Seniors rule ‘the best day of the year’ in 122nd edition of Class Day for UW rowing

Nikki Martincic, a senior Washington women’s rower in the seventh seat, might have summed up Saturday’s competition on the Montlake Cut the best.

“Class Day is the best day of the year, for sure,” she said. “There’s just something special about it. You can go out and throw down, and no matter who wins, it’s like a big celebration because everyone’s on your team.”

But if your class wins, well, it gets that much better, and it was the Husky seniors on both the men’s and women’s teams who celebrated victories in the 122nd Class Day on a sunny morning.

The Washington senior men easily won, in a fast time of 5 minutes, 39.444 seconds. The UW freshmen were second in 5:47.450, followed by the juniors in 5:49.928 and the sophomores in 5:52.108.

The UW senior women also won easily, finishing in 6:24.755. A team of juniors and fifth-year seniors was second in 6:28.907, followed by the sophomores in 6:40.207 and the freshmen in 6:54.286.

UW coach Michael Callahan said he always roots for his seniors to win, and they didn’t let him down. The group finished second as juniors last year.

“It was more dominant than I thought it was going to be,” Callahan said. “I was really pleased with how they raced. It’s a great class and I was reflecting yesterday about how this class that started with COVID, and their first season was canceled. And here they are winning Class Day. It’s really great to see at the end of their careers.”

UW senior Pablo Matan said winning Class Day was an important box for him and his classmates to check.

“We’ve been waiting for this since our freshman year,” Matan said. “We thought we had a really strong freshman class and then obviously COVID started in the spring of 2020 and we all got sent home before this race could happen. Then we had a couple of jumbled up years in the middle, so it’s pretty cathartic to finally come out here and actually take it in the way we did.”

For the UW senior women, it was the second straight time they have won the event after winning it as juniors last year.

“Last year, we knew we were going to win, but I’m not sure if anyone else did,” said Victoria Park from Bellevue, who was in the bow. “So that was really fun (sneaking up) on the seniors last year and then this year, it’s kind of like our swan song together. I think we were just so excited, and our boat was feeling really good all week.”

The UW women, like the men, were really never challenged in the race.

Husky women’s coach Yaz Farooq said the boat of juniors and fifth-year seniors wanted a re-row after it clashed oars with the sophomore class at about 200 meters into the 1,000-meter race.

“They felt like they had worked their way back into that senior lead, so they requested a re-row and it was not granted,” Farooq said.

Then laughing, the coach said, “It’s Class Day, and any issues they may have, have to be settled on land.”

The UW senior men’s boat had to deal with a mechanical issue before the race, as the foot plate for one of the rowers became unattached.

“Everyone was very calm — the experience showed — and we got it fixed,” said senior coxswain Zach Casler. “We got back out there and it broke, so one of our guys was going with one foot.”

It didn’t matter.

“(The race) was kind of decided in the first 10 strokes,” Casler said.

The teams returned to the boathouse after the races, and they celebrated with an awards ceremony and barbecue.

“You get a day like this in Seattle, in all its glory, and it is beautiful,” Callahan said. “It’s the start-off of the season and it’s a fun one. It gets the spirits high in the boathouse and it reminds everyone about what all their hard training over the winter was about.”

Award winners

McKenna Bryant was named captain of the women’s team and Jack Walkey was named captain for the men.

Winning the Pigott Award as most inspirational were Claire Marion for the women and Michael Thiers for the men.

Winning the Schaller Award for highest GPA were Marion for the women and Kieran Joyce for the men.

Leah Nash won the Katy Wallace Memorial Award as top women’s walk-on rower, an award that was given for the first time Saturday.

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