May 16, 2010
RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. - "We've had a circle around this day for a while."
This was how men's crew coach Michael Callahan summed up the Huskies dominating run at the Pac-10 Championships on Sunday, an afternoon that saw No. 1 ranked Washington capture its 33rd conference rowing title at the 2,000 meter course on Lake Natoma.
It not only helped validate their undefeated run through the regular season, but it allowed the team to check off a goal that's been oft-repeated this season around Conibear Shellhouse - capture a Pac-10 title.
The Huskies did so was a strong effort from each crew, in particular the varsity eight. Going off in the penultimate race of the afternoon, the varsity shook off a blistering start from Cal at the gun. The Huskies weathered the Golden Bears sprint, and then took over just after the 500-meter mark to finish in a time of 5:45.80, almost four seconds ahead of their archrivals. After their bow ball crossed the finish line, several of the varsity members flung their hands in the air and let out celebratory screams.
Meanwhile, near the team tent, Callahan quietly pumped his fist and shook hands with his fellow coache s. It was clear to everyone involved in the program that this race meant something. "We really wanted to have a good performance today and I think the guys did that," Callahan said. "We've worked really hard for this one."
For the Huskies, this allowed the varsity to wring out the memories from last year's Pac-10s, where the boat finished third to Cal and Stanford in the blistering California heat. This year, the Huskies had much cooler weather for racing on a near-perfect afternoon here in Northern California.
The team began the day with a win in the freshmen eight, a wire-to-wire win for the Grunties. Despite the best intentions of the Golden Bears and the Cardinal to take control from the onset, it was the Huskies who had dictated the racing terms, crossing the finish line in a time of 5:51.90. The win also marked the third straight Pac-10 title for frosh coach Luke McGee.
What followed was a gut-check performance from the varsity four, a boat that had to hold off a determined Cal boat the entire length of the course. The Huskies would move up three seats, only to see the Golden Bears inch back into the race. But the Niles Garratt-stroked boat rowed a mature race, oblivious to the Cal challenge and content to focus on its own strategy.
This set the stage for a solid row from the junior varsity, which raced under similar circumstances - fending off a run from Cal. The Golden Bears had a lead at the 500-meter mark before Washington dropped the hammer, turning in a blistering 1.29.21 split for the second 500. Stunned, Cal was never able to recover.
"We expected Cal to be a good competitor and push us," Callahan said. "The key was to make sure we were in tune in our own boat, confident in our boat, and use the whole 2K race course to maximize speed."
With the sweep, the Huskies took home the maximum 72 points in the competition. Cal finished second with 63, while Stanford took home the Pac-10 bronze with 54 points.
But the Huskies still have plenty left on their season agenda, starting with the IRA Regatta in three weeks at Camden, N.J. The team will take Monday off before making a return to their intense water workouts as part of the final training push towards National Championships.
Men's Pac-10 Championships
Washington 5:45.80, Cal 5:49.20, Stanford 6:03.50, Oregon State 6:09.40, Washington State 6:12.80, USC 6:31.20, UCLA 6:39.20
Second Varsity Eight
Washington 5:56.10, Cal 5:58.40, Stanford 6:01.20, Oregon State 6:21.00, Washington State 6:32.20
Washington 6:34.70, Cal 6:36.60, Stanford 7:08.20, Oregon 7:32.90, USC 7:41.30
Washington 5:51.90, Cal 5:57.00, Stanford 6:04.00, Oregon State 6:08.30, Washington St. 6:34.10, USC 6:58.70