Huskies surge past Cal for huge rowing victories
Washington's No. 8-ranked women's team beats No. 2 Cal for the first time in 10 years.
Special to The Seattle Times
Washington's varsity crews let longtime rowing rival California have it with both barrels Saturday morning on Montlake Cut.
In the 102nd UW-Cal dual, Washington's No. 1-ranked men's varsity eight came back to defeat second-ranked Cal by five seconds, but the eighth-ranked Washington women's V8 made even bigger news, defeating the No. 2 Golden Bears by 2.4 seconds and snapping Cal's nine-year winning streak in the dual.
"It was epic racing on both sides," UW men's coach Michael Callahan said. "Everyone was just throwing it down."
In cool, cloudy and breezy conditions — windy enough to shorten two early races by 250 meters due to choppy water at the Lake Washington starting line — Washington won six of eight races, falling only in the women's second varsity eight and women's varsity four.
Both Washington varsity victories — the men finishing in 5 minutes 48 seconds for a margin of almost two boat lengths; the women winning by 2.4 seconds in 6:24.0 — required come-from-behind efforts.
A tough start put the Washington men's V8 behind early by as many as seven seats — "That's like falling behind by a couple of touchdowns in a football game," Callahan said — while UW's women led by three seats early, fell behind by a half-boat midrace and then broke away.
"When the lead changes three times in a 2,000-meter race, that's pretty significant," women's coach Bob Ernst said. "That means there are a lot of kids fighting their guts out. It was a matter of commitment on our kids' part that they were going to make the boat go fast and make the Cal kids believe they weren't going to crumble."
Senior Madison Culp, a Roosevelt grad, rowed in UW's seventh seat. "It was pretty intense," she said. "We were very focused, in our tunnel. It's awesome being able to hold a trophy with the men's team."Rough water at the start slowed UW's V8.
"Mijo (Rudelj), our five man, told me he had about five diggers in a row, where his oar wasn't coming out of the water cleanly," Callahan said. "The team said it was their worst five strokes of the year. That's a hard way to start a race."
UW closed Cal's seven-seat gap to one with 600 meters to go and then broke away with a powerful sprint.
"We were strong over the whole course," Callahan said, "and we were really selling it all during the last 600 meters. Our guys have a lot of faith in each other and a lot of composure. They're not going to get rattled by something like a rough start."
While the Washington men are gunning for their fifth national title in seven seasons, Washington's women have not won a V8 national crown since 2002. UW's last NCAA women's team title was 2001, one reason why Ernst, UW's director of rowing, took over as women's coach six seasons ago.
"It's really important for the program," Ernst said. "We've been working really hard for about five years to get on terms with the other best programs. We're so proud of the guys. It's important to have everyone perform at the top level."
"We are finally getting a cadre of credible athletes on the women's side," he said. "It's fun to watch them develop their confidence in themselves and their confidence in each other and start to pick off some really good competition."