In a sure sign that the sports world is returning to normal, the University of Washington men's varsity eight on Saturday captured the Intercollegiate Rowing Association national championship for the 19th time, holding off California on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, New Jersey.
Rain came down hard throughout the competition and no fans were permitted near the racing site because of the lingering effects of the pandemic, but nothing could dampen the Huskies' first IRA title run in six years.
The Huskies won with a time of 5:59.707, edging Cal by three seconds. The Bears finished in 6:02.953. Dartmouth, Syracuse, Stanford and Northeastern finished behind them, in that order.
This marked the first IRA national rowing regatta in two years because the 2020 event was canceled by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The UW swept all the races in the three eight-man shells and the varsity 4 event.
Racing in the Show DaWg shell, the Huskies' varsity 8 boat typically was composed of a mix of Northwest and international rowers in stroke George Esau from Long Lake, Minnesota; No. 7 Pieter Quinton from Portland; No. 6 Jack Walkey from Victoria, B.C.; No. 5 Peter Lancashire from Victoria; No. 4 Gert-Jan van Doorn from Leiden, The Netherlands; No. 3 Mattijs Holler from Vienna, Austria; No. 2 Adam Krol from Toronto; bow Samuel Halbert from Redmond, Washington; and cox Max Schwartzkopff from Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
With Saturday's first-place finish, the UW ended a five-year dry spell and was ranked No. 1 from the season's beginning to end. Yale had won the three previous varsity 8 IRA titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and California rowed to the championship in 2016.
Washington is the second winningest collegiate varsity 8 crew of all-time, trailing only Cornell, which has 26 championships, but none since 1982. California has won the national rowing title 17 times.
The storied UW crew program previously rowed to IRA championships in 1923, 1924, 1926, 1936, 1937, 1940, 1941, 1948, 1950, 1970, 1997, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
It is a Husky sport that came to the life in the best-selling book "The Boys in the Boat," which detailed the quest to win a gold-medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and may yet be made into a major motion picture.
Rowing and football have always been the Huskies' most successful sports, with the accompanying video showing how the programs intersect. In the background, the rowers return from a pre-down workout while the football players were just getting started with an early morning spring practice.
The equally successful UW women's varsity 8 rows for an NCAA championship on Sunday.
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