Top GW sports moments: Men’s rowing reaches highest ranking for the first time

In lieu of fall sports, we’re dusting off the history books and taking a look back on 10 of the best GW sports moments, ever. Here’s to hoping some old-fashioned nostalgia can keep us going until the restart.

No. 5: Varsity Eight enters National Championship with highest ranking in program history

The 2008-09 men’s rowing team charged into the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships with a No. 12 ranked Varsity Eight boat – the highest ranking in program history.

Led by head coach Greg Myhr, the Colonials finished No. 15 in the nation – their highest finish in the program’s 53-year history. The year also marked the first time the program became a permanent member of the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges, a league boasting several national champions of past years.

The Colonials opened their fall season on a high note at the Occoquan Chase Regatta, placing first and third in the Open Men’s Eight division.

Later in October, the Colonials finished No. 20 at the Head of the Charles Regatta, an international competition that saw the Colonials rowing against college competition and national teams. Among college teams, the Colonials placed No. 14.

Despite surpassing several quicker teams due to time penalties, the Colonials posted improved raw times that boded well for the remainder of the season. Following this performance, the Colonials finished No. 15 at the Princeton Chase Regatta, and its freshmen boats nabbed third at a regatta in Charlottesville, Virginia, to cap off the fall season.

After a five-month competition hiatus, the Colonials kicked off the spring season in dramatic fashion by taking down Pennsylvania by less than a second to hold onto the McCausland Challenge Cup. The team then returned to the Potomac to finish in the middle of a 12-team field at the GW Invitational Regatta.

But the now-No. 17 ranked Colonials bounced back to rout Georgetown and Rutgers to win the George Cup for the first time since 2005. After springing ahead to an early lead, the Colonials finished with a healthy margin of four seconds above the Hoyas and 10 seconds over the Scarlet Knights.

The Colonials staved off Pennsylvania to finish fourth in the preliminary heats of the EARC Eastern Sprints to advance to the Petite Final for the first time in GW history. The Colonials finished third ahead of Dartmouth, Navy and MIT to capture ninth overall.

As a result, the Colonials earned an automatic bid to the IRA National Championships. Prior to the sprints, the Colonials had won a duel over Dartmouth and narrowly lost to No. 10 Boston by just 1.1 seconds.

After taking third in the preliminary heats, the Colonials managed to qualify for the repechage race against Pennsylvania and Dartmouth in the hopes of qualifying for the top-two semifinal races. Despite coming hard off the line and securing an early lead, Dartmouth charged ahead, leaving GW in its wake.

The Colonials took second place in the fourth semifinal, finishing just behind Princeton to advance to the third level final but missing a top-two qualifying spot.

GW started the final race strong and managed to keep itself neck-and-neck with Princeton. The Colonials could not keep pace with the Tigers for long and slid behind into second.

With 200 meters left in the race, Navy stormed ahead and seized the second-place finish. Despite finishing third, the Colonials still saw themselves ahead of Oregon, Gonzaga and San Diego to end the day with a time of 6:13.231.

Though the Colonials came up short, they established themselves as a national contender and brought the half-century-old program to new frontiers, laying the groundwork for a program on the rise. Myhr left the team after the 2008-09 season to take a job at Pennsylvania, and Mark Davis took over the program.

Under Davis, the squad took just five years to capitalize on the program’s momentum and secure a No. 14 national finish. Five years later, GW would reach new heights again, nabbing a No. 13 overall finish in 2019.

After the 2020-21 season concludes under new head coach Eric Gehrke, men’s rowing will no longer play at the varsity level but has the option to compete in the EARC as a club team.

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