SAN DIEGO — Saturday was a day to remember for the University of San Diego and a day to forget for the University of Washington in the San Diego Lowenbrau Crew regatta on Mission Bay.
In a series of surprising finishes, USD's men and women's crews won Cal Cup races, outdistancing California's best teams in the 13th annual event. Later, Washington's women finished second in the Whittier Cup Grand Final and Washington's men finished fourth in the Copley Cup Grand Final.
The USD men's crew avenged a loss to UC Santa Barbara last month, winning the Cal Cup final by a little more than five seconds.
"We were taking a little too long to put our oars in the water that first race," USD Coach Joe Flohr said. "We worked on that and made a couple changes in the order of our rowers in the boat, and we felt we could win this."
The USD women's team, like the men, led from start to finish to beat Santa Barbara by six seconds in its Cal Cup final.
"This is the greatest thing that could have possibly happened to me," John Ciani, USD's first-year coach, said. "This team has really pulled together, and they all believed they could pull it off."
Washington's upset losses were surprising, given the Huskies' past performances in the San Diego Regatta.
The men's team has won four of the last five Copley Cups, including the last three straight. Washington's women, national champions the past five years, won two of the previous three Whittier Cup races.
Wisconsin beat Washington by nearly seven seconds to take the women's final, and Pennsylvania turned in the day's best time of 5 minutes, 35.1 seconds to finish first in the Copley Cup. California was second, Navy third and Washington fourth.
"This is a huge victory for Wisconsin rowing," Jane Ludwig, the Wisconsin women's coach, said. "A lot of people have been waiting a long time for somebody to beat Washington. I'm just glad it was us."
Wisconsin trailed Washington early in the 1-mile race, but took and retained the lead after 500 meters.
"I know most of the Wisconsin kids, and I know they've wanted to beat us for a long time," Bob Ernst, the Washington women's coach, said. "We have a young squad (four sophomores) and it will be interesting to see how we rebound from this. We still have to race against them (Wisconsin) two more times this year."
In last year's San Diego crew races, Washington finished second behind the Canadian National Team. Other than that, however, Washington has been nearly unbeatable the last five years.
The same could be said for the Washington men's crew, which had dominated the San Diego races, winning seven of the first 12 Copley Cup events, before Saturday.
Penn, which had the day's best qualifying time, took the lead away from Navy at the 500-meter mark and retained a boat-length lead the rest of the way.
"It certainly looks like we've got our work cut out for us," said Jon Norelius, Washington's senior team captain. "Penn was a very strong crew."
Almost too strong. Penn had to overcome a smaller boat and some choppy waters.
"We borrowed our boat from the University of Victoria in Vancouver, and it was a little small for us," said Stan Bergman, Penn's coach. "We average about 195 pounds per person, and our boat was designed for 185 pounds. The water was rough early in the day, but it smoothed out for the final race.
"I got a late start in finding us a boat because I'm kind of the newcomer here from the East. I guess I'll try to get a late start again next time."