The three-day Intercollegiate Rowing Association regatta opens Friday near Sacramento. The Huskies are hoping to claim men’s and women’s national titles in the same year for the first time since 1997.
Aiming to match the Washington women’s dominant performance at last weekend’s NCAA championships, the UW men head to the Intercollegiate Rowing Association championships as the nation’s top-ranked varsity crew and a favorite to win the school’s sixth men’s title in seven years.
The three-day regatta opens Friday on Lake Natoma near Sacramento with the Huskies rowing to claim men’s and women’s national titles in the same year for the first time since 1997.
“I think what the women did (sweeping all three grand finals at the NCAA regatta) was inspiring to the guys,” UW men’s coach Michael Callahan said. “We know what we have to do.”
Washington’s biggest competition in the 24-school varsity eight field will likely come from second-ranked California, which snapped UW’s unprecedented streak of five straight national championships at last year’s IRAs.
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Cal defeated UW’s V8 on Montlake Cut in blustery conditions on April 22. But on May 14, the Huskies defeated four Cal boats (V8, 2V8, 3V8 and V4) at the Pac-12 championships, also on Lake Natoma. UW won the V8 race by more than four seconds.
“I’ve got some strong leaders this year, and I’ve kind of handed the keys over to (coxswain) Stuart Sim,” Callahan said. “He’s got the crew where we want it. In terms of practice, we’re just trying to put some fine touches on the season. I feel really confident in the guys in the boat and how they’re rowing.”
Sim, a senior, bypassed UW’s 2016 season while coxing the Australian national eight-man crew in its Olympic qualifying bid. (The Aussies missed by four seconds.) He is one of six international athletes in UW’s V8, where Arne Landboe, a senior from Shorewood, serves as captain.
“This is the time of the season where, as a coach, it feels like the students have taken control, and they know what they want to achieve,” Callahan said. “There’s going to be no Knute Rockne speech at the end. It’s just about the work they’ve put in and their performance on race day.”
What changed since UW fell to Cal in April? “The rhythm of the boat and chemistry,” Callahan said. “We’ve been able to catch the water a lot better, which technically made us more efficient. For chemistry, I think the configuration of guys we have now really works well together. That’s the hidden piece of any team in rowing. Once you get harmony, rhythm and balance together, you can achieve a lot.”
• Following a trend apparent in many programs, UW will have two freshmen, both from the Netherlands, in its V8 boat: stroke Bram Schwarz, new to the V8 in May, and Simon van Dorp in the sixth seat. “They’re important ingredients in the rhythm in our boat,” Callahan said. For the first time, no freshman eight race will be run at the IRAs.
• In the last 11 years, Washington has won seven IRA titles (2007, 2009, 2011-15), Cal three (2006, 2010, 2016). Wisconsin won in 2008.
• Callahan, in his 10th year as men’s coach, calculates the average age of the V8 lineup at 20.7, making Sim, 24, “the old man in the boat. He brings a lot of confidence. He’s won the IRAs twice (2014 and 2015). He’s been in a position where he’s lost to California early in the season and come back to win at the IRAs. He has a lot of experience to draw on, and he has confidence in the group.”
• Other possible threats in the V8 grand final: third-ranked Yale, winner of the last three Eastern Sprint championships (Cal defeated Yale during the regular season); fourth-ranked Harvard (four-tenths of a second behind Yale at this year’s Eastern Sprints); and fifth-ranked Princeton, third at last year’s IRAs.
• Many locals populate UW’s 2V8, 3V8 and V4. Second varsity Woodinville native Rielly Milne at cox, Evan Olson of Bothell (sixth seat), Tennyson Federspiel of Bellevue (fifth), Samuel Halbert of Woodinville (third), Jake Zier of Orcas Island (second), and Eric Benca of Mercer Island (bow). Third varsity: Braedan Daste of Interlake (cox), Kieran O’Sullivan of Bishop Blanchet (fourth) and Sam Goertz of Issaquah (bow). Varsity four: Lia Roberds of Lake Washington (cox), Matthew Medalia of Bishop Blanchet (third seat), and Elijah Maesner of Eastlake (bow).
• Callahan had no comment on two rowers suspended from the men’s team in April for an alleged sexual assault involving a member of the women’s team. He did say the two were not in the lineups of UW’s top boats.