March 25, 2013
SEATTLE - Being a member of Washington Rowing requires toughness and dedication. Training hard six days a week is difficult for anyone; but to be attending school and taking challenging classes while doing so is something impressive. All the hard work put in by these student-athletes is meant for one thing: to be the best they can be come spring.
As the races get closer and closer there is an air of excitement around Conibear. The men are eager to carve their own path while the women are confident that this is their year.
"I think the whole team is excited to get out and start racing," said senior Alex Bunkers. "It is always fun to see the hard work that we put in during the fall and winter pay off."
Last season, the Washington women earned their best PAC-12 finish since 2006, finishing second at the Championships last May while sending two boats to the Grand Finals at the NCAA National Championships.
Head coach and rowing director Bob Ernst thought last year's finish was encouraging and is pleased with the momentum that has carried over.
"I thought we ended last year on a good note and the kids have hit the ground running right from the fall," said Ernst.
The Huskies have six of nine members returning from the Varsity 8 and four of five from the Varsity 4 shells that competed in the 2012 finals. The will also have 10 seniors on the roster this year. Joining the experienced upperclassmen is some young talent that will be fighting for spots in the varsity boats and pushing the veterans to get better.
This will be key as depth has become a strength of PAC-12 women's rowing as a whole. Ernst believes it could be the toughest conference in the country this year.
"When I look at the talent, not only are the varsity crews going to be competitive in our conference, but the JVs will be too," said Ernst. "Not many teams lost too many people so it's going to be stiff competition the entire season."
Despite the number of returners, the 2013 squad is still relatively young. To maneuver the strong waters of the Pac-12, the team will rely on their veteran leadership from their seniors, including Madison Culp and Marie Strohmayer. Culp won gold with the USA U-23 team last summer in Lithuania while Strohmayer was an All PAC-12 Conference selection in 2012.
Fellow senior Monique Moore attests to the feelings around the shellhouse as the season nears.
"We are a really talented group this year and we are ready to win it all," said Moore. "I'm excited for the racing season to begin. I feel like we are ready to make a big statement and I am so glad I get to finish my last year with these awesome women."
On the men's side, the Huskies aren't focusing on what the teams and shells before them have done, but what they can do with the group they have this year. Their recent history needs no introduction: Two-consecutive national championships and six straight Ten Eyk awards including a sweep of the Grand Finals at the 2012 IRAs.
For Callahan, the goal is the same as any other year.
"The expectations at Conibear Shellhouse are always clear," said Callahan. "Our athletes are eager to make a new mark of their own this year."
The Huskies have seven returners from the 2012 Varsity Eight IRA championship shell including seniors A.J. Brooks, Alex Bunkers, Ryan Schroeder, Mijo Rudelji, Dusan Milovanovic, and Sam Dommer. Washington will also have towering 6'8 senior Conlin McCabe, who won a Silver Medal with Canada at last summer's London Olympic Games.
Bunkers feels the combination of veteran experience and young talent is one that will lead to success.
"We have an exceptional group of guys," said Bunkers. "We have great top-end talent as well as a bunch of developing young guys who are already making an impact on the team. The goal every year is for the team to win the trophy given to the team with the most points and I think we are on the right track as we enter racing season."
Both the men and the women will open the 2013 campaign with the traditional Class Day races this weekend. The women will then head to the San Diego Crew Classic the following weekend while the men stay at home to face Brown. Both squads then go on the road for two weeks to face Washington State (men and women) and Oregon State (men) followed by a showdown at Stanford. The Huskies will return home for the historic Cal Duel on April 27th--the week before Opening Day festivities. Washington is hosting Cornell and Dartmouth for the 2013 edition of the Windermere Cup Regatta on May 4th for their last home races of the year before heading to the Pac-12 Championships in mid-May.