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Originally published Saturday, June 2, 2012 at 6:07 PM

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Huskies say teammate they lost pushed them to win

Nine months ago, the Huskies lost junior teammate William Peter Allen in a mountain-climbing accident. On Saturday, they said their deceased friend was in each of the five boats that raced to victory.

Special to The Seattle Times

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CHERRY HILL, N.J. — If you ask them, the Washington Huskies will tell you they had an unfair advantage over the rest of the crews at the 110th Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships Saturday on Cooper River.

While the other crews had eight rowers in their boats, the Huskies had nine.

Nine months ago, the Huskies lost junior teammate William Peter Allen in a mountain-climbing accident. On Saturday, they said their deceased friend was in each of the five boats that raced to victory.

"This whole season was for him," said senior oarsman Rob Munn of Redmond. "We talked about it from the very first day we had our team meeting. He's been with us this whole season, and it shows today what he meant to us. He brought us all together."

Allen, a 21-year-old native of Puyallup, rowed as a freshman at Washington, then took off his sophomore season to concentrate on academics. A biochemistry major, he earned a 3.30 GPA and rejoined the Huskies' rowing program for his junior year.

On Sept. 5, Allen and a handful of friends and teammates were climbing Kaleetna Peak, a 6,259-foot mountain in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, north of Snoqualmie Pass, when Allen slipped and fell about 100 feet. According to the medical examiner's office, Allen suffered multiple traumatic injuries in the fall. Huskies coach Michael Callahan said Allen passed away in the arms of one of his teammates.

"He just kind of slipped," said junior Sam Dommer of Folsom, Calif., who was with Allen at the time of his fall. "There were search and rescue people there. They ran up the hill and they were right there helping us out. They did everything they could for him."

"It was a tough loss, for sure," Callahan said. "He was a salt-of-the-earth type of young man. It shouldn't happen to anybody, but it was too early and it was just the wrong person to happen to. We tried to make something positive out of something very tragic."

Shortly after the accident, the Huskies attended a memorial service for Allen, then invited his family to a boat dedication in Allen's name.

"It was very beautiful and very emotional," Munn said. "They're pulling for us as much as we're pulling for them to get through it. Pete's definitely been watching over us, for sure."

The Huskies had patches with Allen's initials (WPA) sewn onto the front of their white crew jerseys, and on Saturday they heard his name called at crucial times of each race.

"Every 1,000-meter move we made was for Pete," Dommer said.

"He's been in our hearts the whole season," said senior coxswain Sam Ojserkis. "I know I called his name out, and we really took off after that. He was one of the keys to our victory."

After their unprecedented five victories on Saturday, the Huskies gathered for a championship photo on the docks of Cooper River. One of their teammates was missing, but not in spirit.

"He was our foundation," Dommer said. "Peter, the rock. He brought us together and made us so fast this year. We went 5 for 5 with five records. To know Pete was looking over us is amazing."

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