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Thursday, May 4, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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UW rising to occasion for Windermere Cup Regatta

Seattle Times staff reporter

It is as if the Huskies invited the Minnesota Gophers and the Minnesota Vikings showed up.

The Huskies and Windermere Real Estate invited the Russian under-23 men's and women's crews to compete in the featured races in Saturday's Windermere Cup Regatta.

Instead, the Russians cared enough to send their very best: the men's crew that placed sixth in the world last year and their world-class women's crew.

"It's pretty clear that they have a bad taste in their mouths from 10 years ago," said UW men's coach Bob Ernst, referring to the Huskies' sweep of the Russians in this regatta in 1996.

Ernst and UW women's coach Eleanor McElvaine say they aren't upset that the Russians have sent world-caliber athletes to a college regatta.

"You race like hell and see if you can beat them," Ernst said Wednesday. "That's part of the fun of it."

Saturday's key start times | First race 10:20 a.m.; women's varsity eight 11:15 a.m.; men's varsity eight 11:25 a.m.

McElvaine said, "This is a fantastic trip [to Seattle]. They want to reward the best players in their country, so we'll line up with the best at Washington and go at it."

Ernst said the situation is similar to 1997, when Australia showed up with a men's crew with five Olympic team members. The Huskies proceeded to pull off what Ernst considers the biggest upset in Windermere Cup history.

Sponsor Windermere wanted Russian crews this year for the 20th annual Cup races because Soviet Union crews won the first Windermere Cup events in 1987.

Ernst swears it is pure coincidence that the boat the Russians have been issued for the week is named the "Spirit of '58." The boat honors the historic UW upset in Moscow over the Leningrad Trud crew in 1958.

"It's our second-newest boat," Ernst said. "I did it without thinking of the name."

Michigan will be the third crew in the men's varsity event, and Central Florida will be the third entry in the women's varsity race.

The two varsity races will cap a 19-race program of club, school and collegiate racing from Lake Washington through the Montlake Cut. The first race is at 10:20 a.m., and the men's varsity is the final race at 11:25 a.m.

The 11th-ranked UW women appear more in need of an upset than the sixth-ranked men.

The UW women are 4-3 this season, including a first-time loss to seventh-ranked Washington State in a dual meet. The Huskies haven't made it into the final heat at the NCAA Championships the past two seasons.

The UW men are 3-2 this season, with losses to No. 2 Stanford and No. 3 California. The Huskies placed fourth at nationals last year and were second to Harvard in 2004.

The captain of the UW women's varsity boat is a fifth-year senior who didn't start rowing until her second year of college.

Megan Kalmoe said, "I didn't even know what rowing was." Rowing friends in her dorm explained it to her.

She almost quit after her first year pulling an oar but hung around, improved and has held down the No. 4 seat in the middle of the varsity boat for a second year.

She is so good that last summer she rowed in the U.S. four-oared shell that made the U-23 world championship finals.

Kalmoe is graduating next month with degrees in English literature and Latin and then will report to the U.S. Rowing camp at Princeton.

Kalmoe said this year's crew has an "improved attitude" and is more competitive than its record.

"We've had some awesome races against some very, very strong crews," she said.

A surprise in the men's boat is coxswain Micah Perrin, a former state-tournament wrestler at 103 pounds for Meadowdale High School near Lynnwood.

This will be the second varsity race for Perrin, who like Kalmoe didn't turn out as a freshman.

The summer after his freshman year, Perrin was painting the house of UW rowing alum John Baker, and Baker saw a potential coxswain.

Baker started reciting the necessary coxswain skills of leadership, sharpness and competitiveness. Perrin was intrigued and turned out late in the fall of 2004. He languished on the depth chart last spring but made a meteoric move into the varsity boat last month.

If the Huskies are to have a chance Saturday, Perris will have to get a similar move out of his rowers.

Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or csmith@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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