A Season of Growth and Gratitude
By Yaz Farooq
The 2017-18 season was one of exciting races, close finishes and growth for the Women of Washington.
After our unprecedented sweep of the NCAA Championship in 2017, this year we challenged ourselves to improve in every way possible — on the erg, in the weight room, on the water, as teammates — so that we could compete in every scenario possible. We did exactly that. Success is often measured by championships won — we came up two points short of that at this year’s NCAA’s. Along the way, these women grew in every area, gave their best effort and were gracious runners-up. And that is all a coach can ask for.
We kick-started the season on home waters at the Husky Open, where we raced Washington State, claiming the Apple Cup and wins in every event. Then a trip to the desert heat of Vegas, a preview of the soaring temperatures we would encounter at the NCAA’s in Florida a couple of months away. The Dawgs swept Top 10 NCAA foes Texas and Michigan to get the spring season off to a good start. The following weekend was the Cal Dual in Redwood Shores. The rivalry was as hot as ever with the Huskies taking four of five from the Bears.
The Windermere Cup was next on the schedule, and proved to be one of the most spectacular races of all time on the Montlake Cut. With our top two eights split into “Purple” and “Gold” boats — the Gold crew charged to the lead and held off the Dutch National Team for 1500 meters. A furious sprint by the Purple boat made it three boats charging for the line side by side in front of a deafening hometown Husky crowd. It was as loud as any Olympic final, and I’ve been to a few. The Dutch edged to the win with all three crews within two seconds of one another.
The Pac-12 proved once again to be the strongest conference in the nation as three teams would go on to make the NCAA podium. We knew it would take our very best effort in all boats. Our depth and unity showed again with a second straight sweep of the Pac-12 Championship with wins in the novice eight, third varsity eight, varsity four, second varsity eight and first varsity eight.
The NCAA’s would provide an adventure beyond just the racing. Florida lived up to its reputation. The rain began upon our arrival, and yes, we saw alligators on the canal we trained on in the week prior to racing. Tropical storm Alberto descended upon Sarasota, bringing muggy temperatures and more rain, turning the venue into a muddy swamp. All boats would end up racing the semifinal and final in the same day with the races run in reverse order in front of the storm.
The team dealt with the adversity and brought its best. The varsity eight fell short by 1.6 seconds to a very strong Cal boat. The second varsity eight dominated the regatta, winning the final by more than six seconds, and completing another undefeated season. The varsity four final will go down in history as the greatest varsity fours race at the NCAA championship, with two boats fighting for inches from the 500-meter mark to the final five strokes, with Cal eking out the win.
The season didn’t end there. With the generous support of the 101 Club and Husky alums, we were able to send a double, quad and eight to Henley. The Husky eight both thrilled and shocked the hometown crowd by nearly pulling off an upset for the ages, leading until the final strokes against the British national team eight. There is no doubt it will provide an inspirational springboard into next season.
Last spring, I was reminded that we are indeed “Rowing U” in “RowTown USA.” We were rowing by Gas Works Park, fresh off the Pac-12 Championships. People who were there to relax and enjoy the day, one by one, rose to their feet and began clapping as we rowed by. It was magical, and unique to this city that loves and appreciates our sport. From moments like this, to the gift of the “Title IX Sisterhood” Empacher eight from the women of the 70’s, to the 101 Club’s speedy efforts to send our team to Henley, I am constantly reminded of how special this place is, and the people behind everything that we do.
Thank you on behalf of our team and Go Dawgs!!!