Both the men's and women's varsity eights won their seventh straight Windermere Cups, this time against Ivy League competitors Cornell and Dartmouth.
In weather that was as good as it gets for opening day, Washington’s varsity crews proved to be as good as advertised.
With a modest headwind being the only wrinkle in otherwise idyllic, blue-sky conditions, Washington’s varsity and second-varsity eights, men’s and women’s, breezed to open-water victories in all four major races in the 27th Windermere Cup on Saturday morning on Montlake Cut.
Even getting trounced by 12 seconds by UW’s top-ranked men’s varsity eight could not diminish Cornell coach Todd Kennett’s appreciation for the Windermere Cup’s celebratory vibe.
“A spectacular event,” said Kennett, who rowed here for Cornell in 1991 during the fifth Windermere Cup.
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A UW official estimated 10,000-plus spectators were spread out along the Cut’s sun-drenched 2,000-meter course.
“It’s simply phenomenal,” Kennett said.
No less phenomenal was Washington’s men’s V8 crew. The two-time defending national champions took command from the first stroke and steadily pulled away, finishing in 5 minutes, 45 seconds.
Ninth-ranked Cornell, trailing by multiple boat lengths, took second in 5:57.1; 16th-ranked Dartmouth took third (6:03.7).
“UW’s depth speaks for itself,” Kennett said. “I thought we had a good race. I wish we had a terrible race so I could say that we were going to make up all that time (when the teams compete again at the Intercollegiate Racing Association championships in June). But UW is movin’.
“Coming here we thought maybe we could stick with them for 1,200 or 1,300 or 1,400 meters, but they cleared us way before that. We tried to row a full, complete race, not just a 500-meter piece, and they still cleared us like it was nothing. They’re a good, good crew.”
Washington coach Michael Callahan was happy with his team’s output. “We’re trying to clean up the first quarter of our race,” he said, recalling that choppy water last week left UW trailing by seven seats early vs. rival California before Washington roared back for the win.
“We put a little more attention on it this week in practice,” he said, “and we were working on all eight cylinders right off the bat.”
The fourth-ranked Washington women’s varsity eight also broke quickly from the starting line and finished in 6:35.6, more than 10 seconds ahead of 17th-ranked Cornell (6:46.2). Dartmouth (6:57.3) was third.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better race,” said junior coxswain and Ballard grad Maddy Johnson. “It was a little soupy at the start, with a headwind and a crosswind, but we talked about it before and we were prepared for it. We got out fast.”
Buoyed by their upset of No. 2 California last week in much chillier conditions, UW’s women hope to make some ripples of their own in the postseason, which begins May 19 with the Pac-12 championships in California on Lake Natoma.
“We’re feeling a really positive energy,” Johnson said. “It’s really different than it’s been in past years. We have this confidence that we can make this (a Pac-12 title or more) happen. We know we have to keep working hard, though. We can’t make any assumptions.”
• In the women’s college open-eight race, the 11th event on the 25-race slate, the winning UW “A” boat crossed the finish line minus a rower. Emily Duerson, a sophomore and Tahoma grad, was ejected from the boat when her oar hit a navigational buoy after, unknown to her, the boat had veered off course near the entrance to the Cut. “Coxswain error,” said women’s assistant coach Colin Sykes.
“It all happened kind of too quickly to process,” said Duerson, rowing in the two seat. “The riggers (oar supports) the seats ahead of me ran into me. I think I toppled over the side, and all of a sudden I was coming up from out of the water. Luckily somebody in a little dinghy close by came and picked me out of the water. It was pretty scary, but I’ll be OK.” Had this ever happened to her before? “Nope,” Duerson said with a laugh. “Hopefully it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”