June 2, 2006
CHERRY HILL, N.J. - Washington's entire four-boat fleet qualified for Saturday's grand finals, including the varsity eight crew that Friday posted the second-fastest time for the second straight day at the men's Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championships on the Cooper River.
UW's three other crews, the second varsity eight, freshman eight and open four, will also make grand final appearances. The second-varsity eight was impressive in recording a repechage triumph. The first-year Huskies had the top semifinal time among freshman eights. The open four did not compete Friday after earning an automatic place in Saturday's championship race by virtue of a heat victory on Thursday.
The Huskies broke from a tightly-packed group early in their varsity eight semifinal and led most of the race before Princeton began to close the gap. The top-ranked Tigers edged UW by two seats at the finish line, finishing in 5-minutes, 43.1-seconds. The Huskies' second-place time of 5:44.18 was the second fastest in semifinal racing. Brown finished third in 5:45.99.
Yale won the other varsity semifinal with a time of 5:45.88. California was second and three-time defending champion Harvard edged Northeastern for third place.
The Huskies' varsity eight seeks to return to the medal dock for the fifth time in the last six years with the ultimate goal being their first national championship since 1997. UW's top crew finished fourth last season.
Despite its No. 7 seeding, Washington has every reason to believe it can challenge for the championship. The Huskies have been the most consistent of the regatta's elite crews, posting the second-fastest time in each of the first two days of competition. They finished a close second to No. 2 seed California on Thursday before Friday's hard-fought battle with No. 1 Princeton.
Sophomore Steve Full refused to predict a victory. But he did claim that the Huskies are capable of bringing home the Varsity Challenge Cup trophy for the 12th time in school history.
"I think we have a chance to win it. If we throw down our best race, we can do it. I'm not going to say without a doubt because you never know what can happen in a race, but I know that our boat has the speed to do it."
Three weeks ago, following the Pac-10 championships, Washington didn't appear to be a legitimate national title contender. The varsity eight was third and the second varsity was the runner-up at the conference regatta. Ironically, the trading of a pair of rowers from each crew made both boats faster.
"So much of it is just chemistry. These guys are race dogs," explained Coach Bob Ernst. "We train all year long and this is the ultimate goal every year, to see how we are going to do at the national championships. All that other stuff, everything until Saturday, is a prelim."
UW's second varsity remained in contention for its third consecutive IRA championship. It wasn't easy. The Huskies were paired in the same repechage with California, a crew they lost against in two previous meetings this season. Only the repechage winners earned a grand final berth with the rest of the field dropping into the petite and third finals.
"The second varsity had to reach down and row to the occasion. I couldn't be prouder of those guys," Ernst said. "That was a courageous race. They went out to win it on the first stroke and they just kept going. You find out what kind of athletes you've got in a rep where only the winner goes to the grand final."
UW claimed the critical first-place position off the starting block and never relinquished it en route to a boat-length triumph over the Golden Bears. After racing out to an early lead, the Huskies made a strong move at the 500-meter mark to distance themselves from the field. Cal also rowed away from the rest of the field, but was unable to get within a length of the Huskies whose winning time of 5:56.33 was the fastest among second varsity boats. The Bears' second-place time was 5:59.57 and Cornell was third in 6:02.51.
Earning a grand final berth at the expense of West Coast rival California enhanced the joy of the repechage win, according to senior Craig Tyler.
"It was the winner to the grand final and everyone else to the petite. So for at least five of us, the seniors, that was the last time we'd ever race Cal either way," he said. "It feels pretty good to know that you beat them the last time you raced them. But, there is still a huge race tomorrow."
Northeastern and Brown won the other two repechage races. They will be joined in the second varsity final by Thursday's heat winners Harvard, Wisconsin and Yale.
"We're always aware of the tradition of this crew," coxswain Adrian Andrews said of the two-time defending champion UW second varsity. "We have a plaque in the boathouse that lists all of the national champions with their name and the year they won. It's in our weight room and we look at that thing every day. We put ourselves in position to be on there and we'll see what happens tomorrow."
The men's freshman eight semifinals were contested three hours later than originally scheduled, a break necessitated by flood control operations on the Cooper River. Extremely heavy rain during thunderstorms late Thursday night raised the river's level. A dam released some water, lowering the level during the break between Friday's morning and afternoon sessions.
The delay didn't bother the Huskies. For the second straight day, they clocked the best time by a freshman boat. UW easily won its semifinal, going wire-to-wire to prevail by open-water with a time of 5:49.72. Harvard crossed the line second in 5:54.89 and Wisconsin was third in 5:37.36.
The second-seeded Huskies appear poised to improve upon last season's bronze medal performance. Awaiting them in the grand final is top-seeded California, the Pac-10 champion. The Bears defeated UW by over four seconds, April 22 in their dual meet. That margin was trimmed to two-tenths of a second, May 14 at the conference regatta.
"The Pac-10s was a good race," said Trevor Mollenkopf, the No. 3 seat in the frosh crew. "We changed the boat lineup a lot right before that race and we really didn't click until two, maybe three days before the race. So to come that close to them with a boat that hadn't really meshed together was a great feeling. Now we've been rowing for the last three weeks. We're definitely rowing our best now."
Cal won Friday's other freshman semifinal in 5:50.53, followed by Penn in 5:53.48 and Princeton in 5:55.73.
Washington and Harvard are the only two schools to advance a crew into grand finals for each of the three major eight-oared events: the varsity, second varsity and freshman races. The Huskies were the last team to "sweep the river" in those events, winning all three races in 1997. That was UW's fifth all-time sweep as the rare feat was also accomplished in 1936, 1937, 1948 and 1950.
Husky crews won national championships last year in the second varsity eight and open four events. The freshman eight collected the bronze medal while the varsity eight finished fourth. All four of this year's UW entries are still in medal contention.
UW's open four was one of three heat winners Thursday, along with California and Yale, that moved straight to the final round. They will be joined in the grand final by the winners of Friday's repechage races, including Princeton and two crews from Wisconsin.
The current crew is seeking to continue a legacy of success that has seen the Huskies win four consecutive national championships in four-oared events. Washington won the varsity four title at the 2003 and 2004 IRA regattas and the open four in 2002. This year's UW four is entered in the open race in which guidelines stipulate that each crew must contain at least one freshman rower.
2006 Men's Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships
Friday, June 2, 2006
Cooper River; Cherry Hill, N.J.
(all races were 2,000 meters)
DAY 2 -- SEMIFINAL & REPECHAGE RACE RESULTS
(Top three in each semifinal to Grand Final)
Semifinal I -- 1, Yale 5:45.88. 2, California 5:46.4. 3, Harvard 5:49.52. 4, Northeastern 5:49.84. 5, Syracuse 5:56.97. 6, Penn 5:59.26.
Semifinal II -- 1, Princeton 5:43.1. 2, Washington 5:44.18. 3, Brown 5:45.99. 4, Wisconsin 5:47.14. 5, Navy 5:53.73. 6, Cornell 6:01.45.
UW lineup: cox-Micah Perrin, stroke-Toby Dankbaar, 7-Tad McCrea, 6-Ante Kusurin, 5-Rob Gibson, 4-Aljosa Corovic, 3-Colin Phillips, 2-Kiel Petersen, bow-Steve Full.
Grand Final Qualifiers: Brown, California, Harvard, Princeton, Washington, Yale.
Second Varsity Eights
(Winner of each repechage to Grand Final)
Repechage I -- 1, Northeastern 5:58.17. 2, Princeton 6:00.96. 3, Navy 6:08.13. 4, Georgetown 6:11.48. 5, Dartmouth 6:17.94.
Repechage II -- 1, Brown 5:58.42. 2, Syracuse 6:00.54. 3, Boston University 6:02.18. 4, Michigan 6:04.81.
Repechage III -- 1, Washington 5:56.33. 2, California 5:59.57. 3, Cornell 6:02.51. 4, Holy Cross 6:12.16. 5, Temple 6:19.0.
UW lineup: cox-Adrian Andrews, stroke-Drew Fowler, 7-Scott Schmidt, 6-Adam Van Winkle, 5-David Edward-Aron, 4-Andrew Beaton, 3-Derek DeVries, 2-Tyler Smith, bow-Craig Tyler.
Grand Final Lane Assignments: 1-Harvard, 2-Wisconsin, 3-Yale, 4-Brown, 5-Washington, 6-Northeastern.
(Top three in each semifinal to Grand Final)
Semifinal I -- 1, California 5:50.53. 2, Penn 5:33.48. 3, Princeton 5:55.73. 4, Cornell 6:03.57. 5, Northeastern 6:04.16. 6, Georgetown 6:14.35.
Semifinal II -- 1, Washington 5:49.72. 2, Harvard 5:54.89. 3, Wisconsin 5:57.36. 4, Brown 5:59.34. 5, Boston University 6:02.21. 6, Yale 6:08.29
UW lineup: cox-Katelin Snyder, stroke-Will Crothers, 7-Mike Flight, 6-Jessiah Johnson, 5-Max Lang, 4-Bart-Jan Caron, 3-Trevor Mollenkopf, 2-Asa Bergdahl, bow-Lowell Neal.
Grand Final Qualifiers: California, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Washington, Wisconsin.
(Winner of each repechage to Grand Final)
Repechage I -- 1, Wisconsin "B" 6:38.52. 2, Harvard 6:42.43. 3, Brown 6:53.97. 4, Michigan 6:57.39.
Repechage II -- 1, Wisconsin "A" 6:33.58. 2, Dartmouth 6:43.74. 3, Georgetown 6:46.04. 4, Princeton "B" 6:50.63. 5, Cornell 6:59.22.
Repechage III -- 1, Princeton "A" 6:44.35. 2, George Washington 6:49.88. 3, Penn 6:51.62. 4, Boston University 6:58.55.
UW lineup: cox-Patrick Kavanagh, stroke-Peter Carlson, 3-Alan Oriard, 2-Dustin Kraus, bow-Jon Engel.
Grand Final Lane Assignments: 1-Yale, 2-Washington, 3-California, 4-Princeton, 5- Wisconsin "A", 6-Wisconsin "B".