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Originally published March 30, 2013 at 5:36 PM | Page modified March 30, 2013 at 6:25 PM

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Senior men, junior women win on UW Class Day Regatta | Crew

With tough season openers a week away, the Washington men's and women's rowing teams generated preseason optimism on Montlake Cut on Saturday...

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With tough season openers a week away, the Washington men's and women's rowing teams generated preseason optimism on Montlake Cut on Saturday during the Class Day Regatta, UW's 112th annual intrasquad meet.

On smooth water beneath blue skies, UW seniors won the George M. Varnell men's varsity eight race in 5 minutes, 45.19 seconds. In The Seattle Times women's V8 race, coxswain Madeline Johnston, a Ballard grad, guided the junior boat to a win in 6:32.4.

"I think we're in a good spot," said men's coach Michael Callahan, aiming for a third straight Intercollegiate Rowing Association championship and UW's sixth national title in eight years.

"The internal competition has been just crazy this year," Callahan said. "We're really deep, and it's really competitive to make seats on this team. We're revved up. Now we've got to do it on race day, and that starts next week."

The men open by hosting Brown, last year's IRA runner-up, on Saturday at 8 a.m. on the Cut.

"It will be a really big test right away," said Callahan, noting that Brown defeated Yale and Boston University this weekend.

Callahan says by Wednesday he'll decide who will fill the V8 boat. "So many guys are so close to making seats," he said. "They're making it really challenging for the coaching staff. I wish we had more boats to put people in."

The senior boat's stern trio — stroke Dusan Milovanovic, Alex Bunkers (named men's captain on Saturday) in the seventh seat and Ryan Schroeder in the sixth seat — are likely to be in the V8 boat along with senior Sam Dommer in the third seat.

Can this group defend UW's title? "It's a cliché, but we're focusing on the process," Callahan said. "No one talks about repeating. There are some of the same people from last year, but it's a new group with a new feeling to it."

The UW women — seventh as a team at the 2012 NCAA championships, sixth in the varsity eight finals — are ranked fifth in the NCAA preseason poll. Coach Bob Ernst points out that six of last year's V8 rowers are returning. "I think they're more fit and stronger than they were last year," he said.

Three members of the winning junior crew are locals — Johnston, Elisabeth Odland (third seat, from Roosevelt) and Margaret Dobrowolski (fourth seat, University Prep). All are likely to row in the V8 boat, Ernst said.

"Odland stroked the women's JV boat most of last year," Ernst said. "She's one of the most powerful women in our program and certainly on her way to becoming a world-class athlete."

Next weekend the women will row in the two-day San Diego Crew Classic, which includes four of the top five ranked teams.

"I think these kids are up to the challenge," Ernst said. "We're stronger than we were last year. Last year the goal was to get the varsity boat into the finals at the NCAAs, and I would like to say that this crew has higher expectations."

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