CHERRY HILL, N.J. — University of Washington crews went 5-for-5 in the Grand Finals on Saturday, dominating the 110th Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships on the Cooper River.
The victories secured a perfect season for the men’s crew program, along with the first repeat title for Washington in more than 70 years. The national championship also was the fourth in six years for the Huskies, and the 15th overall for the program.
Washington also won its sixth straight Ten Eyck trophy, given annually to the overall points champion at IRAs. Teams can win the Ten Eyck trophy without winning the national title.
No school has swept all five Grand Finals since the IRA began hosting all of the events — the varsity eight, second varsity eight, freshmen eight, varsity four and open four.
Washington’s varsity eight oarsmen rowed with special motivation at this year’s IRAs, dedicating their efforts to seniors William Peter Allen, who passed away earlier this season, and co-captain Mathis Jessen, who had to remain at home because of an illness.
“You knew it was all coming down to this race,” said senior bow man Rob Munn, who added the crew had trouble gauging the competition. “We don’t race a lot of the crews from the East Coast.”
As the UW varsity eight crossed the line, each of the oarsmen threw their arms in the air and let out roars that echoed through the grandstands of the course. Aided by a stiff tailwind, their time of 5:21.48 shattered the previous best on the Cooper River.
“They really wanted to find themselves,” men’s crew coach Michael Callahan said of his varsity eight. “This is a whole new boat. They really wanted to be known for their own accomplishments. Now they have a record.”
The Huskies had an assault on their nerves at the start of the race when another crew committed a false start. But b Munn pointed out this was a silver lining for the Huskies, who were sloppy when the flag initially dropped. The Huskies next start was much improved.
“We talked that champions stay composed,” Callahan said. “And they did.”
Coming into the final varsity eight race of the season, the Huskies were focused and determined to be methodical about managing all aspects of the Grand Final, be it a tailwind, whitecaps or opposing crews bent on playing mental games.
“Coming into this, we knew we had only one opportunity,” senior coxswain Sam Ojserkis said. “We’ve been ready for this all year.”
In a race much like Thursday’s heat, UW open four rowers had to tap into their reserves to overcome Wisconsin at the finish. Trailing the Badgers by a seat going into the final 700 meters of the race, the Huskies called a sprint. As sophomore coxswain Josh Klein said after the race: “it was now or never time. We had to move.”
Wisconsin couldn’t match the effort.
The varsity four grand final also played out in similar fashion.
UW took a lead at the start and then fell behind California. But the Huskies raised the tempo and used the momentum to pull away from Cal and finish almost three seconds ahead of the Golden Bears.
UW’s freshmen eight pulled away from Cal with 750 meters to go, finishing in a sprint. It took a while for the results of this Grand Final to become official because another crew protested that their performance was hampered by geese that had wandered onto the course.
After almost an hour of deliberation, the times were upheld.