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WSU club men’s crew has history of success

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WSU men’s club crew practices on the Snake River July 29, 2015.

WSU men’s club crew practices on the Snake River July 29, 2015.

WSU men’s club crew practices on the Snake River July 29, 2015.

BRADY JOHNSON | Evergreen rowing reporter

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Winners of three men’s national championships, the Washington State club rowing team has consistently been one of the school’s top club sports, routinely putting together squads with more than 100 members.

Founded in 1970, the team has maintained elite levels of national acclaim and established itself as what one might call a “model club sport” in terms of the way its coaches and athletes conduct themselves.

Men’s rowing Head Coach Arthur Ericsson is entering his 11th season at the helm and has overseen the program’s growth into elite status. Ericsson also spearheaded the founding of the women’s varsity lightweight rowing team in 2012. His men’s novice lightweight four captured the American Collegiate Rowing Association national title in 2013.

In the past five years, all of Ericsson’s teams have qualified for nationals in the lightweight division.

“Arthur definitely talked about that (Cougar Crew history) in the first week how he wants us to do our very best,” said freshman rower Austin Wibmer, who currently competes for the novice team and is hoping to join the varsity ranks later this year.” Arthur is definitely a very motivated guy. He yells at us when we need to be yelled at… he’s a great guy though. I like him as a coach, and as a friend since I’ve gotten to know him more. He definitely brings the whole team together.”

Asked what characteristics define Cougar Crew and have correlated with his teams’ successes, Ericsson said, “Hard work, perseverance, competitive, and then sort of a special team bond. Those are the things that stand out I think.”

Part of the club’s success can be attributed to the fact that the men’s team used to compete as a varsity sport. Back in 1979, the men’s varsity four with a coxswain won the national championship in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association, and in 1980 the varsity pair with a coxswain took home the same honor.

Since the early 2000s, Cougar crew has competed as a member of the California Collegiate Athletic Association as a club sport.

Yet Cougar crew still competes against scholarship athletes at certain regattas and recently has done well against them. Last year, the men’s team beat Gonzaga’s lightweight rowing team in three of four contests to capture the Fawley Cup, a rivalry match between the two teams.

While the club has seen a plethora of steadfast accomplishments and no shortage of distinguished athletes, it will always be on the recruiting trail across campus in the early weeks of the school year. Many athletes who competed in other sports in high school join Cougar crew within the first two weeks of their freshman term.

“Of the 30 guys we have on our novice team, only one of them rowed in high school,” Ericsson said. “I always say if you were an athlete in high school who had that competitive flame, why let that flame burn out? With crew, you have a chance to compete in collegiate athletics, at PAC-12 championships, at nationals, put on that Cougar uniform.”

According to Brandon Altenburg, UREC club sport coordinator, the club requires more than 100 members in order to compete and fund itself. This membership number makes Cougar men’s crew the largest club sport the university has to offer.

Fundraising events similar to those a high school sports team puts on will be facilitated by members of Cougar men’s crew throughout the year.

Despite financial handicaps, Ericsson said it’s the passion for making boats go fast and developing a strong team while focusing on the mental side of training that keeps bringing him back year after year.

“I think that’s what shows up on race day more than a lot of other programs,” Ericsson said.

Both the varsity and novice teams will have their first competition at the Head of the Pend Oreille in Priest River, Idaho on Sept. 26.

“I’d say definitely we’ll perform well,” Wibmer said. “I know there’s a lot of guys on the novice team like myself who are working hard and doing really well and I know varsity will do really well. They’ve got a really good team. You know, overall I think we’ll have a really good year as a team.”

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WSU club men’s crew has history of success