May 30, 2007
The Washington men's rowing team is in New Jersey, making their final preparations for the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships. The three-day regatta runs from Thursday, May 31 through Saturday, June 2 on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J.
Sophomore Jessiah Johnson (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island) rows in the No. 2 seat of the Huskies' top-ranked varsity eight crew. Last year he was a member of UW's national champion freshman eight.
Jessiah spent a few minutes with GoHuskies.com, talking about the season and describing his thoughts on the upcoming IRA Championships.
GoHuskies.com: What are your thoughts on the season so far?
Jessiah Johnson: "It's going really well, we're really pleased with it. But we're not done yet. We have to keep moving on, keep working hard in practice and get faster every day. We're looking forward to IRAs. It's going to be a lot of fun."
GoHuskies: What would you consider the highlight of the season to this point?
JJ: "Winning Pac-10 Championships. We had a really great race."
GoHuskies: You won a national championship with the freshman eight crew last season. What were your emotions after crossing the finish line in that grand final?
JJ: "I was really happy! I was so excited because all of our hard work paid off. We killed ourselves during the season to get to that point. It all paid off."
GoHuskies: Four members of the championship freshman crew are in the current varsity eight boat. Did that surprise you to move right into UW's top crew as a sophomore?
JJ: "I don't think we were necessarily surprised. We knew we had a lot of strong guys on the freshman team. We knew that we were definitely pushing the varsity, if not in the varsity. We knew we'd have a couple guys in the varsity and a couple in the jayvee."
GoHuskies: Is that a benefit for the varsity crew, going into the IRAs, having people who won a championship last year?
JJ: "I don't think it's an advantage, I think it's just a group of guys that work well together. Being really tight is the best advantage."
GoHuskies: You grew up in the area, on Mercer Island. What was your perception of the Washington rowing program before you joined?
JJ: "I knew it has been a strong program throughout the years. My coaches were from Washington so I knew about it. There's just a lot of history. It's a great place and a lot of fun."
GoHuskies: You're also a fantastic wrestler and football player in high school. How did you end up as a rower?
JJ: "I started rowing when I was cross-training and I just fell in love with it. I love the sport. It's a lot of fun and I love the people. I get along with everybody really well."
GoHuskies: Did you consider attending a college where you could wrestling?
JJ: "I didn't consider going anywhere for wrestling. I didn't think I was good enough, and I didn't like it enough. I didn't necessarily want to continue on with it into college.
GoHuskies: You rowed at the under-23 world championships. How is an international regatta different from collegiate rowing?
JJ: "In international rowing, you know a lot less about your competitors. It's kind of different, but at the same time, it's just racing. You go out there and put out your best race. It's a different sense in that you don't know who you're racing against and how fast everyone else is. You just know how fast you are."
GoHuskies: You're encountering the same thing this weekend at the IRA championships, racing against East Coast teams that you don't know a lot about. What's the race plan when facing a team that you aren't familiar with?
JJ: "We just race our race. We keep our heads in the boat, find our rhythm and lay down a good race."
GoHuskies: It's still early in your academic career, but do you have any ideas on a major?
JJ: "I plan on majoring in Geology."
GoHuskies: What do you plan to do after college?
JJ: "I haven't quite decided that yet. I don't know."
GoHuskies: What makes the Washington rowing program so unique and special?
JJ: "It's just a really tight group of guys. It's a great atmosphere. Washington has great facilities and great people. It's a lot of fun."
GoHuskies: Thanks a lot for your time and good luck at the IRA Championships.
JJ: "Thank you."