Dominant victory in varsity eight lifts Washington men to Pac-12 rowing title
Huskies earn 35th conference title and fifth championship in the last six years.

By Mark Billingsley
Special to The Seattle Times

RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. — Even missing senior co-captain Mathis Jessen, the top-ranked Washington men’s varsity eight boat didn’t miss a stroke as it crushed the competition Sunday morning to lead the Huskies to a four-race sweep at the Pac-12 championships. It’s the 35th conference title for the program and the fifth championship in the last six years.

Jessen was deemed too sick to travel to Lake Natoma, just east of Sacramento, and was replaced in the two seat by senior Austin Brooks. Brooks had rowed in the two seat on the Huskies’ second varsity eight for much of the season, UW coach Michael Callahan said.

California got off to a fast start Sunday and led at the 500-meter mark. The Huskies didn’t panic, and gathered the Bears at 700 meters then crushed the seven-boat field to win in 5 minutes, 43.5 seconds — exactly eight seconds ahead of second-place Cal.

“Cal went out strong and they rowed their piece,” said Huskies co-captain Rob Munn. “But we know what we can do and we felt it (at 700 meters). Sometimes a team comes out hot, but we were feeling it.”

Stanford was third (5:57.7), followed by Oregon State (6:04.7) UCLA (6:21.6), Washington State (6:21.8) and Colorado (6:42.4).

The huge margin of victory served notice that the undefeated crew from Washington is ready to defend its Intercollegiate Rowing Association title and capture its 15th national men’s championship. The 2012 IRA championships are May 25-27 on Lake Mercer in West Windsor, N.J.

“We might have sent a message, but that’s not our job, though,” Munn said. “We have to perform there like we did here.”

Wins in the second varsity eight, varsity four and freshman eight gave Washington 72 points, followed by Cal (63), Stanford (49), Oregon State (48), Washington State (25), UCLA (16) Colorado (12) and USC (10).

Munn said Jessen’s status will be determined sometime late next week. If his illness has weakened him too much, Brooks will likely be the replacement for the IRA finals.

“No one wants to take a seat away from someone else by injury or illness,” Callahan said. “But these guys as a group are all very competitive. We lost 14 guys to graduation last year and this year’s squad saw that as an opportunity. They stepped up.”

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