Washington Continues To Develop U.S. National Team Hopefuls

Nov. 15, 2009

OAKLAND, Calif. – A pair of Washington oarsmen came up big this weekend at the West Coast Fall Speed Order.

In an event that’s intended for athletes with aspirations to row for the U.S. National teams, Blaise Didier and Ty Otto improved their resumes with a win on the 6,000-meter course on the Oakland estuary in the Bay Area.

The win goes to show how Washington continues to develop athletes as national team hopefuls.

Because of a late arrival to California on Friday night, Didier and Otto didn’t have time to practice on the course. So outside of a paddle on Saturday morning and a warm-up, the pair was essentially rowing the course blind. Didier noted this is where fitness took over.

“We were really kind of winging it,” Didier said. “But we do (pair racing) all throughout the fall. We were prepared in that way. So we fell back on our fitness.”

The duo finished the course in 17:27, walking another boat along the way in the victory. In the fall season, the Washington men’s crew team rows traditionally in pair boats, and uses small-boat racing in order to determine their lineups for events such as the Head of the Charles.

Given the program’s dedication to the pair, it’s no surprise its rowers are having success in international pair racing events. At the Canadian National Championships earlier this month, Conlin McCabe and Anthony Jacob won the pair event on Fanshawe Lake in London, Ontario.

Didier aimed most of the credit at his coach, Michael Callahan, for developing him as a rower.

“I really owe it all to Michael,” said Didier, a senior. “I’m the only class that will have four years under Mike’s tutelage. He’s the kind of guy that raises national team guys. He’s really a great resource for what I’m trying.”

Didier didn’t row in the pair over the summer, as he was training with the U-23 men’s team for the World Rowing Championships in the Czech Republic. But he’s peaked at the right time after focusing on the pair during fall training. Same with Otto, who took part in Callahan’s pair camp over the summer.

Otto, a junior, feels the best preparation for these events comes from the level of competition he faces in practice each morning at Washington. At first, he admitted it was intimidating to compete with national team members. But in retrospect, it also made him into a better rower.

“Every practice you are competing against the best,” Otto said. “At first, I thought that racing against elite competition was really scary. It forces you to really up your game.”

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