It was all fun and smiles after the 121st annual University of Washington Class Day Regatta on Saturday, but the huge cheers from the junior women’s boat when it edged the senior boat showed how much this competition means to the rowers.
“I never did very well in them, but it’s about bragging rights within the program,” said UW men’s coach Michael Callahan, who watched his senior boat win the men’s competition. “You are recruited as a class, you come into this program as a class and you stay together as a class, so these are lifelong memories that you make — so to win a Class Day Regatta is nostalgic and there is a lot of boathouse pride.”
Said Bainbridge High School graduate Fiona Shields, who was on the winning women’s junior boat: “You probably want to win this more than (a typical event against another college) because you know the people you are racing against and everybody is doing the same training, so it’s about who can put the best energy in the boat that day.”
Shields said she was rooting for each of her senior classmates on the boat she was competing against Saturday to do well individually, but “I wanted my boat to win.”
Shields was one of three fifth-year seniors, along with Katherin Slack and Haley Stoker, who were drafted by the junior boat because that class has some rowers out.
And her boat did win. In the closest of the day’s three races (the morning began with a classless race), the juniors won with a time of 6 minutes, 32.700 seconds over the 2,000-meter course. The seniors finished in 6:34.930, followed by the freshmen in 6:56.660 and the sophomores in 7:02.300.
Shields competed for the senior boat in 2021, but it lost to the juniors. Many of those juniors were on the senior boat that Shields’ boat beat Saturday.
“I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” said UW women’s coach Yaz Farooq. “I think there was a sense of redemption (for the fifth-year seniors who were drafted by the junior boat).”
The UW senior men won in a time of 5:44.974. They were followed by the juniors in 5:48.082, the freshmen in 5:53.368 and the sophomores in 5:59.331.
“It’s always great to have the seniors win,” said Callahan, who did not win a Class Day Regatta when he rowed for UW. “As coaches, you root for your seniors because they are going out of the program and it was a really fun race to see them get the lead from the start, then hold on from there.”
The senior boat was helped by the return of Simon van Doorp, who spent the last two years training with the Netherlands Olympic team, helping his country finish fifth in the men’s eight at the Tokyo Games.
“It was a lot of fun out there,” said van Dorp, who was named a team co-captain Friday night along with fellow senior Steve Rosts. “We trained yesterday and it went pretty well, but I think we just did our best rowing in that boat.”
It was a great weekend all around for Shields, who on Friday was named most inspirational on the women’s team by her teammates.
“My teammates inspire me and they are the reason I am excited to come to practice every day, and that’s why it means the world to know that they think that way of me,” Shields said. “They are the best part of my day and the reason why I do all of this hard work.”
It was back to normal at the Class Day Regatta on Saturday after the event was canceled in 2020 and fans weren’t invited last year.
Both Callahan and Farooq talked about how nice it was to have parents of rowers back at the event.
“Michael and I traditionally go on the Class Day cruise with the parents and then we call the races for the parents,” Farooq said. “It was a little emotional, honestly. We hadn’t done that in three years.”