships that run Friday through Sunday in Indianapolis. The team champion is determined by a combination of results from the varsity eight, second varsity (junior varsity) and varsity four. Washington captured its third team title last spring by virtue of first-place performances by the varsity eight and varsity four.
Husky men's head coach Bob Ernst and two interns departed Seattle May 21 with a trailer full of boats, half of which were scheduled to be dropped off at the women's championship venue and the other half completing the cross-country journey to New Jersey for the men's competition. The trailer encountered high winds in Wyoming and the women's varsity eight shell was blown off the trailer, rendering it unusable.
The University of Iowa offered the services of a boat that the Huskies used for practice purposes. A new competition shell, originally constructed for Duke University, was delivered from Pocock Racing Shells in Everett, Wash.
Ironically, cross-state rival Washington State helped the Huskies by transporting the shell to Indianapolis after the boat builder dropped it off in Pullman. The Cougars are competing in the varsity eight race and had space available on their trailer for the trip to Indianapolis.
"The rowing community is pretty close-knit and this is just a real good statement about how much everyone pitches in," UW women's coach Jan Harville remarked. "Iowa loaned us a boat and Washington State brought our boat out and we are very appreciative.
"We're pretty excited about having a new boat to race in, that doesn't happen very often. We went out and practiced with it and it was perfect. That's the benefit of rowing in the same boats all year round is that they are from the same mold and materials regardless of how new it is."
The new boat will take the moniker of its predecessor that was named in honor of Hunter Simpson. Following Thursday's practice on the Eagle Creek Park course, Harville applied purple and gold "Washington" decals to the boat along with script lettering identifying the boat as "The Hunter."
The Huskies dispensed with any formal initiation ceremony, hoping instead to christen the new boat with a championship.
The second varsity also had a unique situation to deal with as senior captain Jenni Vesnaver contracted chicken pox upon her return from a triumphant performance at the Pac-10 Championships on May 19 in Sacramento. The entire team was exposed, but Vesnaver was the only rower stricken. She missed four days of practice, but returned to the lineup for one week of practice prior to the championships.
Vesnaver claims that she is back at full strength, if not stronger.
"The other girls were having really hard practices while I was out. I came in thinking that I would be really tired and wouldn't be able to keep up," she explained. "Actually I came in really tapered and had a lot of energy. Basically, my body was really rested from four days off and I don't think I lost any fitness."
The Huskies hope the rest of their NCAA Championship journey unfolds without incident.