UW Men Vie for National Rowing Titles
May 31, 2006
THURSDAY - SATURDAY, JUNE 1-3 --
UW at Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Championships
Cooper River / Cherry Hill, N.J.
The Washington men's rowing team makes its annual journey to Cherry Hill, N.J. for the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Championships. The 104th-annual IRA regatta is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday, June 1-3 on the 2,000-meter Cooper River course. Four crews will represent the Huskies who have entries in the varsity eights, second varsity eights, freshman eights and open fours. Washington's second varsity eight and open four won their respective championships last year while the freshman eight collected the bronze medal at the 2005 IRA regatta. The Huskies finished fourth in last year's varsity eight grand final. Washington is seeded No. 7 in the featured event, the varsity eight. Princeton is No. 1 followed by Pac-10 champion California and defending IRA champion Harvard. UW is aiming for its 12th IRA varsity eight title. The Huskies' most recent varsity eight championship came in 1997.
IRA Racing Format
Competition at the IRA Regatta consists of heats, repechage (second chance races), semifinals and finals. The repechage race assures that the three fastest crews advance to the semifinal round. The top two finishers in each of the four, first-day varsity eight and freshman eight heats advance to the semifinal round while the remaining crews are reassigned to repechage races. The repechage winners also advance to the semifinals, rounding out the 12-crew field. The top three crews in each semifinal advance into the six-boat grand final field.
The IRA Field
The top 12 entries in the main eights races are seeded. The seeds for the featured event, the varsity eight, are: Princeton (1), California (2), Harvard (3), Brown (4), Northeastern (5), Wisconsin (6), Washington (7), Yale (8), Syracuse (9), Cornell (10), Navy (11) and Georgetown (12). In the second varsity eights, Harvard is No. 1, California No. 2 and defending champion Washington No. 3. Undefeated California is the No. 1 seed in the freshman eights and the Huskies are No. 2.
The Washington Entries
> Varsity Eight -- No. 7 seed ... Third place at Pac-10 regatta ... Ranked No. 7 nationally in the coaches poll ... Placed fourth in 2005 ... Silver medalist in 2003 & 2004 ... Huskies seek 12th IRA national title, first since 1997.
> Second Varsity Eight -- No. 3 seed ... Defending national champion ... Won the 2004 and 2005 IRA titles ... Runner-up at the Pac-10 championships.
> Freshman Eight -- No. 2 seed ... Pac-10 runner-up ... Only losses came against Cal ... Won back-to-back IRA titles in 2001 and 2002 ... Finished third at 2005 IRA regatta.
> Open Four -- Defending national champion ... UW has won three straight IRA titles in fours events ... Crew includes two freshmen and three juniors.
The varsity eight competes for the Varsity Challenge Cup, the silver cup first presented in 1898. Washington has won the Cup 11 times, dating back to 1923, and most recently in 1997. The second varsity competes for the Kennedy Challenge Cup, originally presented in 1899. The Huskies claimed the cup in both 2004 and 2005. The freshman men race for the Steward's Cup, first awarded in 1900. Washington won the freshman eight championship during back-to-back years in 2001 and 2002. UW also captured the Steward's Cup in 1997, completing a sweep of the three premier eights race that season. Prior to the sweep in 1997, the Huskies last swept all three featured races back in 1950.
No offense to the IRA field, but the Washington varsity eight faced its toughest test of the season on May 6 at the Windermere Cup in Seattle. The Huskies lost by five seats to the same Russian crew that placed sixth at the 2005 world championships.
Washington won at least one event title at each of the last five IRA regattas. Husky crews won the second varsity eight and open four in 2005, the second varsity eight and varsity four in 2004, the varsity four in 2003, the freshman eight and open four in 2002 and the freshman eight and varsity pair championships in 2001.
The Husky men have won 11 IRA varsity eight titles, last winning the championship in 1997.
The seventh-ranked Washington varsity eight defeated four crews ranked in the top 20 of the current coaches poll, including No. 9 Northeastern, No. 14 Michigan, No. 17 Penn and No. 18 Oregon State.
Thursday's IRA Men's Schedule, June 1 (all times Pacific)
4:36 a.m. -- Varsity Eights (heats)
5:36 a.m. -- Freshman Eights (heats)
6:24 a.m. -- Second Varsity Eights (heats)
7:48 a.m. -- Open Fours (heats)
1:00 p.m. -- Freshman Eights (repechage)
1:48 p.m. -- Varsity Eights (repechage)
Friday's IRA Men's Schedule, June 2 (all times Pacific)
5:00 a.m. -- Open Fours (repechage)
8:24 a.m. -- Second Varsity Eights (repechage)
9:00 a.m. -- Varsity Eights (semifinals)
10:00 a.m. -- Freshman Eights (semifinals)
Saturday's IRA Men's Schedule, June 3 (all times Pacific)
7:14 a.m. -- Open Fours (championship)
9:27 a.m. -- Freshman Eights (championship)
9:54 a.m. -- Second Varsity Eights (championship)
10:21 a.m. -- Varsity Eights (championship)
IRA Regatta History
The Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta is the oldest collegiate crew championship in the country, and remains the premier event for national rowing honors for college men. The first IRA Regatta, on June 24, 1895, was a four-miler between Columbia, the winner, Cornell and Pennsylvania. In 1923, Washington, coached by Rusty Callow, became the first Western school to win the IRA's featured varsity eight competition, followed by another victory in 1926. When Callow left Seattle to coach at Pennsylvania, he was succeeded by his assistant Al Ulbrickson, who continued the Huskies' winning ways with six IRA varsity eight titles in 1936, 1937, 1940, 1941, 1948 and 1950. His freshman, second varsity and varsity crews 'swept the river' in 1936, 1937, 1948 and 1950. Current Huskies head coach Bob Ernst led his Washington team to a modern-day sweep in 1997, when UW crews won all three races on the Cooper River, site of the 2006 Championships.
Washington men's rowing coach Bob Ernst took the easy route to New Jersey this year. For the first time since the Huskies began regularly attending the IRA Regatta in 1995, Ernst traveled back to New Jersey via airplane. Every previous year, Ernst drove the nearly 3,000-mile cross-country trek. This year some assistant coaches transported the team's racing shells with the truck and trailer. 'I have always driven the trailer back to New Jersey. As long as they get there in one piece and as long as we get all of the boats there in one piece, I don't miss it at all,' said Ernst. 'I miss the books on tape, and I clearly miss driving across the United States once a year, I think that everyone should do it once year. It gives you a real perspective of what a great place it is, how big it is, and how cool it is. At the same time I get to be home for my wife's birthday and I get to coach the guys.'
Shuffling the Deck
Husky men's coach Bob Ernst tinkered with his lineup all season, trying to glean the best unit from a deep roster. The result is that 13 different athletes have competed in the varsity eight crew in six regattas this season. Only five rowers have competed in the top boat for every race; Aljosa Corovic, Rob Gibson, Ante Kusurin, Kiel Petersen and Colin Phillips. Even the coxswain spot was up for grabs as junior Micah Perrin (Lynnwood, Wash.) replaced Adrian Andrews (Tiburnon, Calif.) after two regattas. Sophomore Tad McCrea (Larkspur, Calif.) makes his varsity eight debut at the IRA championships while another second-year Husky, Toby Dankbaar (Sydney, Australia), returns to the top crew for the first time since the season opener. Those changes mean that this is the first time the varsity eight will compete under the current boating.
Nineteen Washington athletes have prior IRA Championships experience, including all but coxswain Micah Perrin of the varsity eight. The varsity eight boat is comprised of six rowers who earned medals are previous IRA regattas. All but one member of the Huskies' second varsity eight have medaled at previous IRA regattas, including five who won gold. Obviously, the entire UW freshman eight crew has no previous IRA experience while the open four entry has two freshmen and one other newcomer.
Projected Washington Boatings for IRA Championships
cox - Micah Perrin (Jr. / Lynnwood, Wash. / Meadowdale HS)
stroke - Toby Dankbaar (So. / Sydney, Australia / St. Joseph's HS)
7 - Tad McCrea (So. / Larkspur, Calif. / Redwood HS)
6 - Ante Kusurin (Sr. / Zagreb, Croatia / Titus Brezoracki HS)
5 - Rob Gibson (So. / Kingston, Ontario / K.C. V.I. HS)
4 - Aljosa Corovic (Jr. / Belgrade, Serbia / Zemun HS)
3 - Colin Phillips (Sr. / Coronado, Calif. / The Bishop's School HS)
2 - Kiel Petersen (Sr. / Poulsbo, Wash. / Shawnigan Lake HS, B.C.)
bow - Steve Full (So. / Cumberland, Maine / Tabor Academy)
Second Varsity Eight
cox - Adrian Andrews (Sr. / Tiburon, Calif. / Redwood School)
stroke - Drew Fowler (So. / Kent, Wash. / Kentwood HS)
7 - Scott Schmidt (Sr. / Grosse Ile, Mich. / Grosse Ile HS)
6 - Adam Van Winkle (Sr. / Mukilteo, Wash. / Kamiak HS)
5 - David Edward-Aron (Jr. / San Anselmo, Calif. / Sir Francis Drake HS)
4 - Andrew Beaton (So. / Spokane, Wash. / Mead HS)
3 - Derek DeVries (So. / Granger, Wash. / Sunnyside Christian HS)
2 - Tyler Smith (Sr. / Issaquah, Wash. / Issaquah HS)
bow - Craig Tyler (Sr. / Camas, Wash. / Camas HS)
cox - Katelin Snyder (Fr. / Winter Park, Fla. / Winter Park HS)
stroke - Will Crothers (Fr. / Kingston, Ontario / K.C. V.I. HS)
7 - Mike Flight (Fr. / Ontario, Canada / E.L. Crossley HS)
6 - Jessiah Johnson (Fr. / Mercer Island, Wash. / Mercer Island HS)
5 - Max Lang (Fr. / Lumby, B.C. / Shawnigan Lake School)
4 - Bart-Jan Caron (Fr. / Millbay, B.C. / Shawnigan Lake School)
3 - Trevor Mollenkopf (Fr. / Marin, Calif. / Drake HS)
2 - Asa Bergdahl (Fr. / Issaquah, Wash. / Issaquah HS)
bow - Lowell Neal (Fr. / Los Alamos, N.M. / Los Alamos HS)
cox - Patrick Kavanagh (Fr. / Seattle, Wash. / Seattle Academy)
stroke - Peter Carlson (Fr. / Orangevale, Calif. / Bella Vista HS)
3 - Alan Oriard (Jr. / Corvallis, Ore. / Crescent Valley HS)
2 - Dustin Kraus (Jr. / Sacramento, Calif. / Rio Americano HS)
bow - Jon Engel (Jr. / Everett, Wash. / Cascade HS)
Quoting Coach Bob Ernst:
'We took the stern pair out of the junior varsity boat and put them into the varsity boat. So far so good, they are doing a nice job. It is interesting how it all shook out. Through the season, you always want to use your racing season, I mean it is important to try and do the best you can through all of these races and regattas throughout the season, but the bottom line is you want to be at your very best for the national championships. I certainly thought the varsity's performance at the Pac-10s was definitely lackluster, certainly not what I thought they were capable of and particularly after a pretty good row against the Russians. When we started the season, I was very aware that seven out of the eight guys from last year's freshman boat, which was a good crew, were in the varsity and JV, six of them were in the JV at the beginning of the season. You always want to allow for these young guys to develop, and I think that the sophomores have been doing a really good job developing and the seniors have offered great leadership and have really worked hard. You see a realignment as you go through the season. I am really happy how things are going right now and I am really optimistic and looking forward to going to the IRAs.
'Princeton is the team that everyone is picking to win the IRA. Our focus is the heat race right now. They seed the heats, so that if you finish in the top two then you go straight to the semifinals. It is three days of really tough, really intense racing. If you can't race three days hard then you not going to be very successful. So our whole focus is getting in the top two places in the heat race. It is just going to be a wonderful regatta, there are going to be so many really good crews. Princeton is the odds on favorite, but Harvard will be good again and Brown is good this year and Wisconsin is pretty good this year. We have our Cals and our Stanfords, holy cow it is going to be awesome. Princeton was kind of the favorite last year, but they didn't win it Harvard did. It is going to be great, it is going to fantastic racing and that goes for the JVs and the freshmen too. For the JVs, Harvard looks good and Cal just nicked us at the Pac-10s. So that will be great racing, and the freshmen. Harvard has a great freshman crew and Cal of coarse just nipped us there. Another two or three weeks means the world to these freshmen guys. It is just going to be really intense and really interesting.'
About the UW Men
The Husky men are ranked No. 7 in the national poll (May 17). UW is coming off a third-place performance at the Pac-10 championships on May 14. The Huskies battled to a five-seat loss to the full Russian National Team, May 6 in Seattle. The varsity eight has wins over current No. 9 Northeastern, No. 17 Penn and No. 18 Oregon State to its credit and lost races to No. 2 California and No. 3 Stanford. UW's varsity eight finished fourth at last year's Intercollegiate Rowing Association championships. Four rowers return last year's IRA varsity eight crew: seniors Ante Kusurin (Zagreb, Croatia), Kiel Petersen (Poulsbo, Wash.), Colin Phillips (Coronado, Calif.) and junior Aljosa Corovic (Belgrade, Serbia). Also returning are two rowers from the 2005 national champion second varsity eight and four members of the Huskies' national champion open four crew. Three members of last year's freshman eight that earned the bronze medal at the 2005 IRA regatta are currently rowing in the varsity eight.
The Men's Staff
Bob Ernst is in his 32nd season on staff, his 19th as the men's head coach. Ernst seeks to direct the Huskies' varsity eight to their first national championship since 1997. Serving as the men's freshman coach for the second season is Michael Callahan, a former Husky rower (1993-96) who was a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team.