Men's Varsity Crew Makes History
March 1, 2009
LONDON - On Sunday, March 1, the Huskies made history, becoming the first American university eight to row the Boat Race course against Oxford in a pre-Boat Race fixture.
The men's varsity eight rowed two roughly 10-minute pieces along the 4.5-mile course on the Tideway section of the Thames, losing both to an Oxford crew stacked with five Olympians.
'It was a real street-fight,' said men's head coach Michael Callahan. 'We're really excited about how we performed today. We were strong through the first five to six minutes of both races. Oxford is a big, powerful crew with five Olympians and three medalists.'
The first piece saw Washington get out to a fast start. The Huskies built up to a six-seat lead before Oxford started drawing back. For a solid five minutes, Washington held the lead. Oxford battled back to within a seat, but the Huskies opened up a new six-seat lead heading into the turn in Oxford's favor. The Blue turned up the pressure on Washington in the Surrey bend, gaining a full length advantage on the inside of the turn. When the crews emerged into the straightaway, Oxford was up a length and half of open water. By the nine-minute mark, the Blue was up two lengths and there was little the Huskies could do but hold. Oxford crossed the first finish line at about 10:40, with Washington about nine seconds back.
'We were really eager in the first piece,' said Callahan. 'We weren't quite able to settle down. Late in that first piece, we were unable to match Oxford's speed.'
After a 10-minute break, the two boats lined up again. The Huskies again were off to a fast start, taking a quick three-seat advantage over the Blue. Washington was up half a length as the two crews headed into the bend in Oxford's favor. Both crews battled and the Huskies maintained a two-seat lead coming out of the first turn. The Huskies maintained their lead along the straightway, widening their advantage to half a length before entering the bend in their favor. Washington saw its lead diminish to just two seats coming out of the bend. Oxford made a strong push and quickly outpaced the Dawgs by a length. The Blue crossed the finish with about a foot of open water separating the crews.
'We were much calmer in the second piece,' commented Callahan. 'We were able to settle into a good rhythm and we held them until the last minute or two. This race posed a lot of tactical and strategic challenges for us, and I'm proud of our crew for the way they handled it.'
Freshman coach Luke McGee, who was a member of the Oxford Blue in 2001-2002, won the 2002 edition of The Boat Race and was pleased with the way Washington rowed against his former team.
'I was impressed with the aggressiveness of our crew,' said McGee. 'Oxford really had to work for it, which is what they want in preparation for the Boat Race. For me, personally, this has been a lot of fun, coming back to Oxford. The guys on our crew were so excited about seeing the university and learning about some of the history here. I was really excited to bring our crew here and have them be a part of something I've already been a part of. I'm so grateful to Oxford for giving us this opportunity.'
'This was just such an incredible experience for us,' added Callahan. 'To be a part of the oldest intercollegiate sporting event in the world, The Boat Race, is just amazing. We're so thankful to Oxford for having us come over to do this. They were great hosts and we hope we were able to help them prepare for the Boat Race. We feel like we learned a lot about boat racing here and I believe strongly that they helped us prepare for our ultimate goal at the end of the season. And to be the first American university eight to race here is a great thing, both for our program at Washington and for the entire Pac-10.'
The Huskies return to the States on Monday and kick off their regular season March 28 with the annual Class Day regatta. For the complete schedule and results, log on to GoHuskies.com.