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UW vs Cal: Nation's top rowing programs face off in Seattle on Saturday

Michael Callahan, men's rowing coach at the University of Washington. (Photo: Bill Swartz)

SEATTLE -- They’ve been the premier college rowing programs on the West Coast, if not the United States in a rivalry dating to 1903. Several times the winner went on to compete for Olympic gold medals. The stakes are not as high this Saturday, but it could still be a Washington-California battle for the ages.

For the first time in most everyone’s recollection the Huskies and Golden Bears men and women varsity 8 shells are ranked #1 and #2 in America and competing head-to-head in Seattle. University of Washington men’s head coach Michael Callahan has a boat load of European athletes who’ve quickly grasped what it means to beat Cal.

“Yeah, these guys understand the rivalry for sure. A lot of their teammates are in that California boat and they know each other very well,” said Callahan.

He is counting on vocal Husky fans and UW rowing alums to line the Montlake Cut Saturday morning to give his guys a home water advantage against the top-ranked Bears.

“I liken it to Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke University Basketball), ” said coach Callahan. “It’s a hectic place to come and a home advantage because of some quirks of the Montlake Cut.”

The UW women’s program has surprisingly ascended to the top spot in NCAA polls under the guidance of first-year head coach Yazmin Farooq. She spent the past 10 years in charge of Stanford University rowing and was a broadcast commentator covering races in Seattle on many occasions.

“It’s part of the reason I came to the University of Washington. It is ‘Rowing U.’ or ‘Row Town U.S.A.” said Farooq. “Rowing means more to the community and this university in Seattle than any other place. This team grasps that. They know how special it is, and we can’t wait to throw down on Saturday.”

Brunch will be served at 8 a.m. Saturday near the finish line behind the University of Washington Medical Center. First races being at 9 a.m. with the featured varsity 8 women starting at 10:34 and the varsity 8 men at 10:50. No doubt both programs will square off again this summer for much larger prizes, but bragging rights in the California vs Washington crew series is always a huge deal.

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