The Washington men are kings of the water again.
The top-ranked Huskies won the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship on Saturday morning on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, New Jersey, the 19th national title in program history.
Washington won five straight titles from 2011-15, but hadn’t won another until Saturday. The past three seasons (2020 was canceled), the Huskies finished second to Yale.
“Everything went pretty smoothly, obviously,” said Washington coach Michael Callahan after earning the seventh title in his 14 seasons as head coach. “The guys rose to every challenge this year, and this was another one. They just performed amazingly today.”
That traditional Ivy League powers including three-time defending champion Yale, Harvard and Columbia did not compete because of COVID mattered little to the Huskies. Their philosophy was to only worry about the things they could control and to have the fastest boats possible.
And they were very fast on a dark and rainy Saturday, including the varsity eight competition, which determines the national champion.
Washington took a big early lead, and the Huskies were making it look easy. Rival California made a nice middle move to draw within about a boat length of the Huskies, but could get no closer.
“We played defense from there until we crossed the finish line,” Callahan said. “It’s like going into halftime ahead by a couple of touchdowns. You just have to play well until the end, and that’s how it was with these guys.”
Said stroke George Esau: “We knew we wanted to push early and control (the race). … Everyone was moving really well together and we just took it home and closed it. No mercy throughout the piece, and everyone did their job.”
The UW varsity eight — coxswain Max Schwartzkopff, stroke Esau, No. 7 seat Pieter Quinton, No. 6 seat Jack Walkey, No. 5 seat Peter Lancashire, No. 4 seat Gert-Jan van Doorn, No. 3 seat Mattijs Holler, No. 2 seat Adam Krol and bow Sam Halbert — covered the 2,000 meters in 5 minutes, 59.71 seconds.
The Huskies beat California by more than three seconds, taking down the Golden Bears for the third time this month — at the Windermere Cup, the Pac-12 championships and then when it mattered the most.
It was a great day overall for Washington, with wins in the second varsity eight and the third varsity eight to win the James Ten Eyck overall points championship for the 13th time in the past 14 seasons.
Washington began the morning with a victory in the third varsity eight, defeating California, which was in second place, by nearly three seconds (6:08.481 to 6:11.308).
The Huskies were even more dominant in the second varsity eight. There was no doubt from early in the race which team would win. The suspense came in the race for second place, with Dartmouth holding off a late California charge to claim that spot.
UW had finished more than nine seconds earlier, in a time of 6:15.425, all but clinching the Ten Eyck title again. Washington won it in 2007 for the first time since 1970, and has won it every season since with the exception of 2016.
The Huskies finished the day of racing with another victory, dominating the four. It was a very close race for second, with Cal edging Boston, but there was no doubt about the winner. UW won by more than seven seconds in 6:59.45.
It was the first time since UW in 2015 that a team swept the grand finals races.
The feat has been accomplished four times in regatta history (dating to 1895), and all by the Huskies: in 2012, 2013 and in 2015, when there were five grand final races (the freshman eight was the additional race).
Callahan’s veteran team this season included five rowers who returned for a fifth season with the Huskies, and had done everything right all season, the coach had said, including overcoming COVID-19. And the team was perfect Saturday, not losing and really never threatened.
The Huskies lost just one race all season, in the third varsity eight to Cal at the Windermere Cup.
“The added challenge of COVID made the journey and the experience that much more important,” Callahan said. “The season could be taken away in another day’s notice. I think we really focused on enjoying the day-to-day process of it and enjoying being with each other.
“Even this week, I was telling the guys, ‘Really enjoy this last part of this. We are on top of the mountain here, and you’ve got to look around at the view and make sure you have some perspective. So enjoy this moment.'”
The Huskies certainly enjoyed Saturday, finishing atop the men’s collegiate rowing world.
“This shows all the hard work, dedication and commitment we have put in since last year. … Everyone was fully committed this season and it’s great to see all the hard work pay off,” said team captain Steve Rosts, the stroke on the second varsity eight. “This is an entire team victory.”
Esau, one of the UW seniors who decided to come back for a fifth year, said winning the title made it all worthwhile.
“It was kind of a missing part (a national title) that we wanted to close our chapter, and we rallied together behind that, and knew that (rowing) for each other that we could do something special and that is what pushed us to come back,” he said.
The Washington women will try Sunday morning in Sarasota, Florida, to give the Huskies a sweep of the rowing national championships. The UW women are the defending national champions and they have won two of the past three national titles.