This is where we will create a continually-updated and expanded history of Seattle U Crew, going back to the early 1960s. Currently, it is just a sampling of the history, and will develop into a comprehensive and structured history with time.
Throughout its tenure, SU Crew has called home almost every major boathouse – and beach – in the Seattle Area. It has been club, varsity, and then back to club.
Crew at Seattle University began in 1964 and officially in 1965 through the efforts of Jim Gardiner and Charles McIntyre, with the student leadership of Co-Presidents Joseph Howard and Harry Fowler, VP Jim Swain, Secretary Paul Bader, and Treasurer Bob Pigott as the Seattle University Crew Association, an early member of ASSU. Jim Gardiner, an Olympic Silver medalist, and the late Charles McIntyre, also an international rowing champion, fostered the love of crew through their coaching and advice for the first number of years. Coaches gradually came form within the program and elsewhere, with many playing essential roles in the advancement of rowing in the Northwest and across the country.
Jim Gardiner believed that Rowing at SU could begin as a club sport, prove itself during the first few years, and then advance to varsity status. A few years before, a young Ted Nash, the renowned Olympian and rowing coach, brought a comprehensive proposal to the school administration outlining the creation of rowing as a varsity sport at SU. The proposal was cost-effective and proposed a gradual increase in funding, but the school turned it and him down as they were facing other mounting financial challenges. Ted would soon move on to Penn and begin his career as one of the country’s most famous coaches.
Jim Gardiner was involved with Ted’s proposal, and when it was turned down looked at other ways of getting the sport’s foot in the door at SU. He and Charlie changed the approach, with the goal of “working upwards.” This turned out to be successful. After petitioning ASSU (Seattle University’s student body government) and the Athletic Department, on February 19, 1968 the Intercollegiate Athletic Department began awarding letters to the student-athletes of Crew. ASSU had a major impact on this success, as the student government unanimously and officially requested the Athletic Department to recognize Crew as varsity. The varsity status appears to have continued until through the late 1970s until the death of a number of sports at SU, including Crew. A few of those other sports have now been reinstated as varsity in the school’s move back into Division I competition, including Baseball, Tennis, and Golf.
During this time, ASSU and the Seattle University Crew (or Rowing) Association largely financially supported the program, with some assistance coming from the Athletic Department and a few alumni. Additionally, per the parameters of the transition to varsity status, the students maintained leadership of the team through student-officer positions.
1971 saw the first annual Seattle University Invitational Regatta at Green Lake, which appears to have continued to this day as the “Green Lake Frostbite Regatta.” 1971 also saw SU Crew float the second fastest lightweight eight on the West Coast, second only to University of Washington.
Almost a decade after the sport ended in the late 1970s, in 1989 an enterprising group of women reinstated the sport at SU, with a men’s program following in 1990. Led by Emily Buck, the students found a home at Mt. Baker Rowing and Sailing Center on Lake Washington, scrounged for equipment, and built a team. That same women’s 1989 crew also founded the beloved SU tradition “Senior Streak,” held every year on the last day of class. The early to mid 1990s once again saw SU Crew as a strong, yet still fairly small, program in the Northwest, with a men’s lightweight boat that at one point bested the UW.
In the summer of 2008, the team moved boathouses to Pocock Rowing Center from Lake Union Crew, moved practice times to the evenings, and hired additional coaches. In the fall, the team successfully made application to and became members of the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association, competing in the WIRA Championship Regatta on Lake Natoma near Sacramento, CA, the coming spring.
The clear highlight of the winter was Ergomania!, the 27th Annual Northwest Indoor Rowing Championship, held for the first time at Seattle University. The event is a satellite regatta for the C.R.A.S.H.-B. World Indoor Rowing Championships. On the day of the event the year before, the team made known its interest to host the event, as the officers knew such a union would bring visibility of the sport to SU and would be financially beneficial to the team. Working with organizers of the indoor regatta (members from the Pocock Rowing Foundation and Pocock Rowing Center), the team was successful in moving the event to SU’s Connolly Center. With 260+ competitors of all ages from 28 organizations, 666,748 meters rowed, 6 racers qualifying for the world championships, and a broken world record, the event was a success – and the largest in its history. The team continues to be a key member of the organizing committee of the event, and has provided the space since that first year. The event has grown in size and scope, with the most recent having over 400 athletes and over 1,000 spectators throughout the day.
(This will be expanded)
The team continues to attend the WIRA Championship, and in the spring of 2010 sent its first crew to the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) Championship Regatta, held that year in Oklahoma City. The Men’s Novice Four+ had shown great speed throughout the season leading up to the championship. Much to everyone’s dismay, the regatta was plagued with high winds, and many final events – including the MN4+ event, were cancelled just as they were beginning (the guys were actually second in line at the starting line when their race was cancelled). Overall, based on their times in the semi-finals, our boys got 4th place overall.
In the summer of 2010, the team began their review of resources, boathouse, and strategic plans, and found that their current home was not as financially or strategically appropriate as it was when they first moved. After holding an extensive examination of surrounding boathouses, and discussing the team’s concerns and needs with the leadership at their home boathouse, the team and its advisors found that the most logical, strategically viable, and financially sound decision was to move to the newly-formed Seattle Rowing Center. Discussions were held and contracts formed, and the team made the move that winter. The facility has proven a good choice, and the team has since expanded its fleet of boats from two (an Eight and a Four+) to to five (three Fours+ and two Eights). Additionally, for the first time, the team has a dedicated and private office and storage space as part of the contract.
The spring of 2011 also saw the team field more crews at the ACRA National Championship, that year on Lake Lanier (site of the 1996 Olympics) in Gainesville, GA. The Women’s Varsity Lightweight Four+ and the Men’s Varsity Pair- traveled across the country to compete, and compete they did. The M2- pushed their way through to the Grand Final, and came away with a strong 3rd place finish (0.5 seconds off 2nd) behind Michigan and Vermont. The WLwt4+ faced a challenge when their event was scratched the morning of, but held their own in the (much larger – physically and number of competitors) open weight WV4+ event. They pulled through to a 4th in B Final in (Open Weight) Varsity Four+ event, 0.1 seconds off 3rd. Although they did not get to specifically race in the event they had prepared for, their results of 10th out of 18 crews was great – beating – as varsity lightweights – a number of the country’s fastest club open weight varsity crews.
… Updates coming!