Three other Washington boats advance on Saturday and will have boats racing for national titles on Sunday as the Huskies go for an unprecedented fifth consecutive IRA championship.

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WEST WINDSOR, N.J. — Washington’s men’s varsity eight edged closer to an unprecedented fifth consecutive Intercollegiate Rowing Association championship Saturday with a momentum-building drive through the semifinals at Mercer Lake.

The Huskies qualified for the final Sunday by winning their 2,000-meter heat in 5:32.8 — the second-fastest qualifying time of the day, behind California’s 5:30.5.

“I’m definitely happy with how we raced today,” said Huskies coach Michael Callahan. “It was a big improvement over yesterday. Especially the start.”

Washington contended with a tricky crosswind at the start, which caused bumpy conditions. However, the Huskies were able to ride out the choppiness, in large part due to experience.

“We’ve got a lot of experienced people,” Callahan said. “I thought the guys handled (the start) really well.”

Callahan was pleased with his boat’s mental approach in the semifinal round.

“With semifinals, there’s a lot of nerves,” Callahan said. “It’s kind of do or die.”

Said varsity eight coxswain Stuart Sim: “You’ve got to respect the opposition and you have to go out fast. If you come to the national championship and think that you don’t have to be fast out of the start, you’re not going to be in the grand final.”

Standing between the Huskies and history is California, which beat Washington on April 25, the Huskies’ first defeat in head-to-head or championship competition since 2010.

“We lost a race to Cal, then we beat them at the Pac-12 championships,” Callahan said. “We know they’re a very good boat. It’s going to take an exceptional race for someone to win.”

Still, the Huskies’ focus is inward.

“We know we have a tremendous opportunity,” said Callahan. “This race isn’t about anyone else.”

Three other boats won semifinal races Saturday and will have five boats row for national titles Sunday.

Along with semifinal winners in the varsity eight, second varsity eight, third varsity eight and varsity four, Washington’s freshman eight also qualified directly for the grand final with a heat victory Friday.

The Huskies also are vying for their ninth consecutive (and 13th overall) Ten Eyck Trophy, given to the team with the most total points in the IRA.

The schedule for Sunday was changed due to impending bad weather.

The varsity eight race will start at 5:40 a.m. PT Sunday, with the second varsity eight and third varsity eight going off at 6 a.m. and 6:10 a.m. PT. The freshman eight will race at 6:20 a.m. PT and the varsity four will round out the schedule with its race at 7:20 a.m.