Huskies looking to become first to win five straight national varsity-eight championships.

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The drive for five has begun.

Since the first Intercollegiate Rowing Association regatta in 1895, no university has won five consecutive national championships.

Thus the Washington men’s varsity eight, which last year joined California (1999-2002) and Cornell (1955-58 and 1909-12) as the only schools to win four straight national crowns, is rowing for history in 2015.

“I think everyone is embracing it,” Husky men’s coach Michael Callahan said Saturday after the annual Class Day Regatta on Montlake Cut, where his seniors won the George M. Varnell men’s eight trophy with a boat-length victory over the juniors in 6 minutes 1.22 seconds.

“Everyone is realizing there’s no walking away from it,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is going to shy away from it or not talk about it. It’s out there, and we’re going to go for it.”

Callahan says the Huskies, No. 1 in the preseason U.S. Rowing Collegiate poll, have the talent to do it.

“I think we have a good chance,” he said. “These guys will be tested, for sure.”

The men travel to Rhode Island to row against fifth-ranked Brown next Saturday, followed by trips to Stanford and Gonzaga before hosting California April 25, the 104th renewal of their historic rivalry.

The men, who had a streak of seven straight Windermere Cup wins snapped last year by Great Britain’s national team, will take on the New Zealand national team (and 19th-ranked Columbia) in this year’s Cup on May 2.

Having a strong senior class is a good indicator of a strong varsity boat for UW, Callahan says.

“Last year we had a smaller senior class,” he said, “and this is a big one, like 14 people – lot of personality, lots of guys peaking in their career. When this program is running at its optimum, we have really strong seniors, and this class is a great one.”

Callahan says UW’s V8 lineup is in flux but expects several seniors to be in that boat this year, including Lakeside grad Eric Ledbetter and coxswain Lisa Caldwell of Interlake. Alex Perkins of Westport, Conn., will serve as stroke. Edward Nainby-Luxmoore of the United Kingdom is captain.


• The juniors won The Seattle Times women’s eight trophy in 6:50.3, outpacing the sophomores by four seats. Women’s coach Bob Ernst good-naturedly acknowledged the huge shadow cast by the men’s program.

“I know,” Ernst said, anticipating the question, “when are we going to win a national championship? Well, we’re scratching our way back to the top.”

UW finished fourth in the V8 final at the 2014 NCAA championships, fourth overall. UW last won a women’s national title in 2001.

Ernst said this year’s V8 lineup will be primarily juniors and sophomores.

UW’s V8 boat will include junior Sarah Dougherty, a Kentlake grad, in the sixth seat and sophomore Bella Chilczuk of Kentridge in the fourth seat. Both are former prep swimmers who competed at state.

“These are powerful women and good athletes,” he said. “All you have to do is teach them how to row.”