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Originally published Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 8:00 PM

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Favored Huskies will find plenty of competition for IRA varsity eight title

Washington will try to win the Intercollegiate Rowing Association varsity eight race for the third time in five years this weekend.

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Chasing a third national title in five years, the top-ranked Washington men's varsity eight enters the 109th Intercollegiate Rowing Association championships knowing it faces a tough field.

The three-day regatta on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J., begins Thursday. When Saturday's marquee race, the Grand Final, rolls around, UW coach Michael Callahan expects the six-boat field to be packed with strong challengers.

"The underlying theme is the depth of the competition," Callahan said. "It looks like it's going to be pretty tight, pretty fierce competition."

Likely combatants include second-ranked California, which a year ago nipped the favored Huskies at the finish line on this course, and an unbeaten Harvard crew, which on May 15 in the Eastern Sprints fought off two hard-charging opponents, fourth-ranked Princeton and fifth-ranked Wisconsin, by two seconds in a speedy race.

Intimidating?

"No," said Callahan, last week named Pac-10 coach of the year for the third time in his four seasons at UW. "That's actually expected. It (the Grand Final) always seems to be a very close race."

Last year, with a big tail wind, Cal used a furious rally to upset UW by inches. The Huskies had turned the same trick against Cal's top-ranked boat in 2009, storming from behind to win by less than a second.

The Cooper River course can potentially work against a built-for-power crew such as Washington's.

"You can neutralize a powerful crew if you have a tail wind because you have to stay very quick and have very good timing and efficiency with your teammates," Callahan said. "A head wind usually favors a more powerful crew.

"A tail wind tightens the field and shortens the racecourse. It changes the tactics. You have to be multidimensional to win a national championship."

Notes

• Last week four Huskies were named to the All-Pac-10 team: seniors Hans Struzyna, a Bellevue Christian grad, Anthony Jacob and Nenad Bulicic plus junior Conlin McCabe. Struzyna, Jacob and McCabe earned the honor for a second straight year. Jacob and McCabe rowed for Canada's national team last year. Struzyna competed for U.S. Rowing last summer in the U-23 Championships in Belarus. He will return to the U.S. Rowing camp for a shot at more international racing this summer.

• Washington beat Cal by a boat length in their dual race in April, but won by just four seats at the Pac-10 championships. A reason for concern? "I don't think so," Callahan said. "Everyone in our boat expects it to be close, especially after the last couple of years. You don't go to a national championship in football and expect to win by five touchdowns. But we're confident in the training we've done."

• UW will be aiming to win its fifth straight overall team championship which sums up all five race classifications. "The varsity eight races are always really important," Callahan said. "Not all teams focus on the total team points championship. We see it as an indicator of how strong our program is, not just one eight. We value a strong, deep team."

Intercollegiate Rowing Association

Men's Varsity 8 Championships

June 2-4, Cooper River, Camden, N.J.

Medals/Gold/Silver/Bronze/First top 3 finish/First gold

UW/46/13/19/14/1913 (bronze)/1923

California/32/16/7/9/1921 (silver)/1928

Year/UW-California dual winner/IRA champion

2011/UW/ —

2010/UW/California

2009/UW/UW

2008/UW/Wisconsin

2007/UW/UW

U.S. Rowing Top 10

Men's Varsity Eight

Team (1st-place votes)/Points

1. Washington (8)/198

2. California (1)/190

3. Harvard (1)/182

4. Princeton/170

5. Wisconsin/160

6. Brown/149

7. Syracuse/138

8. Boston U./126

9. Yale/121

10. Dartmouth/109

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