Washington Rowing Historical Timeline

With a men’s program reaching 120 years in 2023, and a women’s program with 50 years of modern history (and another ten in early history), a timeline of highlights is subjective at best. So please read this summary knowing these are selections of a much broader and far more important historical picture.

When the original history was published in 2003 for the UW Rowing Centennial, it was written as a continuing story, each year different but each year consistent and built on the same foundation created by Hiram Conibear and the men and women of those earliest years. Our goal has been to continue the theme that Washington Rowing is unique in many ways, but particularly in the consistent values that drive the program, and these values continue today in our coaches and student-athletes that row at Washington.

This timeline does not touch on the human stories that define the program, and I urge anyone reading this summary to read the more in depth history. We have one book – The Boys in the Boat – that covers a small timeframe in the life of the men's program, and yet every year and generation has similar stories, and students, and coaches and leaders.  And every year could be a book. Some do not end as successfully on the water as the 1936 men's team, but ask any Washington alum at their fiftieth reunion and the response will be the same: an enduring gratitude for what rowing at Washington did for them in their life.

And then finally this: this timeline, as a summary exercise, leaves years out. And yet every year has had a Washington Varsity 8 and a 2V8 and other boats, and some of those years end with National Champions. Some end with Conference champions. Or amazing comeback stories or stunningly bad luck. After twenty years of learning so many of these stories, I firmly believe that if we could line up every Varsity 8 at their prime since our first one in 1907 - and have them race 2,000 meters on one giant race course - the winner could easily not be on this timeline. Because at Washington, every Varsity 8 throughout our history has high-level athletes developed under the same core values; and on any given day in crew racing the "swing" can come... and then anything can happen.

So take this as the summary exercise it is. The real story of Washington Rowing, true since the very beginning, is the opportunity - as George Pocock would say - for young people to reach for the stars and then go put it all on the line as a team, together.

Note: The National Championship race distance, the sponsoring organization, and number of events have all changed multiple times since 1910. Today, for men, a national team champion is awarded (known as the Ten Eyck Trophy) based on points earned in all IRA events; however regardless of team results, the winner of the IRA (Intercollegiate Rowing Association) Varsity 8 race is considered the Men's Collegiate National Champion. That was also true for the women’s National Championships through 1996; however in 1997, when the NCAA began governing the women’s sport, the officially recognized National Champion became the combined team (V8, 2V8, V4) with the highest point total (cumulative points awarded based on race finish in each event), and not the Varsity 8 race.

A note to our readers: The best viewing experience of this content is by laptop or desktop computer (or tablet). Originally published ten years before social media and smartphones using Microsoft Frontpage software, technically upgrading the extensive content and collections now to meet smartphone formatting (over 600 pages of historical writing, photos and media) is financially prohibitive.

From the beginning, this project was built for the web: combining the flexibility to easily update and add new material, with the ability to support the history with audio and video. As an example: this timeline was added in August of 2023, over twenty years since content was first being collected and published here. It continues today as one of only a handful of extensively detailed and consistently updated (men and women combined) collegiate sports history collections in the world. The downside to publishing on the web is the ease to which material can be used without consent. Please respect the effort and time that our authors, photographers, and contributors have put into this body of work, and if using any material published here, please contact us first.

All material on the Huskycrew.org website, including all writing, photos, video, and audio, are copyrighted. For questions, comments, or history additions, please contact Eric Cohen at: webdev (at) huskycrew.org.

  1895: The University of Washington moves from downtown Seattle to the new location between Lake Washington (to the east) and Lake Union (to the west). Rowing was taking place by 1896, with various official “start” dates, including 1896, 1899 and 1901. The first Class Day race took place in 1901, along with a “colleges” race (Forestry; vs. Arts and Sciences; vs. Engineering, etc).

  1903: Team rows/trains out of Union Bay (Lake Washington) boathouse; first intercollegiate race and the beginning of varsity rowing at Washington; racing in 4-oared wide body shells (wherries), the UW races California on Lake Washington in Seattle and wins.

  1907: Hiram Conibear arrives: Hired by the UW as a trainer for the football and track teams from the Chicago White Sox, he was asked to fill the vacant rowing coach role (for which he had no experience); he accepted, and the sport became his passion. Conibear re-developed the rowing stroke and permanently changed the sport; he is one of only a handful of coaches that influenced rowing globally to the degree he did. At Washington, he set the foundation for the program (Rowing Stewards, Women’s Rowing, Varsity Boat Club and more) that still exist today.



1907 -1917: Women’s rowing at Washington: the only public university in the nation with a consistent women’s rowing program at the time. A thorn in the side of the UW Administration (who considered rowing “too rigorous” for women), the program thrived as one of the most popular on campus for female students.


  1909: The men's team moves into the Alaska Yukon Exposition Coast Guard Exhibit lighthouse building (shown here during and after the 1909 fair on campus) on Lake Union; Varsity Boat Club established.

  1912:  Dick and George Pocock, at the behest of Conibear, move from Vancouver BC to Seattle and set up shop on Portage Bay in the "Tokyo Tea Room", another former AYE World's Fair building next door to the lighthouse. Photo: thank you Al Mackenzie

  1913: The first IRA (Intercollegiate Rowing Association) National Championship competition for Washington at Poughkeepsie, NY; raising the needed travel funds from the Seattle community, the team surprises the New York crowd by finishing third, establishing Washington as a legitimate national contender.

  1915: First 8-oared shell built for the women’s team by George and Dick Pocock, named the “1915 Co-ed”.


  1917: Hiram Conibear dies tragically; WWI starts and the campus is depleted of men; Dick and George Pocock are hired by Boeing and leave the boatbuilding business; west coast men's rowing is upended and barely survives, while women’s rowing is cancelled and will not return until the 60's.


  1919: Following the end of the war in 1918, Ed Leader assumes the men's head coaching role and makes a deal with the Navy and upper campus to move into the vacated Navy Hangar on the new (1917) Montlake Cut. That hangar-turned-shellhouse is being restored by the UW in the next three years; a replica will be featured prominently in The Boys in the Boat movie.


  1922: Ed Leader leaves for Yale along with Dick Pocock; Rusty Callow (a major influence on Washington Rowing) becomes head coach; George Pocock is convinced by Callow to leave Boeing and return to the UW to pursue his passion of building shells (in a shop loft built for him by Callow at the old hangar, the shop still almost fully intact today); Pocock said he was “forsaking the substance and grasping the shadow”.

  1923: The first IRA Varsity 8 National Championship in Washington history and the first west coast team to win the IRA.

  1924: Washington repeats as IRA Varsity 8 National Champions.

  1926: IRA Varsity 8 and JV8 National Champions, first two-boat NC at the IRA for Washington.

  1928: Rusty Callow leaves for Penn; the young frosh coach Al Ulbrickson (stroke of the 1924-1926 V8) becoming head coach at Washington.

  1933: Undefeated Varsity 8 wins the first collegiate 2,000m National Championship at Long Beach, California, over Yale, Cornell, and Harvard.


  1936: The first IRA National Championship sweep (Freshmen, JV, Varsity 8’s all win) by any university in the history of collegiate rowing... and The Boys in the Boat become Olympic Champions in the Eight at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.


1937: The Boys in the Boat return (only coxswain Bob Moch graduated) and come away with another IRA Sweep and the Varsity 8 National Championship.  The 1937 full team remains one of the most dominant in the history of Washington, and in the sport itself.


  1940: Varsity 8 National Champions with Ted Garhart as stroke, Al Ulbrickson calling him "the best oarsman I have ever coached."


  1941: An even more dominant repeat Varsity 8 National Championship, again with Garhart (the 1941 Seattle Post-Intelligencer "Sportsman of the Year") at stroke.  The '40 and '41 teams are still considered some of the best in Washington Rowing history, the "swing" a definition of this group of young men.


  1946, 1947: Following the end of WWII, and with the IRA still mothballed in 1946, Seattle took the opportunity to sponsor a 2,000 meter National Championship race on Lake Washington by raising the nearly $50,000 needed through a community fund drive.  The regatta was a huge success, the Chamber of Commerce following it up in 1947 with an even larger regatta, a race with an estimated 150,000 fans lining the Seward Park course on Lake Washington. These races remain two of the largest spectator events in the history of the sport.


  1948: Varsity 8 National Champions and another IRA sweep; the stern 4 (the four oarsman closest to the coxswain in an eight-oared shell) of the JV8 enter and win the U.S. Trials as a coxed 4+, qualifying for the London Olympics. The five young men, coached by George Pocock in a return to his home country of England, win the Olympic Gold on the Henley course.


  1949/50: The men move out of the ASUW Shellhouse in the fall of 1949, and into the new Conibear Shellhouse at the current location...

...complete with three square meals a day in the spring of 1950.


  1950: Men's Varsity 8 National Champions and another IRA sweep; 4th IRA sweep by the UW; all other rowing programs combined, zero.


  1952: Ulbrickson focuses on the coxed 4 with four of his top varsity rowers at the US Olympic Trials and it pays off: the team wins the National Championship and goes on to win Olympic bronze at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland.


  1958: Following a loss to the dominant Soviet Union at Henley, the Huskies travel behind the Iron Curtain and shock the world two weeks later by defeating that same Soviet team in Moscow, with ABC's Keith Jackson calling the play by play in a live broadcast back to the United States.


  1959: Al Ulbrickson retires; Fil Leanderson (’52 Olympic bronze medalist) becomes Head Coach.

  1960: The Seattle community and media - since the days of Hiram Conibear - continue to embrace the team.

  1964: The Varsity eight setting a new 2,000 meter Montlake Course record going sub-6:00 for the first time in program history. The 1964 freshmen, JV and Varsity combined would win the Ten Eyck Team trophy at the National Championships for the highest team finish among all competitors.

  1965: Additional housing wing completed at Conibear Shellhouse where the men would live together under the VBC banner for 30 years; Big W first painted on the dock apron; men make stunning reversal to sweep the West Coast Championships.


  1968: Dick Erickson becomes men’s head coach, and in his first year wins the West Coast Championship; the women, under the leadership of undergraduate Joan Bird, form a varsity club team with IMA Coach Bernie Delke, and row out of the old ASUW shellhouse.



  1970: First “Opening Day” crew races in conjunction with the Seattle Yacht Club down the Montlake Cut in May; IRA Varsity 8 National Champions and IRA Team Champions; Men’s 4+ win US Trials and represent USA at the World Championships; Women’s club team wins the National Championship in the Lightweight 4+, the first collegiate championship won by the women.

  1971: The men win the US Rowing National Championship and the Pan Am Trials in the eight and travel to Cali, Colombia, where they win the silver medal representing the USA at the Pan Am Games.

  1972: Title IX becomes law; UW women’s lightweight 8 and quad win NWRA National Championships.

  1973: Dick Erickson foregoes the IRA (the Varsity would not return to the IRA for over twenty years) and takes his strong men’s team to Henley, continuing his emphasis on international competition.


  1975: Women’s Rowing becomes a varsity sport at Washington under the guidance of Senior Associate Athletic Director Kit Green; John Lind named the first Varsity Women's head coach.


  1977: The Washington men win historical victories in the Visitors’ Cup and the Grand Challenge Cup (over the British National Team) at Henley; Varsity 8 consensus National Champions.

  1978: The Men’s Varsity 8 are consensus National Champions; First of six trips to Egypt that Dick Erickson would take his top rowers for the “Festival of Oars” in Cairo, Egypt.




  1981: Dick Erickson appoints his freshman coach, Bob Ernst, as women's head coach in the fall of 1980, and the results are immediate: the team wins the first of five NWRA Collegiate Varsity 8 National Championships in a row (still unprecedented) from '81-'85; women’s Varsity 8 and 2V8 win National Titles; undefeated men’s Varsity 8 consensus National Champions; men’s JV8 wins the first Ladies’ Plate title for the UW at Henley.

  1982: Dominant women’s team wins Varsity 8 (top row) and 2V8 (middle row) NWRA Collegiate National Championships; the freshmen (front row in this photo) also go undefeated on the season.

  1983: The Women’s Varsity 8 wins the Collegiate National Championship.




  1984: Washington wins the Men's Collegiate National Championship Varsity 8; Women’s Varsity 8 wins the Women's Collegiate National Championship; Husky head coach Bob Ernst coaches the USA Women’s eight to Olympic Gold in LA, including three UW alums: Betsy Beard, Shyril O'Steen, and Kristi Norelius.

  1985: The Women’s Varsity 8 wins the Collegiate National Championship for an unprecedented 5th year in a row.


  1987: The inaugural “Windermere Cup”, featuring the Soviet Union’s top men’s and women’s teams racing the Huskies in front of a huge crowd lining the Montlake Cut; Women’s Varsity 8 returns to the top of the national podium by winning the US Rowing Collegiate National Championship; and the team sweeps the Collegiate National Championships (V8, 2V8, V4+) for the first time in history by any team.



  1988: Washington Women again win the US Rowing Varsity 8 Collegiate National Championship; Bob Ernst replaces Dick Erickson as men’s head coach; Jan Harville takes the helm of the women.

  1993: Bob Ernst sends his JV 8 to the IRA's (the Varsity National Championship was a single race in Cincinnati won by Brown), the first Washington team to compete at the IRA's since 1972, and the team surprises the field to win the National Championship.  This win sat the stage for Washington to finally return to the IRA, which they did as a full team in 1995.



  1997: Men’s Varsity 8 and Team National Champions and a sweep of the IRA eights for the 5th time; Women win the inaugural NCAA Varsity 8 race and the NCAA team title – the first NCAA team title in any sport in Washington Athletics history.


  1998: A dominant women's Varsity 8 wins the NCAA National Championship and the women's team repeats as NCAA Team National Champions.




2000: The Women win the inaugural Henley Prize for international women’s eights (now called the Remenham Cup, the top competition for women at Henley).


  2001: The Washington Women win the NCAA Team Championship and the Varsity 8 wins the NCAA National Championship.

  2002: The Washington Women win both the Varsity 8 and 2V8 NCAA Championship events.


  2003: The Men’s Varsity 8 wins the Ladies’ Plate at Henley in the Centennial Year of the program; Jan Harville retires, Eleanor MacElvaine becomes women’s head coach.


  2007: IRA Men’s Varsity 8 National Champions and Team Champions, beginning an unprecedented (by any team in the history of collegiate men's rowing) streak of nine consecutive IRA Ten Eyck Team Championships from 2007-2015; Varsity wins the major international event known as the Moscow Race of Champions in Russia over Cambridge, Oxford and Moscow State University.




  2008: IRA Team National Champions; Bob Ernst switches back to women’s head coach; Michael Callahan elevated to men’s head coach; Women win NCAA Varsity Four National Championship and the team finishes 2nd in the NCAA; Anna Michelson and Mary Whipple win gold in the USA eight at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.




  2009: Washington Men: IRA Varsity 8 National Champions in one of the most improbable comebacks in regatta history; the 6th eights sweep in UW history; Team National Champions.

  2010: IRA Team National Champions, and the Washington men’s undefeated freshmen win the Temple Cup at Henley.



  2011: A deep and talented men's team win the IRA Varsity 8 and Team National Championship; 2V8, V4+, O4+ also gold.




  2012: Washington Men's undefeated Varsity 8 National Champions cap the first five-event sweep in the history of the IRA: O4+, V4+, F8, 2V8, V8 all gold; 7th eights sweep in UW history; V8 row a 5:21 in the IRA Grand Final, the fastest time in IRA and UW history and two seconds off the World Record; seven former Huskies medal at the 2012 London Olympics (men and women combined, pictured are Megan Kalmoe '06 and Adrienne Martelli '10 with bronze in the USA Quad); and the Washington Men's Freshmen win the Temple Cup at Henley. 2012 marks the most dominant full-team performance in the history of men's collegiate rowing.



  2013: IRA Varsity 8 and Team National Champions and the second five-event sweep in the history of the IRA: O4+, V4+, F8, 2V8, V8 all gold; 8th eights sweep in UW history. Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat, the story of Joe Rantz and the 1936 Washington rowing team, debuts and becomes a national and international Best Seller.



  2014: Men are IRA Varsity 8 and Team National Champions for the 4th year in a row; Women’s Varsity 8 are invited to the Gallagher Great Race on the Waikato River in New Zealand, a winding, highly strategic river course, and win in an upset victory over New Zealand's Waikato University.



  2015: Men make IRA history with 5th consecutive Varsity 8 National Championship, and the third five-event sweep in the history of the IRA to win another perfect Team Championship: O4+, V4+, F8, 2V8, V8 all gold; 9th eights sweep in UW history; UW V4+ wins Prince Albert Cup at Henley; Yaz Farooq replaces Bob Ernst as Women’s head coach.




  2017: The Washington women with a historical sweep - and perfect National Team Championship - at the NCAA's (V4, 2V8, V8 all gold), unprecedented in the history of NCAA Rowing.




2018: The Washington Men and Women dominate the Pac-12 Championships winning 9 of 10 races combined and sweeping the team titles; Women win the NCAA 2V8 National Championship and team finishes 2nd in the NCAA; UW men win the Temple Cup at Henley.



  2019: The Women's Varsity Eight with a comeback win for the ages at the NCAA's: trailing in 6th place late in the Grand Final, coxswain Marley Avritt asks her team to re-commit to each other. "It was sheer human will," said head coach Yasmin Farooq of the response to Avritt's request, as the team blew past the five other teams in the last 500m to win with an NCAA record time in what will remain one of the most legendary comebacks in Washington history. "At every championship we always talk about our teamwork within each boat and across all boats," Continued Farooq.  "We talked about it last night before the finals, about not only pulling for the people in their boat and the people that are here but for all the incredible people back home supporting us this entire year."

The win solidified the Team Championship and completed the repeat of the 2017 V8/2V8/V4 Sweep at the NCAA’s; the UW women are the only team to sweep the Women’s National Collegiate Championships and they have done it three times: 1987 (USRA); 2017 (NCAA); and 2019 (NCAA).





  2021: Men and Women V8's sweep the UW/Cal Dual Race; The Washington men are IRA Varsity 8 National Champions with a four-event sweep and Team Title; V4+, 3V8, 2V8, V8 all gold; 10th eights sweep in UW history; Women win the NCAA V4+ and 2V8 events; finish 3rd in NCAA team standings.

  2022: UW men win the Visitors’ Cup at Henley for the first time since 1977.


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