April 16, 2010
SEATTLE - With intercollegiate rowing, it doesn't necessarily matter if you're fast in April. You just need to be fast in June.
Nevertheless, over the course of this week the women's crew program at Washington has tinkered with its lineup during training on Lake Washington, trying to unearth the best combo of rowers for its varsity eight. Despite successful results in each of its first two regattas, at Stanford and home against Washington State, the Huskies understand there is a faster boat available in their ranks.
This is the task for women's coach and rowing director Bob Ernst, who is shuffling rowers during their early morning workouts on Montlake in preparation for the much-anticipated dual with Cal next weekend on April 24. Now in his 36th year at Washington, Ernst is no stranger to inconsistent crews during the early stages of the spring racing season. His primary concern is putting together a fast eight by NCAAs.
"We're starting to see some combinations," Ernst said. "I don't think we have it solved yet. But, man, I've never seen any group try any harder to find a solution than this particular bunch. That's pretty inspirational."
No class has worked harder in that regard than the seniors, who are in pursuit of hardware at the NCAAs to end their intercollegiate careers on a high note. Ernst said they're the group, which includes captain Adrienne Martelli and Kayleigh Mack, that arrives early to Conibear Shellhouse and have worked constantly to make each practice meaningful. It's because of work like this that Ernst knows faster times will come. He's seen seasons before where his student-athletes will have great success individually in workouts, but struggle to mesh well when grouped in an eight. He also pointed out this group is working hard to find that chemistry.
"They're legit," Ernst said. "They're working really hard and trying to make the boats go fast. At the same time, we have some very talented young kids in the program and it's kind of trying to get it all focused on the same point."
The combination of experience and young talent is still trying to coalesce at the Shellhouse. For the most part, the No. 9 Huskies (according to the latest CRCA/USRowing Poll) are exhibiting a lineup lean on varsity experience.
Complicating matters is the tremendous depth the program exhibits each practice. The second varsity and novice eights are undefeated this season, creating bottom pressure as seats in the varsity eight come up for grabs.
But Ernst doesn't want his top boat coming to the Shellhouse each morning concerned with protecting their spots. The goal - as always - is to make boats move fast.
"We're looking for synergy," Ernst said. "You not only want a group that rows well together, but when they click, then they produce more than just the sum of the parts."