The German men have won the eight in the past two World Championships and won a silver in the 2016 Olympics. The German women have rowed in the A final of the eight competition in the past three Under-23 World Championships.
The Washington rowing teams have long been tested by strong international teams in the Windermere Cup, which caps the opening day of boating season on the first Saturday in May.
But this year could one of the biggest challenges ever for the Husky men and women, who were each second in last year’s national championships.
That’s because the German national teams are coming to the Windermere Cup for the first time, it was announced Thursday. In addition, the Boston University men will be competing in the May 4 event, and the UCLA women will also be coming.
The German men have won the eight in the past two World Championships and they won a silver medal in the 2016 Olympics. The German women have rowed in the A final of the eight competition in the past three Under-23 World Championships.
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“We’re not sure if it’s going to be their top eight from the World Championship team or a mixture of their top eight and some developing rowers,” said UW men’s coach Michael Callahan. “But there’s no lower end. There is no club rowing. These guys are highly professionalized rowers. … This is as big as us inviting Britain when they were the reigning world champions.”
Said UW women’s coach Yaz Farooq: “These women are super skilled and have been rowing for a long time, and are good at every discipline. We have to anticipate them being at full national-team power. They will have a world-class level boat.”
It promises to be a good battle, but it will have a hard time being more competitive than last year’s Windermere Cup. The UW men’s eight defeated Oxford Brookes University, the British Collegiate champ, by less than a half-second. The top UW women’s eight lost by just more than a second to the Dutch national team that included six rowers who had competed in the 2016 Olympics.
The Huskies use the tough competition in the Windermere Cup to get ready for conference and national championships in the following weeks. Last year, both UW teams won Pac-12 titles before finishing second in the national championships, with Yale edging the UW men and California defeating the defending national champion Huskies.
That second in the nation isn’t satisfying for the Huskies is a testament to the strength of the programs. The UW men won a record five straight national titles from 2011-15, and in 2017, the Husky women became the first team to sweep every race at the NCAA championships.
“We are a more veteran team than we have been the last few years,” Callahan said of the Husky men. “I feel like these seniors have been brought up to have a long view, rather than a short view, in their development and you can really see a lot of that in their leadership coming out, and also in their work ethic. We have been runner-ups the last two years, so making the last step is the hardest one. So they are really hungry to do that.”
Callahan says he hasn’t had to do any prodding, and instead has had to “pull back” on what they want to do.
“They are incredibly determined,” he said. “We are just trying to make that next step.”
Farooq said her team lost some top seniors last year, but she likes the makeup of her team.
“I think we’ve got an incredible mix of experienced and local rowers,” she said. “Talented kids who learned to row here and are really pushing the level up. And the amount of growth from November until now, just fitness-wise and skill-wise, has been among the best since I got here (in 2016), so I am excited to see what we will put together.”