Huskies Remain Perfect At IRA Semifinals
June 1, 2012
CHERRY HILL, N.J. - When the Washington men's crew program does their postmortem on a race, the results are almost always secondary to the process. Did they have a good start? How did the base rate feel? Did they execute the strategy to perfection?
So while the race times say the Huskies were once again at their best on the second day of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships, the team also understands there's plenty to improve on. There's no thinking big picture when it comes to the IRAs, something the Huskies were painfully reminded of two seasons ago with a National Championship on the line.
"The guys really respect the process of getting better without taking shortcuts," said men's coach Michael Callahan. "Even today, there are some things we made an adjustment on and it sounds like it worked."
Washington swept all four semis on Friday, handling the 75-minute rain delay and a gamut of fast competition with aplomb to win by open water in each event. Now the Huskies move on to Saturday's Grand Finals, knowing gold medals, a Ten Eyck trophy and National Championships will be at stake when they return to the Cooper River course.
But in order to put itself in this position, UW needed to advance out of the semifinals. Only the top three crews in each semi move on to the Grand Final, and there's no repechage to save crews from a subpar row. With the stakes increased, there was more pressure for the Huskies to be at their best.
The varsity eight capped the afternoon with a wire-to-wire win in the final race of the semifinals, utilizing a long and powerful rowing style that has allowed the boat to quickly take leads off the start and hold on to them. Boston University made a move midway through the race to take second, knocking California to third. But neither crew could catch Washington, which was five seconds faster than their competition with a time of 6:14.95, a result indicative of the punishing headwind at the start.
"This team has been through all sorts of challenges the last few years, so these guys have been tested," Callahan said. "It's all about doing the job ... the focus has always been internal on what we can do."
The No. 1 eights is the category that determines the national champions, and Washington is in prime position to bring No. 15 back to Conibear Shellhouse, which would be the second in as many years. There will be stiff competition, particularly from the Ivy League powers that raced opposite the Huskies in the other semifinal. Brown posted an impressive win in their semi, finishing five seconds in front of Harvard, the only crew besides UW to hold the No. 1 ranking this season.
The second varsity eight also posted an open-water win, racing away from the field in their semi to a time of 6:12.548. That was five seconds ahead of the second-place Crimson, who saw a late surge parried away by Washington in the final 500 meters of the race. Also posting wins were the freshmen eight, which outraced Northeastern in a time of 6:03.21, and the varsity four, which saw the Huskies pull away late from California. The Huskies found it difficult to escape the Golden Bears in the first 500 meters, taking a one-seat lead. The margin doubled by the 1,000. By the 1,500-meter mark, the Huskies had extended the margin to several lengths of open water.
All of Washington's times were the fastest of the semifinals, and while those results matter little in the six-boat chaos of the Grand Finals, it's indicative of the speed the Huskies have displayed on the Cooper River. All season long, the Huskies have coalesced as a team, so much so that coxswain Sam Ojserkis jokingly referred to his boat as the San Antonio Spurs, referring to the unglamorous yet potent NBA franchise.
"All year long, these guys have done what I've asked them to do," Callahan said. "They really sold themselves to it. That's the essence of teamwork itself, and they've embodied it."
IRA SEMIFINAL RESULTS
Second Varsity Eight