March 29, 2013
SEATTLE - From September leading up to the beginning of the season in March the Washington Rowing training schedule is a grind. Combine that with taking challenging classes and it is not an easy task for anyone, let alone 18 and 19 year olds who usually spend much of their freshman year adjusting to college life. For the 61 1st year rowers that will be making their college racing debuts at the Class Day Regatta this weekend, making it to this point is an impressive feat.
This group of new Washington oarsmen and oarswomen are a diverse, dynamic, and academically motivated collection of student-athletes. Washington has stayed true to keeping a significant amount of in-state rowers in the program, with a combined 41 members from the state of Washington between the men and the women. The Huskies have also extended their reach not just all over the country but all over the world. The Huskies have 11 out-of-staters ranging from California to Florida, three Canadians, and seven new members from overseas. Some have rowing experience before UW, others are using their athletic background to learn how to train and make the Huskies fast.
These new Huskies have also showed their prowess in their academics. Washington tallied 17 1st year members on Dean's List, with 11 coming on the women's side. Men's freshmen Robert Clark was not just the only gruntie on the team earn a 4.0 during his first quarter as a college student, but was the only rower in the program to achieve the high mark. As these young students continue to acclimate themselves to college academics, their marks will only get better.
At the beginning of the year the men started with 100 new members, or "grunties" as they are referred to in Conibear, while the women began the year with over 115 "novices." Those numbers are now at 22 and 39, respectively, illustrating the dedication and perseverance this group has shown to get to this point. In a sense, the season then is a reward for the hard work they've put in for months because they get to do the exciting part--competing in races against outside crews.
On the men's side, it has been a year of transition, with a coaching change coming midway through the year when former freshmen coach Luke McGee left to take a position with the US National Team. McGee's predecessor, Rick Gherst, is proud of how this group responded.
"It's been an interesting year [with the coaching change]," said Gherst. "They have handled it well and worked really hard. They understand that they control their own success."
Gherst's expectations for the grunties are simple.
" [This group] will continue working hard in pursuit of what it means to be a Washington oarsmen," said Gherst. "They are surrounded by great role models, but now it is up to them as the class of 2016 to make their own mark on this program."
The women's squad is ready to make their mark too. According to freshmen coach Conor Bullis, this year's class is dynamic and versatile.
"We have rowers in the group that can fill every role," said Bullis. "There is always someone to step up when we need them."
The Class of 2016 is one that has constantly improved, and Bullis knows they aren't done yet.
"We're going to see a team that will continue to gain speed throughout the year," said Bullis. "They have a hunger for boat speed and it will show on the water."
Class Day Race Schedule
Race 1: Women's Varsity/Novice Challenge 10 a.m.
Race 2: Men's Varsity/Freshmen Challenge 10:10 a.m.
Race 3: The Seattle Times Women's Eight 10:20 a.m.
Race 4: George M. Varnell Men's Eight 10:30 a.m.