Feb. 20, 2011
BOSTON - The Huskies flew across the country ready to show the rowing world their strength on the ergometer at the C.R.A.S.H.-B sprints. Mission accomplished.
Conlin McCabe won the U-23 collegiate division with a strongman effort on the Concept 2 ergometer, pulling a 2,000-meter piece in 5:48.00. He was more than four seconds better than 2nd-place finisher and teammate Hans Struzyna, who finished at 5:52.60, a PR for the senior from Kirkland, Wash. Rounding out the Huskies performance was Hannes Heppner, who came through with a time of 6:01.30, despite dealing with cold symptoms.
"It was good practice flying here to compete," McCabe said. "It'll help prepare us for when we have to do it again at IRAs."
The 2,000-meter piece is the identical distance used by collegiate rowing in the spring sprint season, which is why the 2K is one of the primary tools used to evaluate the total fitness of the athletes. The taxing distance quickly puts rowers past their lactic threshold, making the competition a mental one as well as physical. C.R.A.S.H.-Bs are one of the premier indoor rowing events the sport offers, attracting some of the fittest athletes from around the globe.
For the Huskies, the scene at Agganis Arena on the campus of Boston University was an eye-opening experience. Not only did the Huskies have to compete in a venue with hundreds of fans and numerous distractions, but the stale air in the BU hockey complex was a recipe for dehydration. The adrenaline that came with competing against the best collegiate rowers, though, mollified those concerns. Even during warm-ups, both McCabe and Struzyna noted to each other how the intensity of the event was palpable.
Men's crew coach Michael Callahan made the trip to Boston with the team and was helpful as a motivator, pushing his rowers through the more daunting moments of the race.
"It was good to see the boys rise to the occasion," he said.
The competitors at C.R.A.S.H.-Bs were able to monitor their performance against one another on a big screen that showed where each rower was during the piece. Struzyna watched as other rowers flew out to early leads, only to tire out midway through the race.
"(Callahan) has done a great job of teaching me how to race," Struzyna said. "All I really needed to do was go out and execute the race plan."
Because McCabe had opened such a sizable lead against the rest of the competition, Struzyna focused on accomplishing his primary goal - bringing home a PR. But he made it a point to let McCabe know he was still in the race, making the C.R.A.S.H.-B experience almost like an erg practice at Conibear Shellhouse, where the two routinely train against one another during pieces.
This was the first time Washington has competed in the collegiate division of C.R.A.S.H.-Bs, meaning the Husky rowers had the attention that came with their name recognition. This is where Callahan cited a mantra oft-used by UW football coach Steve Sarkisian: you have to be able to compete under pressure, no matter the environment.
From that perspective, the three rowers achieved their goal.
"The erg judges individual effort, and we're more focused on how fast we can move an (eight-oared shell)," Callahan said. "But there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from the erg, and then translated to the water. This was a good day for us."