When it comes to men’s collegiate rowing, the Washington and California crew teams have had a long and storied rivalry, with both traditionally competing as national title contenders.
On Saturday at the Pac-12 championships in Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif., the two teams showed once again why they will compete for an IRA National Championship later this month.
After losing to Cal earlier this season on their home course, the UW men were able to return the favor by sweeping each of the men’s races on the way to a conference title, while the women will have to settle for second, falling one and a half points short of the Golden Bears.
The men’s title is the UW’s sixth straight and 31st overall conference championship.
In the men’s varsity eight race, the Huskies started off slowly, but were able to keep up with the leaders, closely trailing the Golden Bears for much of the first half of the race.
The Huskies then surged forward and never looked back, finishing with a time of 5:44.66, four seconds ahead of California, to secure the victory.
The UW second varsity eight boat also won its race, finishing with a time of 5:54.07, with Cal coming in second with a time of 5:59.70. In the third varsity eight, one of the closest races of the day, the Huskies (5:58.36) were able to outlast the Golden Bears (6:00.01) once again and claim first place for the third time in as many races.
In the men’s freshman eight race, the Huskies battled it out with the Golden Bears once more, with the UW pulling away with a time of 5:54.10. The men’s varsity four race ended in the same way as the others, with the Huskies in victory lane after posting a time of 6:32.76.
For the women, the day was nearly flawless. The Huskies were able to win three of their four races en route to a second place finish.
The lone blemish on the day for the Huskies came in the women’s varsity eight. After a slow start, Cal (6:20.23) and Stanford (6:36.42) each finished ahead of UW (6:38.83) to hand the Huskies their first non-first place finish of the competition.
“Our varsity boat just didn’t have enough speed to race against some of the best varsity crews in the country,” said Bob Ernst, women’s team head coach. “We had a bad first 500 meters and you have to be nearly flawless to win a race like this.”
The Pac-12 championship is determined by combined scores between each race.
“Losing a conference championship by a point and a half is painful,” Ernst said. “We gotta get back to work this week. We have to find more speed for the NCAA championships.”
Their first race of the day was the women’s third varsity eight, which was won by the Huskies with a time of 6:47.34, more than ten seconds faster than second place Cal.
In the women’s varsity four, the Huskies (7:29.95) were tightly contested by in-state rival Washington State (7:31.46), but were able to lock up a second straight victory. The UW’s winning streak concluded with the second varsity eight, which the Huskies won with a time of 6:39.49.
“Today really showed what great depth we have,” Ernst said. “We have a lot of good, young rowers. They performed the way they needed to and rose to the occasion.”
The UW women will compete in the NCAA championships in Gold River on May 30 and 31. The UW men will travel to Mercer Lake, N.J., to attempt to win their fifth straight national title at the IRA National Championships, taking place May 29 through 31.
Reach reporter Jack Russillo at email@example.com. Twitter: @jackrussillo