Huskies Sweep Heats On First Day At IRAs

June 3, 2010

CHERRY HILL, N.J. - The No. 1 Washington men's crew team won all five preliminary heats on Thursday at the Cooper River to advance to the semifinals of Intercollegiate Rowing Association championships - exactly the assertive kickoff to the regatta that they were seeking.

A stiff tailwind coupled with the East Coast heat for fast conditions on the 2,000-meter course, allowing many crews to clock in with low times. It also made for competitive racing conditions, as other crews attempted to engage the Huskies in the first half of the race.

The varsity eight kicked off the regatta with a win in their heat, pulling across the finish line with a time of 5:30.45, the lowest time posted by an eight-manned boat on Thursday. Washington started strong, and then lengthened out their strokes to establish a base rhythm on the water. By the halfway mark, they had achieved open water.

The execution of the race plan unfolded just as men's coach Michael Callahan scripted, but he was cautious to remind the team that this is a 'three-day regatta.'

'I think our guys responded well to a lot of early challengers from a lot of other competitors,' Callahan said. 'They stayed confident and were able to capitalize in the second 1,000. Guys are in good spirits. It's a three-day regatta. You try to progress each day.'

Dartmouth also advanced out of Heat No. 3 to the semifinals in the varsity eight. Under the IRA format, the top two crews in the varsity eight advance while the rest head to the repechage, a race that offers crews an entrance back to the semifinals.In the second varsity eight, the Huskies again won by open water with a time of 5:41.44, a near five seconds faster than second-place Harvard. The Huskies faced a challenge initially from the Crimson, but fended off their move to take control of the race by the 750-meter mark.

In the freshmen eight, the Grunties rowed a clean, well-executed race to victory in 5:40.822. Boston University finished second in the heat to advance, while Stanford, Navy and Oregon State were relegated to the reps. For each of the Grunties, this was their first experience racing in the cauldron of the IRAs, but assistant Luke McGee had his team well-prepped for the experience. His boat led from the start, and then downshifted to their base and was able to extend the lead, showcasing considerable power down the course.

'After a long break, it's definitely important to get this first heat under the belt,' McGee said. 'So it's mission accomplished.'

The two fours closed out the afternoon with victories. The varsity four felt consistent pressure from Georgetown until the first 1,000, and then responded with a move to pull away to open water. Meanwhile, the open four helped provide freshmen not in the top eight a valuable experience into championship racing. The boat churned out strong from the start, parrying a charge from Oregon State and accelerating to an open water win.

What impressed Callahan afterwards was his crews' ability to maintain focus in their boat. In championship racing, with boats strung out over 5-6 lanes, it can be distracting for crews in the initial portion of the race. But he complimented his rowers and coxswains for anchoring themselves to the race strategy.

'You have to have a lot of trust in your guys that they're executing their role in the race,' Callahan said. 'But that's just them trusting each other too. In the end, they're rowing for each other. That's a lesson in rowing. That's a part of rowing that you learn along the year; cohesion is going to allow you to be successful.'

Stay tuned to GoHuskies.com for an updated recap and lane assignments for Friday's semifinals.

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