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CREW: Huskies set to race for Pac-10 title

Eight Husky crews will head to Sacramento, Calif., this weekend to battle the heat and the competition at the Pac-10 championship. Both the men and the women will be vying for the conference title in temperatures that will likely be in the 90s when the boats hit the waters of Lake Natoma.

"It's a beautiful venue and a really important race," men's coach Bob Ernst said. "There are trophies at stake, and there's pride at stake."

The men will be entering four events: the varsity eight, junior varsity eight, freshman eight and varsity four races. Both the JV and varsity eight boats are seeded first in their races, and the freshman eight and varsity four are seeded second.

While the men's Pac-10 races are important in and of themselves, they also serve as a lead-up to the Intercollegiate Rowing Association's (IRA) national championship. In addition to giving the crews a chance to get in another race before the national championship, the Pac-10 event is also good experience in racing six across, as opposed to the dual race format of most events.

"It's an interesting dichotomy," Ernst said. "We want to win the conference championships, but we also want to use it as a stepping stone on our way to the national championships."

On the women's side, this weekend's races will take on added importance. Since women's crew is an NCAA sport, only 12 teams in the nation are invited to participate in the national championship by a committee that bases its selection in part on the end-of-year conference championship. For the Huskies, who are ranked No. 16 in the nation, a finish in the top three in this weekend's races is almost necessary to secure a spot in the national championship.

Such a result is a definite possibility for the women. Coming off of a victory in the Windermere Cup races last weekend, the varsity eight boat will be especially eager to avenge its dual-race loss to Cal earlier in the season. The varsity eight race will be extremely competitive because six of the Pac-10 teams are ranked in the top 20 in the nation, including USC, which has been at No. 1 for the past four weeks in a row.

Women's coach Eleanor McElvaine feels that, despite the dominance of USC and Cal in the Pac-10 this season, her team's chances are good.

"Anything's possible," she said. "I have a lot of respect for those programs, and who else steps up is wide open."

Reach reporter Risa Pavia at sports@thedaily.washington.edu.

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