Men's Crew:


Let’s review. With ninety-six seasons behind them, the Washington men’s rowing program had just about seen it all. They had sunk mid-race, broken in half mid-race, lost and won by curvature, won Olympic gold by feet, lost Olympic trials by feet, raced in Russia and Henley and Egypt and Tokyo and a multitude of places across the globe, hit a floating log, hit a floating island, and hit a floating roof. They had traveled by foot, horse, car, van, bus, ship, train and plane. They had coaches hurl megaphones, bite windshields, sink mid-race, yell at upper campus, get fired and then re-hired. They had won shirts, lost shirts, forgotten their shirts, and traded their shirts. They had been carried from boats, swam from boats, ejected from boats, walked on ice and laked through ice. They had lived together, eaten together, laughed and cried together. 

By the time the century turned to 2000, more than ten thousand athletes had lifted a white blade out of the water on a Seattle lake. Only a small fraction of that number ever sat in a varsity or JV shell. Yet everyone who came down to row did so because they got something out of it: the desire to compete, the uniqueness of the sport, the camaraderie that was borne out of a common goal.

And all of that was still playing out in the spring of 2000, just as it had decades before. Who would make the varsity boat? Who would make the JV boat? Strategy, desire, and effort were all in open view to the experienced observer. In open view, but no easier for Bob Ernst than Rusty Callow or Al Ulbrickson had it before him. Sure the sport was different; but – and this is a large part of what makes collegiate rowing so compelling – so much was still the same.


There was very little doubt in anyone’s mind that Cal would be back with another strong crew in 2000. Bob Ernst had girded himself for it all year, but it was still tough to take a six-second loss to the Bears at San Diego. The silver lining were the JV’s, who rowed a controlled race, defeating runner-up Wisconsin by a good length, and the freshmen, who had an open water win over California. The fact the varsity, in their second place finish, came out in front of Harvard, Wisconsin, and Penn didn’t hurt either, but Ernst was impatient, saying “we have too good a group to not go faster than we are now.” 

So the coach went back to the tongue-blade board, and although he made no radical changes in personnel, he did move seats around. The line-up facing Wisconsin two weeks later featured a new stroke oar in Eric Funk, who was tested early by a charged-up Badger team that went after the race like a season-ender. But the Huskies were able to maintain a lower stroke rate, relax into the race, and close hard in the final 500 to win by about a length.

Ernst was still working the line-up when the crews met up for the Cal Dual a week later, but the results remained frustratingly the same, this time Cal winning on the Redwood Shores course by a length of open water in impressive style. The JV’s and freshmen, however, both scored open water wins in their respective events.

Opening Day offered a needed respite from the seemingly rapid fire meetings with Cal, the team facing off against an Egyptian National Team (shades of the early eighties) and Rick Clothier’s Navy squad. The Egyptians arrived without two oarsmen due to visa issues, filling in with a Bob Ernst supplied substitute and a 40 year-old friend of the team. Needless to say the Egyptians had a great time but were out of the race early, the Huskies rowing a strong race against the Midshipmen to win by a length of open water. The JV’s and frosh rounded out the day with convincing wins over Oregon State in their events.

But it was quickly back to the task at hand a week later on Lake Natoma for the Pac-10’s. And the results were surprising, just not the right way if you were a Husky fan. The biggest upset came early when the freshmen, who had won decisive victories over Cal in the first two races of the year, dropped their race by two seconds to the Bears. If that wasn’t enough, the consistent and controlled JV’s lost their poise and let Cal get out in front in the wind and stay there, the Bears rowing to a length victory. The varsity final was the only race that remained consistent, Cal winning by five seconds. Only the open-water Washington victory in the Varsity 4 prevented Cal from the regatta sweep.

These were not the results Ernst was looking for leading into the IRA’s on June 3rd. But he still took his largest contingent with him, including a straight four. And all of his crews made the finals on Saturday, the freshmen and varsity winning their heats and semis in impressive fashion, rekindling the belief that these teams could pull the upsets. But the magic ended there, the four finishing fifth, the freshmen finishing a strong second – the most painful part being it was second to the Bears again. The JV’s did exact some revenge from the Pac-10’s defeating the fourth place Bears but losing to Brown and Princeton. The varsity race was anti-climactic for the Huskies, the favored Bears in peak form and driving to a controlled open water win over Brown and Princeton, Washington a length back from those schools.

So the year ended with the same frustration as it began. California was hitting on all cylinders and peaking into the end of the year, rowing another ferocious race at the IRA’s to claim their second Challenge Cup. No one could complain anymore about the competition not being up to snuff on the west coast. Cal was as good as they had ever been, rowing with precision and confidence. “I think it was a good showing from the west coast, and congratulations to California,” said an obviously disappointed Bob Ernst. Steve Gladstone was the opposite, and particularly pleased with his freshmen, saying “As a varsity coach, it always makes your heart skip a beat when your freshmen win.”

Interestingly, looking at the freshmen classes, beginning in 1997 the IRA results were Washington 1st, Cal 4th; 1998, Washington 2nd, Cal 1st; 1999, Washington 4th, Cal 2nd; 2000, Washington 2nd, Cal 1st. These classes were now consistently in the top four places or better, a remarkable comment on the rivalry on the coast. Don’t look for it to let up soon.

At the Sydney Olympics, Marc Schneider became a two-time U.S. Olympian, this time finishing sixth in the lightweight four. Phil Henry joined the team as an alternate. Dave Calder rowed in the Canadian Olympic eight. At the FISA World Championships, Erik Miller brought home a gold medal as world champion in the Lightweight eight.

Washington Rowing: 2000
The unveiling of the bronze plaque donated by the Stewards in honor of Dick Erickson. Standing, left to right, Irma Erickson (holding Wes Erickson), Dwight Phillips ('71), Dick Erickson ('58), and Al Erickson ('82). Washington Athletic Department photo.
Washington Rowing: 2000
Crossing the line on Opening Day, the varsity strokes to a clean win over Rick Clothier's ('65) Navy squad and a visiting Egyptian team. Washington Athletic Department photo.
Washington Rowing: 2000
The JV's with the Cascade Cup. Washington Athletic Department photo.
Washington Rowing: 2000
The JV's after picking up the IRA bronze at Camden. Washington Athletic Department photo.
Washington Rowing: 2001
The JV's in the winner's circle at San Diego. Washington Athletic Department photo.
Washington Rowing: 2001
The varsity, left to right: Tim Lewis (cox), Matt Deakin, Dave Calder, Charles Minett, John Lorton, Peter Dembicki, Hans Hurn, Jon Burns, Brendan Patterson. Washington Athletic Department photo.
Washington Rowing: 2001
The varsity as they cruise past the broadcast table of Fox Sports NW on Opening Day. Washington Athletic Department photo.
Washington Rowing: 2001
The class of 2001 pose with "the Chief" Patrick Fitzsimons. Fitzsimons, a member of the 101 Club and long time Steward, garnered an appreciation for the aesthetics of the sport when he was Chief of Police in Seattle in the early eighties, and has remained a steadfast friend to the program ever since. Washington Athletic Department photo.
Washington Rowing: 2001
The IRA champion freshmen, left to right: Ian Harrison, Marco Petrovic, Andy Derrick, Ian Sawyer, John Kenfield, Sam Burns, Nick Beles, Seth Berling, Chris O'Brien (cox). Washington Athletic Department photo.


The Huskies arrived in San Diego with an experienced team. But so did the Bears, now riding high after two straight national championships, and once again rowing with the same polish and precision early in the season. Like a broken record, the Washington varsity finished second in the Copley Cup, open water ahead of Penn, Wisconsin and Yale, but, for the third year in a row, open water – eight seconds – behind Cal on a windswept Mission Bay. 

Two weeks later Bob Ernst would take that same line-up to Madison for the dual with the Badgers, and would instantly have his hands full with a Wisconsin varsity ready to race. The Badgers stayed with the Huskies all the way down the Lake Mendota course, Washington winning in the last few strokes by a tenth of a second.

Hard to say what the confidence level was going into the Cal Dual a week later on the Cut, but the race was over by the midpoint, California rowing a torrid pace in another impressive display of rowing acuity and strength. Possibly the biggest disappointment was the JV’s, winners at San Diego but again, like 2000, dropping the Dual. The freshmen prevented the sweep with an open water victory, looking impressive in front of the home crowd and improving on their margin of victory at San Diego.

Windermere upped the ante for Opening Day this year, bringing in the 2000 Olympic bronze medal winning Croatian National Team. They also invited the University of Victoria, who along with Washington put up a good race against the Croats. In fact, it was Victoria pulling in front of the Huskies and sprinting into the finish, falling a length shy of Croatia at the end, but beating Washington by a length in the process. This was an upset of some magnitude, three-oar Hans Hurn saying “We were really expecting that we would be able to beat U. Vic today. We just had a really bad row. It was a letdown…We never really settled into our rhythm. We never really went with them. We weren’t powerful enough today.”

Ernst would do some re-shuffling in the line-ups prior to the Pac-10’s, but he only had five days before heading south, the regatta coming one week after Opening Day (usually there were at least two weeks). And the team was still trying to find the rhythm, losing by ten seconds to Cal, and defeating a rapidly improving OSU team by only about a half length. The JV’s also lost to Cal by open water, the freshmen again preventing the sweep by coming home conference champions.

Ernst had his hands full now, three years of losses weighing on his team. There was no shortage of talent or desire – but the dulling effects of multi-length defeats to their arch rival was boring a hole in this team. Opening Day/Pac-10’s served as a multi-year low point – but also a wake-up call for a squad with three weeks to go before the IRA’s. Ernst now took the JV stroke pair and coxswain and placed them into the varsity stern, a late-season move that had been made by every coach since Rusty Callow when the talent on the team was, for whatever reason, not reflected on the water.

Three weeks later this team was about as much a question mark as they were at the beginning of the season as they entered the first day of racing at the IRA. The pair (with spares Andy Altman and Jeff Jorgensen) won their heat as did the freshmen, but the JV’s and varsity made it into the semi’s via the repechage. The varsity then made it into the final, but only by the skin of their teeth, finishing third over Wisconsin.

But the finals on Saturday were another story. The pair began the day with a surprising victory in their event, followed by the freshmen, who won the Steward’s Cup, coming from behind Princeton with 1000 meters to go to win for the first time since the ’97 sweep. The re-vamped JV’s then put in an inspired effort, picking up the silver behind Cal but giving the Bears a serious race, coming within a half length at the end. The varsity then followed up that performance with their best race of the year, blasting off the line and rowing an all-out effort, closing to finish five seconds behind winner California and another four seats back of Princeton.

“We had a great day on the last day of the year,” said Husky head coach Bob Ernst. “It was a really, really good day for the Huskies across the board. It started with the pair winning, then the freshmen, the junior varsity had the race of their lives and then the varsity ends it with their best race of the year. Everyone made it to the award stand. I’m very pleased with the performance of all our guys. The varsity had four really tough races this week. They came out fighting. Everybody rowed really well. It was perfect execution.”

Given the spot this team was in a month earlier, it was a remarkable turnaround to come home from the IRA’s with two golds, a silver and a bronze. Not unlike the ’89 squad, the varsity did not win a lot of races this year, but the results belied the true heart of this team. As easy as it would have been to throw this year out after Pac-10’s, the entire squad, from the fourth boat on up, re-committed themselves to the season with three weeks to go and it showed when it mattered most.

And underscoring the speed from the west, Washington and California entered a total of five races (besides the top three events, Washington entered the 2- and Cal entered the 4+) and one of the schools won each race. In fact in every event entered, every athlete came home with a medal (the Cal frosh finished third). That, considering the competition at the IRA, was an outstanding accomplishment for these young men and the programs they represented.

Huskies representing the U.S. at the senior World Championships were Erik Miller in the Lt. 8+ (bronze), Lucas Ahlstrand in the Lt. 4-, and John Lorton in the quad.


California was now working on their fourth championship year. If there was any doubt before there was none now. The Bears were the dominant player in collegiate rowing. In no time in their history had they ever had a streak like this on the national level, going undefeated for three straight years. It was an impressive, historical performance. 

And there were only a select few programs in the country that were near the same level. Washington was one of them, and the finish in 2001 certainly helped Bob Ernst and his team recognize that. At San Diego the coach got his first look at the speed of his 2002 team versus the Bears, the varsity hanging tough through the first thousand meters, California finally breaking the race open in the third 500 and closing with a five second victory. But the race of the day was reserved for the JV, who came storming back in the last 300 meters to win their event over the Bears. Fred Honebein’s freshmen rowed the most lop-sided race, winning their event in impressive fashion by over a length of open water.

The Wisconsin dual was next for the team, with former Bear Chris Clark’s tough Wisconsin squad visiting the Cut. The JV race, including the Husky freshmen, was a barn-burner, the Badgers taking an early lead, Washington pulling back to win on the sprint in a fantastic boat race. The varsity race was equally impressive just by the quality of the crews racing, Washington going on to a one length win but only after being pushed down the course by a smooth, fast Badger team.

The Cal Dual was next on the Redwood Shores course. The men’s varsity race went off first into the slight headwind, the crews battling down the tight course almost even in the first 500 meters, Washington moving to a two seat margin as the crews passed under the bridge at about 800 meters to go. The Huskies then stayed within their boat, holding off the Bears on the sprint to win the Schoch Cup for the first time since 1998. “We had enough gas at the end to hold off their late charge,” said coxswain Ryan Marks. “They definitely moved into us in the last 20 or 30 strokes but since we settled down at the beginning, we had enough.” The freshmen team added another impressive win by open water over their Cal counterparts, but Cal’s JV came to play, exacting revenge for the San Diego defeat with a five second win.

Needless to say things were way more relaxed around the boathouse leading into Opening Day. All three men’s crews had solid races on the windy day, the varsity taking home the Windermere Cup after defeating Stanford and a visiting crew from Peking University. The junior varsity won the first Dick Erickson Cup by also defeating Stanford.

Two weeks later, on a rain-pelted Lake Natoma, the freshmen would again row away from the field, earning the conference championship by over a length of open water. The JV’s were defeated by the Bears, but the varsity race was one for the ages. The two crews were locked together, Washington edging ahead by the midpoint by abut four seats. But Cal made up that margin with 500 meters to go, the two crews locked in a fierce sprint, California just pulling ahead in the last 200 meters to win by nine-tenths of a second. “The crowd got their money’s worth today,” said Washington men’s head coach Bob Ernst. “It was a great race. Cal did some juggling in their lineup from the last time we raced them (April 27). They came in here with a sense of urgency. Both boats had a chance to win it and they edged us at the end. We came here knowing it was going to be a great race.”

For fans of boat racing, this was what it was all about. These varsity races were some of the best ever. These were heavyweight bouts of evenly matched men who stroked clean, beautiful races. Heads were not turned out of the boats, the focus was on every long stroke, releases and catches made with precision. As good as it gets.

Both crews would take their energy and desire to the Cooper River for the final face off. Both rowed into the IRA finals without a loss. At the start the crews were even, Wisconsin joining the two west coast schools through the first 500 meters. But it was in this second 500 that Cal moved to a decisive eight seat lead. Coming into the sprint the crews were separated by a length, the Badgers now sprinting past the Huskies to claim the silver behind California, the Bears winning an incredible fourth year in a row. Bob Ernst and his team – for the first year in many – truly believed they could win this race, and were disappointed at the results. “This whole team has made a lot of progress this year,” said the coach. “We’ve been chasing California around for the last four years now. They probably still have a bit more depth than we do. They’ve got some very skilled, accomplished guys. They are a great crew. I’m glad we had the victory over them this year and I’m glad we had a great race with them at Pac-10s. Obviously we are disappointed with the results. But we are still a very good team and we’ve got very fast crews. There are going to be growing pains anytime you are trying to get to the very top. It just wasn’t in the cards today.”

Not in the cards for the varsity, but certainly in the cards for the freshmen, and a surprising 4+ that both won IRA crowns in impressive fashion. The JV’s rowed a solid race, finishing third behind Cal and Cornell in the closest race of the day. Coach Honebein said of his young crew “I think you get really lucky with the athletes you get. They make the program. One of the fun things about coaching freshmen is that you get them, and then you get rid of them. But the unfortunate part about that is you get them and then they are gone. That’s it. It’s special because when you’re on the varsity you have more chances to win a national champion. But you are only a freshman national champion once. That’s a pretty special thing, especially for these guys.”

Michael Callahan represented the U.S. at the World’s in the quad, Steve Gillespie rowed in the U.S. double, and Erik Miller won bronze in the Lightweight eight.

Our full coverage of the 2002 season can be found here: 2002 Race Results

Washington Rowing: 2002
The seniors pull away on Class Day. WRF photo.
Washington Rowing: 2002
Melissa Wengard, Matt Farrer and Matt Deakin prepare, with their senior teammates, to make the inaugural row of the Dick Erickson. WRF photo.
Washington Rowing: 2002
Seven of the nine guys with the trophy, left to right: Dusan Nikolic, Chris Hawkins, Kevin Smythe, Jon Lorton, Ryan Marks (cox), Sam Burns, Marko Petrovic. Missing: Lucas Ahlstrand and Matt Deakin. Dave Slepyan photo.
Washington Rowing: 2002
The varsity with the Windermere Cup, left to right: Kevin Smythe, Chris Hawkins, Dusan Nikolic, Sam Burns, Ryan Marks (cox), Matt Deakin, John Lorton, Marko Petrovic, Lucas Ahlstrand. Washington Athletic Department photo.
Washington Rowing: 2002
The frosh celebrate their Pac-10 championship on a rainy day in Sacramento. Joe Oates photo.
Washington Rowing: 2003
The senior men pulling away on Class Day, followed by the juniors and the sophomores. Paul Yount photo.
Washington Rowing: 2003
Windermere brought the American and Canadian National Teams out to Seattle for a head to head race down the Cut on Opening Day. The U.S. eight, in the lead here as the crews moved under the bridge, would go on to win the event. Four months later the finish order would be reversed, as the two crews would go neck and neck at the World Championships, the Canadians winning the gold and the Americans the silver. Tom Cohen/WRF Photo.
Washington Rowing: 2003
The men's JV Erickson Cascade Cup champs. Left to right: Matt Kopicky, Jeff Jorgensen, John Taylor, Scott Gault, Gints Salaks, Charles Minett, Dusan Nikolic, Ian Sawyer, Chris O'Brien. Eric Cohen/WRF photo.
Washington Rowing: 2003
The varsity nearing the grandstands on Lake Natoma, about 400 meters away from a stunning upset win over the top-ranked Bears and the first Pac-10 varsity trophy for Washington in five years. A link to Jamco Times splits of the race is here ---> JAMCO - 2003 Pac-10 Championships Result 134. Charlie Painter\Capital Crew photo.
Washington Rowing: 2003
The men's varsity Pac-10 Champs, back row left to right: Sam Burns, Brett Newlin, John Lorton, Marko Petrovic. Front, left to right: Andy Derrick, Giuseppe Lanzone, Ryan Marks, Ante Kusurin, Kyle Larson. Dan Lepse photo.
Washington Rowing: 2003
In a gut-wrenching semi-final, the Varsity 8 holds off a veteran Moseley Boat Club and Imperial College of London crew to win by two seats and advance to the Ladies' Plate final. The team rowed a 6:11 in this race, a time that would ultimately hold up as the fastest - over all events and all days - at Henley in 2003. John Wilcox photo.
Washington Rowing: 2003
Due to national team conflicts, half of the varsity eight went off to camps immediately following the IRA. Via a pre-determined schedule, four weeks later the men met up in London from all corners of the globe to race at Henley together. The one exception was stroke-oar Ante Kusurin, who was unable to change his national team commitments, and was replaced by JV stroke Ian Sawyer. Here Sawyer, and fellow teammates Ryan Marks (cox), Andy Derrick, Guiseppe Lanzone and Kyle Larson, lay down a solid piece on a spectacular summer morning on Lake Union prior to leaving. Eric Cohen/WRF photo.


Adding in the youth from a dominant freshmen team, Bob Ernst would oversee a talent pool that would rival that found in the heyday of Al Ulbrickson, with the desire to go with it. And in this, the 100th year of Washington crew, nothing less would be expected. Even by the fall the alumni, harkening back to those Ulbrickson glory days, were making plans to meet in Seattle for a Centennial Celebration in the spring, and Bob Ernst was laying the groundwork for a trip back to Henley. 

For the first time since 1950 and 1951, the program had back to back freshmen IRA champions, with an experienced upper-class looking to protect the precious few seats in the varsity and JV eights. And so the competition early in the fall turned white hot by the winter, Ernst acknowledging early on that even back to the third boat there would be national champion athletes manning the oars.

By the time the team left for San Diego in early April, Ernst had settled on a varsity line-up that included four sophomores. In a trial by fire, this youthful crew trailed Cal early, the seasoned Bears holding a one length lead, the Huskies fighting back in the sprint to close within two seats, but falling again to the now five-time defending champions. The JV’s dropped their race by a length to California, who completed the sweep by knocking off a freshmen team that finished a surprising third behind OSU. But Ernst chose the “glass half full” route in the post-race interviews, saying of his varsity “we’ve got a lot of really super young athletes in the boat…the (races) that we want to win are at the end of the year, not at the beginning of the year.”

That my be true, but two weeks later the team was mowed down on Lake Mendota by a Wisconsin team that rowed a steady, solid race, in the process wresting the ‘W’ trophy from the Huskies for the first time since the dual became an annual event in 1993. And a week later on the Cut, the varsity was out of the Cal Dual early, losing to the Bears by open water in front of a home crowd expecting a tight race, especially after watching the Husky JV’s come from behind to win their event.

So Ernst would, in the tradition of similar mid-season shake-ups from years past, make significant changes to his varsity and JV line-ups prior to Opening Day. The varsity responded well, winning by open water over a highly-ranked Northeastern squad and an over-matched Polish National team, with the JV’s and frosh both securing open water wins over northwest rival Oregon State.

After a follow-up dual with the Beavers a week later – with the OSU frosh this time handing a stinging rebuke to their rivals, and the Husky varsity rowing to a short and choppy eight-seat win – the Pac-10’s were anyone’s guess. To add to the drama, only the JV’s and varsity would travel to Lake Natoma, the freshmen sitting this one out due to disciplinary issues following the OSU race. Ernst’s “races at the end of the year”- once so much in the distant future – were now quickly creeping up on a team still stuck in neutral and with time fading fast.

But the re-shuffled team was only now beginning to find it’s rhythm. By the time they were heading south there was a building feeling within the squad that they had found that extra gear that had eluded them thus far. As if to prove it to themselves, the varsity secured the fastest time in the preliminary heats, and lined up on Sunday with Cal to their right and Stanford, winners over OSU in the heats, to their left. Blowing out of the gates, the Huskies were two seats up at 500 meters, and extended the lead to a half length by 1000. In control, the team powered through the last 500 meters to win the Pac-10’s by six seats, their first win at this event since 1997. “This is the most aggressive start we’ve ever had,” said two seat Sam Burns. “I don’t know what to say, I’m just really happy and really excited. We’ve been looking forward to this for a while.”

It was as cathartic a victory as they come. Five years of facing down Cal at this event had finished in frustration. Not this time. “Cal is a great team. They have been very dominant, so it’s nice to be able to beat them here,” said Ernst. “Now is the fun part. The IRA is going to be the best field that’s ever been there in my career. I’m just glad that we’re going there as a contender.”

That “best field” would include the four-time defending champions in California, a Washington team that had just defeated the Bears, a Wisconsin team that had earlier defeated the Huskies, and Harvard, a team that had waxed the competition up and down the east coast all year. For the Crimson – a perennial no-show at the IRA due to scheduling conflicts with the Harvard/Yale race – it would be only their third appearance at the IRA in the history of the event, and the first since 1995. Those four crews, with Northeastern and Cornell rounding out the six-boat field, would all advance to the final May 31.

Due to the anticipation of high winds in the afternoon, the varsity final was moved to 7:36 a.m. Saturday. In the cool and quiet of the morning, the start was a flash of oars and the sound of hatchets attacking the water, both Harvard and Washington moving out early, separating themselves from the other crews by open water and staying almost deadlocked throughout the first half of the race. It was at 1200 meters that the Crimson moved to a half length advantage and then at 1500 meters pulled away, the Huskies fading from the tenacious start, but still able to hold off the charging crews from California and Wisconsin to finish second. “We put a lot into the first 1000 meters. Our goal was to go out hard. It was a great race – we had open water on the field at 1000 meters, but Harvard had more” said varsity coxswain Ryan Marks.

That event certainly lived up to the pre-race billing, and the remaining three events would not disappoint either: first came the beleaguered and barely qualifying JV team, rowing to a surprise silver medal; then the freshmen – after hitting rock bottom at the OSU race – not only making the final but finishing fourth behind Princeton, Cal and Harvard (OSU did not make the final). The varsity four completed the day by rowing a superb 2000 meter race to win the gold. “I thought it was probably one of the best days that our program has had since I’ve been the head coach for the men,” said Ernst. “I would have loved to win the varsity race or the jayvee race, but our guys had their best races of the year and the other teams were just a little bit better.”

“It was the best we rowed ever,” said Marco Petrovic, six-oar. “They (Harvard) are a better team. But most of the race was very close, we were dead even with them, and it (the rowing pace) felt good.” It was that upbeat attitude that the Huskies took with them three weeks later to Henley, a team that had battled back from difficult performances early in the season to put together two ferocious races – “at the end of the year” – as their coach had predicted.

The varsity four, entered in the Britannia Cup, advanced in their first round race at Henley without fanfare, but were pushed to a one-seat victory in their subsequent duel. In the quarterfinals they met their match in Isis, battling down the course to lose in heartbreaking Henley fashion by two feet.

The varsity eight, entered in the Ladies’ Plate (the top eight-oared event for University students), began their racing with a convincing win in their first heat on Friday. By then the crew knew that in all likelihood the race for the Plate would come in their semi-final on Saturday against a composite club crew in Moseley Boat Club and Imperial College of London, a crew loaded with veteran, international level oarsmen. That race ended up being one for the ages, the crews locked together as they made their way up the Thames, the London crew closing a half-length gap at the Enclosures, but the Huskies responding to hold a two-seat lead as the crews crossed the finish in exhaustion. The final on Sunday was an anti-climax, Washington rowing to a multiple length win over Rutgers to win the Ladies’ Plate – and to win at Henley – for the first time since 1981.

“What a joy it was to motivate young people to meet their full potential,” said Stan Pocock in his address to the masses gathered at the Centennial Banquet a few months earlier, referring to his years in the forties and fifties as coach of the frosh at Washington. Bob Ernst would likely relate, for there was not much missing for Washington rowing in 2003. A turnaround season, a Pac-10 championship for the varsity 8, an IRA championship for the varsity 4, and a win at Henley – the first in over twenty years – to round it out. Remarkably, all of it was done under the banner of the 100-year anniversary of the sport at the school. Al Ulbrickson in his heyday would have even cracked a smile.

Our full coverage of the 2003 season can be found here – 2003 Race Results.


The news began circulating early in the fall that beginning in 2004, the long-awaited shellhouse remodel would officially begin. When originally built in 1949, (see 1940’s) the shellhouse was mostly that – a shellhouse (with, of course, a shop for George Pocock to build shells). But by 1965, once the west wing was added, it had become a modernized and highly coveted dormitory housing 72 members of the men’s crew team, complete with a crow’s nest for the ever present coach and overseer, Dick Erickson (see 1970’s). Twenty-five years later it was still housing the team, but changing NCAA rules about athletic dormitories – and changing times – brought a new phase to the building: an athletic dining facility and academic center. And although new designs had been in the works for years, this time was for real.

As for the team, new shellhouse or not, this was decidedly not a re-building year. Bob Ernst had a solid returning squad, with only two graduating seniors from the 2003 varsity eight. Quite possibly his biggest headache, besides figuring out where the shells were going to go once the shellhouse was reduced to rubble, was finding a replacement for Ante Kusurin, the junior stroke-oar who would take the year off to pursue his Olympic dreams in Croatia.

With a predominantly senior varsity boat, Ernst headed to San Diego with high hopes of breaking Cal’s long grip on the Copley Cup. And as a prelude to the big event, the JV’s showed the depth in the program, setting a strong pace early and cruising through their race to win with open water over runner-up Cal. But the varsity, loaded with experience, was out of it early and ended up on the wrong end of an eight-second thumping by Cal, with Northeastern proving the better Huskies on this day, also finishing open water ahead of third-place Washington. Ernst was not thrilled. “We have some pretty talented athletes here, but that varsity performance today was substandard. Certainly, I think we can do better than that and this is a long season with two months to go.”

Two weeks and a revamped varsity line-up later, the Huskies were eager to exact a little revenge on visiting Wisconsin. But the Badgers put a move on mid-way through the race and opened an eight-seat lead by the entrance to the Cut, preserving the win in the sprint and securing a second straight victory for the “W” Cup. Suddenly the San Diego results didn’t look like a fluke. This team – loaded with talent – was struggling for real in a year that had held great promise.

But to Ernst, loaded with talent just meant he needed to find the right combination. On the following Monday he had two sophomores rowing stroke pair in his varsity and a sophomore coxswain, and like 2003, by Friday suddenly had his crew finding a rhythm and length that was not there before. And there was no shortage of desire. That was borne out about 800 meters into the Dual with Cal at Redwood Shores, as the Huskies held off the Bear move and then just pasted their rival with a power-twenty, pulling away down the remainder of the course to win by over a length. “I thought that we were ready to row and that we were good enough to beat them, so I’m not surprised,” said Ernst, adding “my brain only works one way and that’s to be systematic. I think we’re making some progress. We want to have our best race on the last day of the year.”

Opening Day brought out the throngs on a close to 80 degree day, the crowd watching as the men swept the events, including an open water victory over Navy and an Under-23 Italian National crew. The team followed up the next weekend with a sweep over OSU on the Williamette, gearing up for the showdown with Cal at the Pac-10’s.

Anyone looking for a showdown race – probably fitting into the “epic proportions” category so often described by Erickson of the 70’s and early 80’s Cal/Washington events – would find it on Lake Natoma on the afternoon of May 16th. Although manhandled by the Huskies in the JV race, Cal’s varsity just exploded off the line in the featured event, edging to over a half length lead at 500, and blowing it open to almost eight seats by 1000. At 1500 Cal was still up by that margin as the Huskies began their sprint to slowly draw the Bears back. By 250 to go Washington was picking up seats quickly, and with 100 to go was almost even, crossing the line three seats ahead for the win. “They had us on the ropes and we passed them in the final six or seven strokes” said an exhausted 5-oar Brett Newlin. “It feels amazing to go through an awesome crew like Cal at the very end…” Ernst could have probably used a few puffs on Erickson’s old pipe by now, but did muster this: “The varsity really showed some character today because Cal threw down their best race and didn’t let them off the hook…”

On the hook or off, both crews had two weeks to find whatever extra speed existed to face down one last time at Camden for the national championship. Add in a little extra incentive for the Huskies: the still lingering losses to Northeastern and Wisconsin early in the season, and of course the issue of Harvard, undefeated for two seasons and looking invincible after open water wins at the Eastern Sprints by both the JV and varsity eights.

Ernst would take five crews east for the first time in the history of the program; a varsity pair, varsity 4+, and freshmen, JV, and varsity 8’s. Both the pair and frosh eights had trouble getting out of the heats, ultimately missing the Grand Finals in those events. But the four, JV, and varsity all moved solidly into the finals. In their final, the four executed their game plan to a tee, moving through the field at 1000 meters and sprinting for the win. Next up came the JV’s, a team bent on a mission to complete an undefeated season, rowing through Harvard midway through the race and cruising to the first Kennedy Cup win for the Huskies in seven years.

The varsity sprung out of the gates with Cal and Harvard, this time staying close enough to be within a half length at the midway point. But it was there that Harvard kicked it into another gear, leaving the Huskies to once again row a gut check through Cal, but falling short of Harvard by over a length. “We know more about Washington than people realize,” said Harvard coach Harry Parker, who also knows a thing or two about races of epic proportions. “We know they’re capable of having strong finishes. The one thing that worked to their disadvantage was Cal being so aggressive at the start.” But senior Andy Derrick saw it differently: “We rowed as fast as we could. We knew if Harvard was going to beat us they’d better be fast, and they were. But we left everything we had on that river. For some guys it was the end of the season. But for guys like me, it’s the end of a career.” (1)

Back at Montlake the big crane was sweeping across the footprint of the new shellhouse. And by the end of the summer, there would be a whole new freshmen class waiting – waiting to begin their “career” at Washington – built on the foundation of the men that came before them.

Washington was well represented at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Michael Callahan and Erik Miller went as the team spares, and Matt Deakin ’02 pulled the 5-oar in the Olympic Champion U.S. 8+. The win was the first for the U.S. in the featured Olympic event since 1964, and the first gold medal for a Washington oarsman at the Olympics since Blair Horn stroked the Canadian eight to victory in 1984. In the absence of a Women’s rowing history ( tba), it is important to note as well that Anna Mickelson (’02) and Mary Whipple (’02) won Olympic silver in the U.S. women’s 8+.

Our full coverage of the 2004 season can be found here – 2004 Race Results.

Washington Rowing: 2004
The first bite out of the building - whose room is that? Sean Mulligan photo.
Washington Rowing: 2004
Under the watchful eye of their coach, the seniors pull away from the field at 500 meters on their way to an impressive win for the Varnell Trophy on Class Day. Peg Achterman photo.
Washington Rowing: 2004
The Class Day BBQ attracts a crowd under the big crane. Eric Cohen/WRF photo.
Washington Rowing: 2004
A golden morning - the week in April between the disappointing Wisconsin loss and the stunning win over Cal at the Dual. It was during this week that the varsity found the boat speed they had been seeking all year. Eric Cohen/WRF photo.
Washington Rowing: 2004
The victorious Varsity 8 holding the Schoch Cup, back row from left, Giuseppe Lanzone, Andy Derrick, Sam Burns, Brett Newlin, Martin Rogulia, Brodie Buckland; front, left to right: Scott Schmidt, Greg King, Scott Gault. Photo courtesy Brett Newlin.
Washington Rowing: 2004
On a sunny and 80 degree day, the crowds came out to watch Washington sweep the Windermere Cup men's events. Here the freshmen eke out a tight one against a well-matched OSU squad. The varsity event was not as close, as the Huskies delivered an open water win in front of the hometown fans; that race featured Rick Clothier's ('65) tough Navy crew - a team that, like Washington, improved all season long - ultimately finishing fourth at the IRA's. Eric Cohen/WRF photo.
Washington Rowing: 2005
The shellhouse in August of 2004, looking better than the hole that was there when the guys left for summer break. UW photo.
Washington Rowing: 2005
The shellhouse in January, still wrapped up like a present waiting to be opened. W on the apron could use some work. UW photo.
Washington Rowing: 2005
Early February Saturday morning workout. Foreground four bow to stern: Martin Rogulia, Giuseppe Lanzone, Ante Kusurin, and Brett Newlin. More training photos from the 2005 season are here - Training 2005 Al Erickson/WRF photo.
Washington Rowing: 2005
The seniors in the retro jerseys (note to rowers in the 70's and 80's - you wore what are now considered retro) take the Varnell Trophy on Class Day. The 2nd place freshmen stuck with the seniors for the first 1500 meters, before the upperclassmen put it away in the sprint. Chad Rudolph/WRF photo.
Washington Rowing: 2005
The Cal varsity stroking away from Washington as the crews head under the Montlake Bridge to win the Schoch Cup. Chad Rudolph/WRF photo.
Washington Rowing: 2005
The new Conibear Shellhouse was officially dedicated on May 6, 2005. For more on the shellhouse, see our Shellhouse link. Eric Cohen/WRF photo.
Washington Rowing: 2005
The IRA Champion Open 4+, left to right: Adam Van Winkle, Craig Tyler, Luke Carney, Dustin Kraus, coach Colin Sykes and coxswain Mary Katherine Langlais in front. Stroke-oar Adam Van Winkle said after the race, "I'm really proud of our crew, we showed a lot about ourselves today. When we knew we were moving and we started pulling even with those top crews, my heart was just pumping so hard and I just knew we could take them. I knew no one could stop us..." Gints Salaks/WRF photo.
Washington Rowing: 2005
The JV's gutting out the final twenty strokes in the IRA final over Cornell. According to coxswain Greg King, the crew moved into the lead "...within the last 10 or 15 strokes. We were almost dead even with Cornell all the way coming down the course from 500 meters in. We just sprinted, took it up, up, up and went right through them." Gints Salaks/WRF photo.


There was a decidedly upbeat tone on the Conibear docks as the school year began in late September. For one thing, the shellhouse construction was starting to actually look like a building – and although the team knew they would not be moving in until the spring, there was now at least something to look at instead of a hole in the ground. 

But the real buzz had to do with three Olympians coming back to call Conibear home for the year, including freshman coach Michael Callahan and two members of the 2004 U.S. gold medal eight, Matt Deakin and Bryan Volpenhein, who signed on as varsity assistants. Nothing like a couple of freshly minted Olympic Champions to stoke the competitive spirit out on the water. Meanwhile, Bob Ernst had a solid contingent of experienced athletes returning, making the fall pair racing interesting for everyone, particularly the coaches.

No big freezes and a reasonably dry winter made for some excellent training conditions leading into the spring, with Ernst fine-tuning his line-ups and aiming for a later start to the year, bypassing the San Diego Crew Classic for the Windermere Classic, at Redwood Shores, a week later on April 9th. Although the team had not missed a Crew Classic since 1973, the course conditions, dual format, and more rounded competition at the Windermere event proved more enticing to a coach eager for a variety of racing experiences for his men.

The team would not disappoint, with both the varsity and JV’s winning the three duals they faced over the weekend including wins over Stanford and Dartmouth, propelling the crews towards a showdown with Cal two weeks later on the Cut. But this time the varsity would come up empty, the Bears hungry for a win after the devastating loss at the Pac-10s a year earlier, and stroking cleanly to a one length win in front of one of the larger crowds on the Cut for a non-Windermere Cup event. Although the JV’s were able to grit out a hard fought battle with their rivals from Cal, it was only that victory that prevented Cal from taking a broom to the Huskies. A disappointed Ernst said “It remains to be seen what we can do in three weeks before the Pac-10s. You better believe that we’re going to be doing everything we can to get better.”

After taking out some of the frustration with a sweep over Oregon State a week later, the team prepared for the spectacle of the Windermere Cup, and the prospect of finally moving into their majestic new home on the shores of Lake Washington. On the water, facing a good Czech Republic pre-elite national squad and Cornell, the Husky varsity rowed a solid race, gradually pulling out to a one length win. The JV’s, on the other hand, found themselves in a hole midway through the race, a good eight seats down to Cornell, waiting until the Cut to put a move on the visitors and sprinting to a boat length victory in front of the home fans, maintaining an undefeated streak that went back to 2003.

All of that would be right back on the line a week later at the Pac-10’s. For two straight years the varsity had taken early defeats at the hands of the Bears, only to turn it around by the end of the season and come out ahead at the championships. Ernst was confident he had a team that could do the same, watching the squad improve in boat speed on a daily basis. But boat racing is what it is, and it ultimately comes down to one chance – a chance that within the first thirty strokes of this race was for naught, as Cal once again pasted the varsity off the line and then held them off for a three second win. “They put it on us in the first quarter of the race and we couldn’t come back to them”, said Ernst. “Until we get better at getting off with them, that’s going to be the result.”

Both the JV’s and the Varsity four did win however, the four in a comeback win for the ages as they trailed the entire race until the last five strokes. As the crew collapsed across the finish line in a heap, and in the ensuing delirium and celebration, a rigger was creased with an oar and before even coming to a stop, the boat, with all five occupants, barrel-rolled. All five were quickly rescued from the chilly Lake Natoma water, but not before earning two lifetime stories to tell their grandkids in the span of about six minutes.

Ernst did not blink at the results, returning back to Seattle still convinced he had a varsity that could beat Cal, but knowing his work was cut out for him now. “We’ve been doing a lot of high intensity stuff and we are trying to get as ready as we can. I think that Princeton and Harvard are going to be really good. Of course there is Cal as well, and we just want to be in a fight with those three teams.”

The Huskies would enter the IRA’s seeded 4, 1, and 7, varsity, JV’s, and freshmen respectively. That would be turned on it’s nose on the very first day, as the JV’s and frosh would be on opposite ends of upsets. The freshmen pulled one of the bigger stunners of the day, defeating #2 seed and Eastern Sprints winner Brown by a half length. The JV’s, on the other hand, saw their 18-race win streak come to an end, losing by four feet to Wisconsin. “This gets the undefeated mark off our back”, said No. 7 seat Scott Schmidt. “It’s opened up a lot of guys’ eyes and we’re getting pretty fired up now.”

That comment looked particularly dubious about 24 hours later, the JV’s thrashing down the rain swollen course high and short in the semi-final, finishing well behind Eastern Sprints winner Cornell and coming in third behind Yale, to barely eke out a spot in the final. Cornell, exacting some revenge for the defeat on the Cut, looked solid, as did Cal, winner of the other semi. Meanwhile, the varsity finally had the start they were looking for in their semi-final, busting out of the blocks right next to Cal, going stroke for stroke with the Bears for the first 1,000 meters, then pulling away at the end. This would set them up in the best lane for the final, right next to Harvard.

The first race on the final day of racing would be in the Open 4, an event that differs from the varsity 4 event by requiring at least one freshmen oarsman in the boat. The Husky entry had made the final via the reps, losing their first heat to Northeastern, and in the race on this day watched both Northeastern and Georgetown walk out to an open water lead by 750 meters with Cal close behind. But at 1,000 meters, the Washington crew began to creep back on the leaders, moving through Cal first, then closing on Georgetown. At 650 left the crew went into a self – induced sprint, the rate gradually working higher, and in the last 200 meters the Huskies from Seattle nipped their New England counterparts, securing the fourth straight fours national championship. An elated Colin Sykes, fours coach, said after the race was over, “They were ready to go at any point not to let anybody get away from them. They went after first and second and carried their momentum all the way through. That’s a real mark of how they train and who they are.”

The freshmen were next – a tough squad that all year had rowed in the wake of an exceptional California team. The IRA’s were their chance to show that they were better than the open water pastings they had taken all year. In their final, they came out hungry, staying within a length of the Bears and finishing third by inches to Harvard, completing a frustrating season the right way – on the medal stand at the National Championships.

The shell-shocked JV’s knew by now they had to up their game if they were even going to make the medal stand. But the team had a solid start for the first time in this regatta, and settled into a long rhythm that kept them in the hunt through the first 1,000 meters. In the second half, Cornell put on a strong move that put them in control, but the Huskies regained their footing and moved back to even with 400 meters left, and from there it was bare knuckles, only in the last ten strokes Washington moving to a lead that they would maintain as they crossed the line 2/10’s of a second faster than Cornell. Bowman and now four-time national champion Evan Galloway said later, “We were frustrated. I had a feeling when I woke up this morning that we were going to throw down and probably win. This is just a great group of guys…”

The varsity shot out of the blocks in their race too, the four schools Ernst had talked about – Washington, Harvard, Princeton and Cal virtually dead even for the first 700 meters. At that point Harvard and Princeton found another gear, moving together to take another six seats on the field, with Harvard out-sprinting their east coast rival at the finish, winning the IRA varsity event for the third straight time. At the finish, the Bears edged the Huskies for third by a half length. “About 700 or 750 in, Harvard and Princeton took a little move right there. We didn’t respond well enough. We kind of fell off the pace in the third 500. Harvard and Princeton just kept going which is their m.o. That’s what they’ve been doing all year,” said Ernst after the race.

Senior Kyle Larson, 2 seat in the varsity, had these observations at the end: “Rowing is kind of a funny sport because it is not always you versus an opponent. It’s always you versus yourself. If you can stay focused and maximize your own capabilities then you are going to do pretty well. You should be happy. I don’t think today was the best race we’ve ever had, but it by far wasn’t the worst. We’ve made a lot of improvement and I’m really proud of the guys I got to row with. “

Ernst added to that, reflecting on a double gold medal performance by his squad (no other program achieved that at the 2005 IRA) “These guys worked real hard and the jayvees worked real hard and we’ve got a good team. You look at how many universities here had a top-four finish in the varsity, the jayvee, the freshman and the four (Ed. note: only Cal had a similar performance in 2005, but brought home only one gold, in the Frosh 8). Since 1995 we’ve been fourth twice and every other time we’ve gone to the awards dock. Nobody else here can say that. I’m proud of these guys.”

And there was no argument with that. For the third year in a row, Washington left the IRA’s arguably the deepest squad there, this the second year they came home with multiple golds. But the big one was still proving elusive. How to change that last piece of the puzzle, without upsetting the first part, was the challenge that faced Ernst and his coaches in the coming year.

Our full coverage of the 2005 season can be found here – 2005 Race Results.


With the 2005 season barely in the rear-view mirror, Bob Ernst announced that the team had accepted an invitation to row in the “Great Race” in New Zealand, a dual-race regatta that is the Southern Hemisphere’s version of a Windermere Cup/Head of the Charles/Henley combo. Raced upstream on three miles of the Waikato River near Hamilton, the course is lined with spectators and televised nationally across the country, fans cheering for local powerhouse Waikato University, a team that this year would include five NZ national team members and a recently minted world champion.

Besides the normal preparations and planning required for a cross-continental trip, this one added the unique variation of taking place on September 10th, three weeks before school even started in Seattle. Ernst would spend the last days of August searching for water that would resemble the Waikato River, settling on the Snohomish River near Everett. The team, made up of eligible athletes for the 2006 season, left August 27th after a brief time together at home. Once in New Zealand and adjusted for the time and weather, the team settled in to a solid training regimen in preparation for the event.

The Waikato River in September – early spring in the southern hemisphere – is a mixture of crosscurrents and eddies. The key to the dual race is to get out early and get next to shore. Washington, starting in the mid-river, outside lane, got the quick jump on Waikato, moving to a half-length lead. At that point oars were entangled, the Huskies forced further into the current. Recovering, Washington again took the lead, only to have oars entangle again. This time the team could not recover, Waikato hugging the shore and moving to a length lead, cruising into the finish two miles later, three lengths ahead of Washington.

The sting of the defeat was tempered by the hospitality of the team’s New Zealand hosts, the event ending that evening at the Great Race Ball, a formal, costumed affair. The men returned home after a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see New Zealand and compete, off-season, at a very high level.

But there would be no rest for the road weary on their return. Ernst had the team quickly following the fall/winter workout routine, leading into a season that would start a week early due to the Windermere Classic at Redwood Shores, scheduled for the last week in March. Meanwhile, the buzz around the crewhouse was of a freshman class that could rival some of the best. As winter rolled into spring, the first glimpse of that arrived on Class Day, the frosh and seniors locked in a two-seat battle the entire length of the course, the freshmen prevailing in the last ten strokes – a frosh squad winning the Varnell Trophy for the first time since the class of ’50 did it in 1947.

There are a number of ways you can look at a frosh win on Class Day. The prevailing notion – the glass half-full notion – was that this was a bellwether class. That would be tested the next weekend at Redwood, and the young squad would live up to the high expectations, dominating both Penn and a Cal-Davis JV squad by 12 and 33 seconds respectively.

But the stunner came in the varsity event on Sunday. After two solid wins Saturday against Penn and Northeastern, the Huskies came out Sunday morning and met a Stanford squad hungry and determined, the Cardinal pasting a half-length on the Huskies early and driving home to a length win on their home course. The junior varsity – defending National Champions – also lost to a superior Northeastern squad hungry for revenge from the 2005 IRA match up. The varsity team limped home, the freshmen the only squad building on momentum.

After three weeks of practice and re-shuffled line-ups, the men would travel back to Redwood Shores, this time to face the Bears for the annual Dual. Stanford had also whacked Cal’s varsity – at San Diego a week after the Cardinal defeated the Huskies. So this battle was between two powerhouse programs, each embarrassed by a Stanford team that was anything but a fluke now, and each looking for a momentum switch.

That momentum developed in the first twenty strokes of the varsity match-up, and it was not Washington’s. Cal exploded out of the blocks and rowed the race with a vengeance, continuing to add length to their lead as the crews sprinted into the finish, the Bears winning by almost eight seconds. The JV’s also got knocked out early, holding to a four second loss but still seeing open water at the end.

The freshman event was the last race of the regatta – the marquee event – with both programs boasting of exceptional classes – but Washington still favored due to the Class Day win. Out of the blocks it was even, but Cal began to lengthen into the first 1000 meters, while the Huskies tightened up and shortened. By 1500 the outcome was clear, and Cal stroked across the finish line with open water, completing the sweep in dominant fashion, with open water in all races.

It was a devastating outcome for Washington. The varsity was outright mauled. But it was the freshmen loss that would leave the team – and fans – in an almost catatonic state. It was a momentum shift all right, but more like a meteor hitting the earth; all that was left was the crater. So the coaches were left to pick up the pieces, frosh coach Callahan imploring, “they don’t know how good we actually are.”

Next up was the Windermere Cup, with the Russians coming for the first time since the inception of the Windermere Cup in 1987. That year, the then Soviet Union pinned a four-length win on the Huskies in front of the hometown fans, and suddenly a déjà vu moment was staring the program in the face. But once again the team would surprise – this time exciting the crowd as they held within four seats of the Russians down the course, the visitors winning in the sprint but the Huskies looking strong and – more importantly – gaining some much needed confidence heading into the Pac-10’s a week later.

So the team had found some momentum again. And they would need it, with the varsity seeded third as they arrived at Lake Natoma for the Pac-10’s. But in the final the Huskies dropped off the pace early, down by a length in the first 500 meters. Meanwhile, Stanford and Cal battled down the course, the Bears prevailing by a length over their Bay area rival, with the Huskies another length back. Whatever magic had been found at home a week earlier was gone in a flash back in California – the Bears sweeping all of the men’s events at the Pac-10’s (V4+, F8, 2V8, V8) for the first time since Washington did it in 1997.

Three weeks later and the Huskies came into the IRA’s with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude, having been stung repeatedly all year, from Waikato to Natoma. However, out of the darkness of the Pac-10 results were some encouraging developments: not that there was a lot of time left, but both the JV eight and the freshmen came within a half length of the Bears, seriously denting the margin of victory at the Dual and suggesting Callahan’s comment after that race had some merit. But seeded seventh in the varsity event, the Husky varsity was not expected to make the final, although it was not like Bob Ernst hadn’t tried all season. By the time he was set on a line up for the IRA, he was on his 13th oarsman in the varsity boat, this time inserting the JV stroke pair.

It should also come as no surprise that somehow – out of the twenty-four crews in the race – Cal and Washington would end up in the same first heat together on Thursday. But the outcome would be far, far different from the previous encounters. The Huskies shot out of the gate, leading Cal at 1,000 meters, the Bears catching them in the sprint but only after the two crews rowed the two fastest times of the day, with no one else even close. “We’re gaining a little more speed here and there and it’s just all adding up right now. We kind of exploded today on the water and it felt great,” said five-oar Rob Gibson.

In fact, all four Husky crews advanced into their finals two days later, a feat that if predicted three weeks earlier would have seemed flat out delusional. But these results were indicative of a mindset and a determination that could be seen in the strength of the program over the last decade. On Saturday, first out of the blocks for their final were the Open 4’s, Washington rested after an opening heat win on Thursday put them straight through. Out of the blocks they showed it, although down to the field they were understroking their competition; at the midpoint they led, fought off a move by Cal, and then coasted home in control, winning IRA gold for the fifth consecutive year in fours competition.

The frosh were next up, Cal and Washington seeded 1 and 2 and easily reaching the finals via separate brackets. In the final, the two crews exploded out of the gates, separating from the field in the first 500 meters, but in a reversal of the roles played out all season: Washington was leading. At about 600 meters the Huskies put on a decisive move to take a half-length lead, continued to lengthen their stroke, and sprinted across the finish in 5:38.8, one second ahead of California. “Today”, said Callahan, “before we went out, we didn’t talk about beating them. We just talked about achieving our best race and reaching our optimum potential. And, I think we did it.”

The 2V’s fought just to make the final. The team finished third in their opening heat, and were forced into a winner take all rep against California on Friday – with the season’s history clearly not on the side of Washington. But in a remarkable turnaround, the Huskies tore out of the blocks and rowed a wire-to-wire win – for the first time all year – over the Bears. “I couldn’t be prouder of those guys,” Ernst said. “That was a courageous race. You find out what kind of athletes you’ve got in a rep where only the winner goes to the grand final.” Unfortunately the team could not find the same speed in the final, missing the medal stand by a half-length and finishing fourth on Saturday.

So it was – and based on everything leading up to this race flat-out unbelievable – that Washington had two golds and a near bronze as the varsity set into the gates in lane 3, with Cal on one side and Princeton on the other. Once started the crews rowed through 500 meters together, not more than a half-length separating the field. At 1,000 it was still anyone’s race; at 1500 Princeton and Cal had separated just barely, and at the end it was all six crews barreling into the finish in a classic, Cal edging Princeton, Brown sneaking past Harvard, Washington and Yale for the bronze. It was a breathless finish. “The varsity, that was a tremendous race all the way down, “ said Ernst. “ You sag for a couple of strokes there and you get left behind. I’m really proud of all the guys. They certainly rose to the occasion this weekend. That was a great race, six across racing all the way down.”

A great race it was. But the Washington performance here was nothing short of remarkable, and everyone knew it. The team finished third in the team competition, a half a second (between Harvard and Washington) in the varsity race being the difference between third and first. Contrasted to the pummeling they had taken all season, the whole team turnaround would compare only to the most extraordinary in the history of the program, Callahan’s words ringing true at the end: “they don’t know how good we actually are.”

This season, having started in the summer, would continue into the following summer for a number of the athletes. Rob Gibson, Will Crothers, and Max Lang would join former Husky Chris Alyard in the Canadian eight at the Under-23 Worlds, winning gold. The four men would then continue to the elite World’s, winning silver for Canada in the coxed four.

Katelin Snyder, men’s frosh cox, would guide the U.S. women’s eight to gold at the U-23 worlds, with Washington teammate Jesse Johnson rowing in the U.S. men’s entry at the same regatta, finishing fifth.

In addition, Washington would be well represented at the 2006 Worlds. UW graduates Brett Newlin, Giuseppe Lanzone, Matt Deakin, Kyle Larson, Scott Gault, Ante Kusurin, and Sam Burns would all race, Lanzone and Deakin bringing home bronze in the U.S. 8+.

Our full coverage of the 2006 season can be found here – 2006 Race Results.

Washington Rowing: 2006
Springtime in September on New Zealand's Lake Karapiro, the Huskies on the other side of the world to participate in the "Great Race". The team practiced twice a day here until moving to the Waikato River.
Washington Rowing: 2006
On the Thursday night prior to the Saturday race, an erg competition is held between the competing crews - lined up next to each other inside a large bowling alley.
Washington Rowing: 2006
Entering the Cut, the frosh and seniors distancing themselves from the field and locked in a battle to the last stroke on Class Day. Dave Slepyan photo.
Washington Rowing: 2006
The class of '09 with the Varnell Trophy, the first frosh class since the class of '50 to win it. Dave Slepyan photo.
Washington Rowing: 2006
The varsity neck and neck with the Russians on Opening Day as the crews come into the last 200 meters, the Russians prevailing. Larry Vogel photo.
Washington Rowing: 2006
The Russians holding the Windermere Cup, flanked by Washington and Michigan. Jameson Florence photo.
Washington Rowing: 2006
The class of '09, holding the Steward's Cup, left to right: Coach Callahan, cox - Katelin Snyder, stroke-Will Crothers, 7-Mike Flight, 6-Jesse Johnson, 5-Max Lang, 4-Bart-Jan Caron, 3-Trevor Mollenkopf, 2-Asa Bergdahl, bow-Lowell Neal. Sean Mulligan photo.
Washington Rowing: 2006
The 2V's, who saved the best for their penultimate race in the winner take all rep on Friday, defeated California for the first time all season and knocked the Bears out of the final. Kelsey Florence photo.
Washington Rowing: 2006
The team together after the finals, with head coach Bob Ernst. "We're excited", said Ernst. "We have a lot of young guys in the top boats. The seniors did a good job this year. The last couple weeks have been very impressive. They put everything that they had into it and we had pretty significant results. We were the third-place team in the whole country. We intend to be first, but our guys did a heck of a job this weekend." Kelsey Florence photo.
Washington Rowing: 2006
More Huskies at the Worlds in Eton, England, August 27th, 2006, left to right: Anna Mickelson (U.S. gold), Brett Newlin (U.S.), Mary Whipple (U.S. gold), Giuseppe Lanzone (U.S. bronze), Matt Deakin (U.S. bronze), Kyle Larson (U.S.), Scott Gault (U.S), Ante Kusurin (Croatia), Sam Burns (U.S.).

Sources for the 00’s: University of Washington Crew Media Guide, 2000-06; GoHuskies.com and the Media Department at the UWAD, Crew – University of Washington- Official Athletic Site ; The Seattle Post Intelligencer, various articles (specifics available on request); The Seattle Times, various articles (specifics available on request); www.Rowinghistory.net, U.S. Team Boatings; Conversations/interviews with Bob Ernst and the men of Washington Rowing.