June 7, 2008
CHERRY HILL, N.J. - Three Washington crews won national titles and the other two placed second, including the varsity eight that lost to Wisconsin Saturday during the final day of the men's Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championships on the Cooper River.
The three event championships equaled last year's take as the most ever for the Huskies' fleet of crews. UW has come home with a trio of IRA trophies on seven occasions. The three victorious boats continued a streak that has seen at least one Washington crew win a national championship during each of the last eight years.
All five Husky crews received medals as the varsity eight and freshman eight crews collected silvers. The five, first- or second-place finishes enabled Washington to capture the Ten Eyck Trophy, honoring the regatta's team points leader. The Huskies were overall winners for the second straight season. UW amassed 214 points, seven more than the 207 tallied by second-place California. Wisconsin was third (191), Harvard fourth (157) and Brown fifth (150).
"The team had crews that won three gold medals and two silvers. The boathouse is doing great," exclaimed Husky head coach Michael Callahan.
The defending champion Huskies came up short in the featured race, falling four seats behind undefeated Wisconsin. Top-ranked UW sustained its first varsity eight loss since the 2006 IRA grand final on the same Cooper River venue, halting an 18-race winning streak.
The Huskies resided in the top spot of the coaches poll all season. But, in the most recent rankings, they shared the 18 first-place votes evenly with No. 2 Wisconsin.
Despite temperatures in the 90s and humidity pushing the heat index over 100 degrees, the varsity eight race was fast.
The Huskies set the pace early, streaking out to a five-seat lead in the opening 300 meters. UW and California were racing for the fifth time this season and they battled over the second 500-meter segment, with Wisconsin staying slightly back. UW's lead was trimmed to two seats by the 1,000-meter mark.
The Badgers made a strong move with 750 meters to go that put away the Golden Bears. The Huskies held firm a few seats back, but were unable to respond with a sprint to overtake Wisconsin.
"Obviously we're disappointed," said junior Jessiah Johnson, who pulls the No. 6 oar for the UW varsity. "They took it up in the last 600 meters to go. They got it up pretty high in the last 500 and just got some seats on us. We started our sprint and they got a little more and maintained it all the way down. It was neck-and-neck all the way down."
At the finish, the Badgers crossed the line in 5-minutes, 31.17-seconds to win their first varsity eight national championship since 1990. The Huskies clocked a second-place mark of 5:32.89, shaving seven seconds off their fastest time of the year.
"I think we just got beat by a better crew today," said junior coxswain Katelin Snyder. "I believed in my guys until the very end. I'm proud because I know that we rowed the best race that we could have raced today."
California finished a distant third place in 5:39.02, Northeastern was fourth (5:42.39), Stanford fifth (5:43.32) and Columbia sixth (5:44.56). Columbia made its first varsity eight grand final appearance since the IRA switched to the 2,000-meter format in 1968.
Wisconsin is the fifth different national champion in the last four years, as Washington (2007), California (2006) and Harvard (2005) won the previous three titles.
"Our guys went out there to win and they were just going really, really hard. It seems that Wisconsin had another gear at the end that we weren't able to match," described Callahan. "Wisconsin was just a really great crew, they were rowing really poised. They had a really good position and they didn't get in the dogfight between us and Cal, and that was probably very smart to do. They sat back until they needed to make their move and they did. We weren't able to match it. We had one more push and they were able to counter it again."
It took a furious finish for the Huskies to secure the second varsity championship for the second straight season.
Washington's boat battled West Coast rival California down the entire length of the course. Midway through the race, the Pac-10 crews were even. UW moved out to a two-seat edge with 500 meters to row and then put on an impressive sprint en route to a six-seat triumph.
Senior Andrew Beaton, the Huskies' team captain, was ecstatic. But, he would have preferred to race a shorter distance.
"We were praying for that finish line to come sooner than it did, but we made it and won," said UW's No. 3 seat. "We moved at the 600 instead of waiting until 200 or 300 to go. We knew we had to put it away as soon as we could, going into the end. We really pushed hard and had a huge adrenaline rush."
UW clocked a time of 5:39.30 over the 2,000-meter course and Cal was second in 5:41.53. Wisconsin had a third-place time of 5:43.92. Harvard finished fourth (5:49.23), Orange Coast was fifth (5:51.22) and Brown was sixth (5:52.29).
Five seniors competed in the Huskies' second varsity crew, including four who were members of last season's championship boat.
"When you have a bunch of seniors in a boat, that's the kind of race that you want. They just slugged it out and had one last, good punch," said Callahan.
The freshman eight grand final was a repeat of Friday's semifinal, with California overtaking the Huskies and edging them at the finish.
UW held a two-seat lead 500 meters before the finish line. Cal nosed into the front for good with 300 meters to go. The Bears' winning time was 5:37.37 and UW crossed the line in 5:37.88. The rest of the pack trailed by open-water with Harvard third in 5:42.33, followed by Yale (5:44.75), Brown (5:47.37) and Princeton (5:48.62).
Washington sustained its success in the smaller boats, striking gold in a four-oared event for the seventh straight season.
Junior Leah Downey, from Seattle Prep High School, directed a Husky four to the gold medal for the second straight season. Last year she won with an open four crew that included two freshmen. This year, she guided the varsity four to the national crown.
The Huskies jumped out of the blocks and held a three-quarter boat length margin for the first half of the race. Marist drew even and then gained a one-seat lead with 200 meters remaining. Those top-two boats rowed together until UW surged ahead at the finish line. The Huskies finished in 6:19.96 and Marist in 6:20.74. Cornell placed third in 6:23.51, Cal was fourth (6:24.59), UCLA fifth (6:32.92) and Brown sixth (6:35.56).
Junior David VanBolt, UW's bowman, said the unfamiliar nature of the opposition makes for interesting four-oared racing.
"It's a different field in the varsity four and there are some smaller programs that you don't know who's going to be fast. Marist really brought it to us out there today. I don't think at any point anyone thought we had it locked up until the last two or three strokes. It was just really great racing."
One championship plaque that won't immediately make it into the UW trophy case is the freshman four award. The Huskies earned the honor, but the traveling trophy wasn't available. The trophy should arrive soon, with a Berkeley postmark. Last year's winner, California, neglected to return it to New Jersey.
That will be the first time the freshman four award is displayed in the trophy case at Conibear Shellhouse. A Husky crew has never competed in that event at the IRA Regatta.
Despite coming together as a crew less than three weeks ago, UW's freshman four raced away from the field en route to a course-record of 6:25.93 in that event. The previous best by a first-year four was a time of 6:26.1 established by Minnesota in 1993.
"I had no idea we were going that fast. It just felt really good," said Chris Rinker, a product of Seattle's Garfield High School who rows in the bow seat. "It was a great way to end the season and then to set a course record, that's a special thing that doesn't happen very often."
The freshman four started the day off right for the Husky fleet. They were never seriously challenged, owning an open-water advantage most of the way down the course. The winning time was over four seconds better than runner-up California's mark of 6:30.32. Wisconsin finished third in 6:36.35, Rutgers was fourth (6:39.17), Oregon State was fifth (6:40.19) and Drexel sixth (6:48.98).
"A few weeks ago it was a stretch to think we would do this," Rinker said. "I knew we had a lot of talent, but we didn't have a whole lot of time to prepare."
Saturday's final was the second true race for this quartet, which won a semifinal Friday and registered the fastest time in Thursday's time trial. The first-year crew did not race during the regular season and only began training as a four in mid May.
The IRA is the oldest collegiate crew championship in the country, dating back to 1895. It remains the premier event for national rowing honors for college men. This year's regatta featured 1,312 athletes in 184 crews, representing 51 colleges.
The conclusion of this year's IRA Championships has Callahan thinking about the 2009 season.
"We're in a good position and we're gaining even more people next year. We have a great freshman class coming up and we have some guys coming back from the Olympics, so I'm already looking forward to next year. Now, we have some motivation."
2008 Men's Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Cooper River; Cherry Hill, N.J.
(all races were 2,000 meters)
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
1, Washington, 214
2, California, 207
3, Wisconsin, 191
4, Harvard, 157
5, Brown, 150
6, Northeastern, 148
7, Yale, 140
8, Cornell, 138
9, Princeton, 121
10, Stanford, 106
11, Navy, 96
12, Columbia, 68
13, Oregon State, 65
14, Syracuse, 63
15, Boston University, 47
DAY 3 -- GRAND FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS
1, Wisconsin, 5:31.17
2, Washington, 5:32.89
3, California, 5:39.02
4, Northeastern, 5:42.39
5, Stanford, 5:43.32
6, Columbia, 5:44.56
UW lineup: cox-Katelin Snyder, stroke-Will Crothers, 7-Heath Allen, 6-Jessiah Johnson, 5-Simon Taylor, 4-Blaise Didier, 3-Roko Svast, 2-Toby Dankbaar, bow-Lowell Neal.
Second Varsity Eight
1, Washington, 5:39.30
2, California, 5:41.53
3, Wisconsin, 5:43.92
4, Harvard, 5:49.23
5, Orange Coast, 5:51.22
6, Brown, 5:52.29
UW lineup: cox-Micah Perrin, stroke-Graham Oglend, 7-Asa Bergdahl, 6-Trevor Mollenkopf, 5-Drew Fowler, 4-Tad McCrea, 3-Andrew Beaton, 2-Steve Full, bow-Bart-Jan Caron.
1, California, 5:37.37
2, Washington, 5:37.88
3, Harvard, 5:42.33
4, Yale, 5:44.75
5, Brown, 5:47.37
6, Princeton, 5:48.62
UW lineup: cox-Alex Chalk, stroke-Hans Struzyna, 7-Noah O'Connell, 6-Nenad Bulicic, 5-Anthony Jacob, 4-Matt Zapel, 3- Ty Otto, 2-Bede Clarke, bow-Trevor Walchenbach.
1, Washington, 6:19.96
2, Marist, 6:20.74
3, Cornell, 6:23.51
4, California, 6:24.59
5, UCLA, 6:32.92
6, Brown, 6:35.56
UW lineup: cox-Leah Downey, stroke-Stephen Connolly, 3-Dane Robbins, 2-Kit Culbert, bow-David VanBolt.
1, Washington, 6:25.93
2, California, 6:30.32
3, Wisconsin, 6:36.35
4, Rutgers, 6:39.17
5, Oregon State, 6:40.19
6, Drexel, 6:48.98
UW lineup: cox-Michelle Darby, stroke-Niles Garratt, 3-Bjoern Sbierski, 2-Tyler Emsky, bow-Chris Rinker.