Men’s Champ Eight Preview

The Washington Huskies celebtate their 2012 HOCR triumph.

Field Again Chasing UW Huskies

By Andrew MacDougall

Some of best men’s eights in the world will line up at Boston University Sunday afternoon, and once again, they will be looking to best the Huskies of the University of Washington.

UW returns to the banks of the Charles as reigning champions, following a controversial finish to last year’s regatta. The team received the Boston Globe Trophy after having a 10-second buoy infraction overturned by the appeals committee thanks to photographic and video evidence from spectators at the Elliot Bridge.

Washington used the momentum gained at the Charles to jumpstart another banner year in Seattle as the team would go on to clinch its third-consecutive Intercollegiate Rowing Association title before making it to the semifinals of the Ladies’ Challenge Plate at the Henley Royal Regatta. The Huskies will be one of the favorites coming out of the west coast, along with the rival Golden Bears of the University of California. But coach Mike Callahan makes it sound like the Huskies are one of the crews just happy to be here.

“I’m excited for it and so are [the athletes],” said Callahan, now in his sixth year at Washington. “There can’t be any better motivator for our program right away. This is the show, the biggest and best regatta in the US. It’s just an awesome atmosphere. There are a lot of people around the country and around the world getting hyped up for it,” continued the coach, giving his opponents nothing to post on locker room walls.

The Huskies are certain to get a stronger challenge from the U.S. team than they did a year ago. The United States rowing team will come to Boston seeking to improve on its last-place finish in 2012. The team suffered a pair of interference calls that sent them to the bottom of the standings.

The U.S. eight is coming off a bronze medal at 2013 World Rowing Championships in Chungju, South Korea, just over a month ago, the first world championship or Olympic medal for the team since a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing games. The crew is hoping the momentum from South Korea will carry over to the Charles. But for the US team, competing at the Head of the Charles is more than just another race; it’s a chance for the crew to be immersed in an American rowing atmosphere they don’t get to experience all that often.

“Often times we’re racing in Europe or Australia or Korea. We don’t get that many chances to race at home for a really big crowd,” said U.S. Rowing coach Luke McGee.

“They [the athletes] put all this effort in to train two to three times a day to then go out and have a big population of people recognize you and be excited about what you’re doing. It’s fun for them. They’re not making a lot of money, so it’s really fun for them to do that on home soil.”

One of the hometown favorites, as they are every year, will come from nearby Harvard University. The Crimson finished second to Washington following last fall’s controversial finish and finished runner-up to the Huskies again at the IRAs.

The biggest change for Harvard this season will come at the top, as this weekend’s racng will mark the first Head of the Charles without legendary Crimson coach Harry Parker. Head coach at Harvard for 51 years, Parker passed away in June at the age of 77.

Some of Harvard’s stiffest competition for New England bragging rights – outside of traditional Ivy League powerhouse Brown – could come from a school that sits just three miles down Massachusetts Avenue. Loaded with senior experience, the Northeastern University team heads to the Charles after a spring surge that put them in the conversation as one of the top crews in the country.

Paced by Row2K’s Collegiate Athlete of the Year in Justin Jones, the Huskies return all eight positions from the boat that finished sixth at the 2012 regatta, missing a top-5 finish by just over half a second. Following the regatta, the Huskies placed fourth at IRAs, missing out on a silver medal by half a second. They team then made a big splash at the Henley-on-Thames, where they were edged in the championship round of the Ladies’ Challenge Plate. It was the first time Northeastern had raced into a Henley final in 40 years.

“We have a great captain, morale appears to be very high, and we have good depth in our senior class – something we haven’t had in a long time,” said Northeastern coach John Pojednic.

“We’ve proven to ourselves that we are a program that can step up and put pressure on the teams that have been the pacesetters for the past 4-5 years.  This is inspiring and certainly gives us great motivation to come to work each day.“

 

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