The most famous quote ever attributed to the Roman humorist Seneca the Younger was "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." While UW Men's rowing doesn't exactly pre-date Seneca, it's string of five straight IRA varsity championships makes it hard to recall the last time they were NOT champions.
That run came to an end this past weekend as the UW Men's Varsity Eight finished fourth in the Varsity 8 Grand Final behind traditional rivals Cal, Princeton and Yale.
The fourth place finish ends one of the most remarkable streaks in not just the history of collegiate rowing, but in the history of all of college sports. UW's Varsity Eight had not only won five straight IRA championships, but six of the last seven and seven of the last ten. They had won an unbelievable nine straight Ten Eyck trophies, awarded to the crew that accumulates the most points (wins) over the course of a season. Since 1923, this Varsity boat has produced 18 national championships and 22 Olympic medals. They even beat the Nazis in 1936.
UW's Varsity Eight has traditionally been the bell weather for a dominating UW rowing program. The list of accomplishments multiplies exponentially when you look at the accomplishments of the program beyond that men's boat. The Freshmen Eight have claimed 25 national championships of their own. The JV Eight have 28. The Men's Varsity Four have notched nine. Even the Women's Varsity, which won the very first NCAA sanctioned rowing championship in 1997, has claimed 11 of their own.
2012 was the linchpin season in UW's historic run. In that season, UW became the only program in history to sweep every single men's grand final event in the IRA championships, setting time records in the process and cementing their legacy as the most dominant program in the sport for this era.
Despite UW's fourth place finish, this legacy is hardly tarnished. Both UW's Varsity Four and Freshmen boats won championships this past weekend.
The Freshmen boat, always the hope for the future, won a thriller over Cal. They managed to beat their traditional rival by just over one full second. The Varsity Four had a more dominating show of things having beat Princeton by an impressive 2.5 seconds.
For the Varsity Eight and the program as a whole, the future looks bright despite the setback at the IRA. All but one of the rowers will return to UW next season. Of that group, just one is going into his senior season. Combined with the prospects filling out the JV and frosh boats, it's not hard to see why there remains so much optimism around the program.
Still, head coach Mike Callahan knows that he has his work cut out for him if UW is to remain an elite program."I think we have had a lot of success over recent years and now it is a new chapter in our program," he continued. "Now it is time to reinvent it. The challenges are new; some of the rules have changed. So it is time for us to look at the program and then evolve."