Men's Crew Wins All Four Heats to Advance at IRA Regatta
May 30, 2002
Camden, New Jersey - As the fourth and final Washington boat to race, the Huskies' junior varsity eight-oared crew provided fans with a view of the closest finish of the day as it won its heat by inches, capping a morning that saw all four UW crews win their heats and advance to the next round on the first day of racing at the 100th Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championship Regatta on the Cooper River.
The junior varsity eight, or second varsity, advances directly to its grand final Saturday while the varsity and freshman eights and the varsity four compete in semi-final races Friday morning. The threat of thunderstorms caused officials to move the race schedule to an earlier start Friday morning, so racing will take place earlier than previously listed times.
Washington, which is seeking its first gold medals in the varsity and junior varsity eights since 1997 and is defending its championship in the freshman eight, got off to a good start on the opening day of the regatta. After a 90-minute morning delay for fog that gave way to stifling heat and humidity on the Cooper River, the varsity eight was first on the water for Washington. The Huskies, ranked No. 2 in the current USRowing Coaches Poll, occupied lane four in the fourth and final heat of the varsity eights, along with Georgetown in lane one, Marist in two, Pennsylvania in three, Michigan in five and Rutgers in six.
Washington jumped off the starting line at a high rate and led wire to wire, though the crew battled a determined Penn team the whole way. The Huskies covered the 2,000-meter course in a time of 5 minutes, 47.09 seconds, with Penn second at 5:50.5 and Marist third at 5:53.1.
"One of the biggest factors in this race is that it was the first time, since the Wisconsin dual back in April, that we faced an unknown opponent," said coxswain Ryan Marks (Dartmouth, Mass). "We had no idea what to expect from Penn. We saw the results from Eastern Sprints but that's all we had to go off. That's really good practice, not knowing what their race strategy is, not knowing when they are going to take their moves. You just have to go all out, all the way down the race course.
"We didn't start to consistently move away from Penn until about the 600 or 700-meter mark," Marks continued. "Once we got about a length on them, we were hoping that would convince them to ease off a bit since only the first crew advances. They wouldn't let us go at all. We tried to drop the rate down and as soon as we did that, they started moving in on us. I was tempted to yell over to their coxswain, 'what are you doing? It's going to be better for both of us if you just ease off.'
The remaining varsity eight heats went as expected with Northeastern winning the first in the fastest time of the group at 5:43.07. Eastern Sprints champion Wisconsin won heat two in 5:45.8 and three-time defending national champion California won heat three in 5:48.6. All other crews will row in repechage (second chance) heats Thursday afternoon to fill the remaining spots in the Friday semi-finals.
"On Saturday (in the grand final), you've got to get the lead right away," added Marks. "Any time a crew moves on you, you have to respond. You can't let them take a seat without taking it right back. Today, we let Penn come into us a little bit because we didn't want to burn all our energy. We wanted to save a little bit. But there is nothing to save on Saturday. You put it all on the line and make sure you are absolutely on empty when you cross the finish line."
Washington's undefeated freshman eight, defending champions in the IRA event, served notice that it is prepared to keep the title when it posted the fastest time among four heats of first year competitors. Washington and Navy were the first boats off the line in heat one but the Huskies shook off the Academy crew coached by former Husky oarsman Chris Allsopp. With 700-meters remaining, the Huskies had open water on Navy, who had open water on the rest of the field. Washington crossed the finish line at 5:52.33, just about a full length ahead of Navy at 5:53.86. Michigan won heat two of the freshman races, followed by Brown in heat three and Princeton in heat four.
The Huskies' varsity four had a bit of excitement in its heat as the race was called back after UW freshman Evan Galloway's seat came off its track in the first 10 strokes of the race. Regatta rules allow crews to re-start a race if a boat suffers equipment breakage within the first 150-meters of the race.
The setback did not hamper the Huskies, who adjusted quickly and went on to win their heat easily, in a time of 6:32.94, well ahead of Cornell at 6:51.92. Army (6:42.66) won heat two and Wisconsin heat three (6:35.22).
"It was a little bit nerve-wracking," senior Andy Altman said following the race. "For two of our guys, who are freshmen, this is their first big race. They were probably a bit more nervous than usual. We got it back together at the line, everyone relaxed and we had a great start the second time around. Evan was great. He was probably more relaxed than I would have been in the same situation. It ended up being a good confidence booster and it's nice to have a day off now."
The junior varsity eight wrapped up the clean sweep for Washington. Facing a Cornell crew that finished second at Eastern Sprints two weeks ago, the Huskies and Big Red battled all the way down the course. The crews went bow ball to bow ball heading into the home stretch and it was the Huskies who took the final surge and crossed first, two-tenths of a second ahead of Cornell, at 5:43.30 to 5:43.50.
"We just stepped it up that last 500-meters and put it in gear," said coxswain Chris O'Brien (Cincinnati, Ohio). "We knew it was going to be a race all the way to the finish line. I knew we were up a seat, but you can never tell. I told the guys we had it, but I didn't tell them I wasn't sure."
The junior varsity earned a day of rest as the crew advanced directly to the grand final Saturday. The varsity and freshman eights and varsity four compete in their semi-finals Friday morning. Heat and lane assignments will be determined following the Thursday afternoon repechage heats.
"We are exactly where we wanted to be at the end of the first day," Huskies head coach Bob Ernst stated. "All the crews are qualified for the semi-finals Friday and the jayvees got themselves into the final for Saturday. They (the jayvees) had a heck of a row today. That was one of the best races out here all day.
"We knew Cornell would be tough for the junior varsity," he added. "We aren't really into Knute Rockne speeches. I told them they would have to take this one all the way to the finish line to get qualified. You would rather do that than row the reps (repechage heats) Friday. They also wanted to let the guys out here (on the east coast) that we may be the second best in the Pac-10, but we're fast."
Complete regatta results may be viewed at www.row2k.com. and www.IRARegatta.com.
IRA Regatta Schedule
Friday, May 31, 2002 - Semifinal Heats (Alternate Schedule)
Saturday, June 1, 2002 - Championship Finals
100th IRA Regatta (Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships)
Day 1 Heat Results
Varsity Eight Heat 1 1 Northeastern 5:43.07 2 Dowling 5:45.45 3 Princeton 5:59.04 4 Syracuse 6:01.17 5 Boston U 6:03.13