Rowing Report with Washington's Lowell Neal

April 24, 2008

The Washington men's and women's rowing teams travel to the Bay Area to race Saturday against West Coast rival California in their annual dual regatta. The Huskies are ranked No. 1 in the men's varsity eight poll and Cal is No. 6.

Junior Lowell Neal (Los Alamos, N.M.) rows the bow of Washington's varsity eight crew. He spent a few minutes with, talking about the upcoming races and his coursework at UW. When did you start rowing?

Lowell Neal: 'I'm from New Mexico originally, so not a whole lot of rowing down there. I started in college, with Michael Callahan, my freshman year.'

GoHuskies: What prompted you to try out?

LN: 'My brother went to Rochester Institute of Technology and he rowed for the Division III team one season. He jumped into it his junior year just for something else to do and he suggested I do it. I played soccer and football in high school and I wasn't going to either one of those on a Division I level. Turns out I'm lanky and tall and that happens to be a good thing for rowing.'

GoHuskies: 'At what point did you realize you were going to excel as a rower?'

LH: 'Not until I was put in the first freshman boat during Windermere Cup two years ago. Being a novice behind a bunch of people that were recruited, especially in my class we've got a lot of really good rowers, it seemed like there was no chance I was going to pull erg scores like theirs or row next to them.'

GoHuskies: What are your thoughts on the upcoming race against Cal?

LN: 'I think the first time I raced Cal was at Pac-10's I really didn't realize the significance of racing them. They are the big rival, they are the big competition. We almost think of them more than we think about any other school just because of the rivalry. We raced them once but they obviously got faster and hopefully we did too. We'll see what happens come this race as opposed to San Diego.'

GoHuskies: You raced Oregon State last week and have the Windermere Cup next week. Do you like having challenging races each weekend?

LN: 'I do actually. The weeks in between are nice in the sense that you train and Coach Callahan works you to the breaking point and tries to get you a little faster. But, it's nice to have things that remind you every week of what you're supposed to be doing.'

GoHuskies: How has the dynamic changed from last year with Michael Callahan replacing Bob Ernst as the men's head coach?

LN: 'It's a slightly different program as far as the coaching aspect of it just because of the different people. Overall, Callahan's program is very similar to Ernst's. I think it made the transition really smooth that everyone who's now rowing for Coach Callahan had him freshman year.'

GoHuskies: What would you tell someone who was considering to Washington to row?

LN: 'Rowing at Washington has been one of the best college decisions I've made. I would recommend it full on.'

GoHuskies: 'What was it like the first time you got to row down the Montlake Cut in the Windermere Cup?

LN: 'The crowd was amazing, especially after seeing the other races in the fall. I think I was just really impressed with Seattle's appreciation for rowing. It definitely classifies as, of the regattas I've been to, one of the coolest if not the coolest.'

GoHuskies: What is your academic major?

LN: 'I'm majoring in aeronautical engineering.'

GoHuskies: You are working on an engineering project that involves rowing. Would you describe that?

LN: 'A professor of mine suggested the idea and trying to mix the academics with athletics there. We're doing experiments and we'll see how it goes. I've done the first stage but I haven't gone into the next stage. There is a certain blade that Concept Two sells that has what they call the 'vortex generator.' I'm seeing if there's something better than just doing that, seeing if you can get a little more drag coefficient on the blade so that it will stick in the water a little better and won't turn out. You can put a little more force on it.'

GoHuskies: How do you go about your testing process?

LN: 'The initial step to just get a rough idea of where I'm going was to throw cereal in the water and have a friend of mine row by. The cereal acts as a little tiny particle that you can videotape and look over and the cereal will catch as if was a particle in the water and will follow around the streamline. You can see the vortexes roll up really well with it. As primitive as it is, it works really well.'

GoHuskies: What kind of cereal works best for the tests?

LN: 'I've tried Cheerios and Cap'n Crunch. Cap'n Crunch was the best. It's a little more visible and floated a little higher.

GoHuskies: Regular Cap'n Crunch?

LN: 'Yes, without the crunchberries.'

GoHuskies: What do you hope to pursue as a career with the aeronautical engineering degree?

LN: 'I couldn't give you a full out answer. For a long time I really wanted to fly helicopters for the Coast Guard, but my femurs grew too much and I won't fit in the cockpit so that's out. I started to look a little more towards the academic side of it as far as actually doing engineering rather than doing engineering to get into the flight world.

'This summer I have an internship with a company out in Virginia called 'Butler Parachutes' and I'm pretty excited about that. I think aerodynamic accelerators and parachutes could be an interesting world to get into and they do emergency chutes and they do large system chutes for things like space probes coming back in and spin recovery systems for aircraft.'

GoHuskies: Do they make smaller parachutes for personal use as well?

LN: 'Strictly emergency chutes.

GoHuskies: Have you ever sky-dived at all?

LN: 'I have not. It's going to be part of the job this summer so it should be good times. It's definitely something I'm excited about.'

GoHuskies: Thank you and good luck this weekend.

LN: 'Thank you.'

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