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UW Women's Crew Celebrates Fourth National Title; UW Women's Softball Goes For Second

Julio Cortez
AP Photo
The Washington women's varsity second eight team, right, competes against Texas, left, during a semifinal race at the NCAA women's college rowing championships, Saturday, May 27, 2017, at Mercer County Park in West Windsor, N.J.

It’s a big week for women’s sports at the University of Washington. One team is playing for a second national title and another is celebrating its fourth one.

KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked with 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick.

UW Women's Softball In College World Series

After a four-year rebuild, the UW softball team is back at the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City - part of an eight-team field.

"The tournament has three Pac-12 teams but Washington has done very well this year," Thiel said. "Their record going into the tournament was 48-12. They were the sixth seed.

"This may be another opportunity here for the Huskies to cover themselves in athletic glory [they won the title in 2009]."

UW Women's Rowing Team Wins Fourth National Title

The UW women's crew basked in all the glory last weekend as it won its fourth national title.

"This was really dramatic," Thiel said.

"There are three races in the NCAA field: varsity four, junior varsity eight and senior varsity eight. They won all three - for the first time in the 21-year history of this as an NCAA varsity sport.

"They just dominated. And, it's been a while since they've won a title. 2001 was the last time. This was really a renaissance for a sport that was in a little bit of trouble at Montlake."

Wave Of Controversy

"In the beginning of the school year in 2015, there was great tension between the athletes and their longtime coach Bob Ernst," Thiel continued.

"Bob has been an institution at Washington - a 42-year coach for both men and women. And the rowers were having real problems with his style. He was gruff. He was verbally abusive.

"On the first day of school in 2015, there was a conflict between the junior coxswain and Ernst. She either quit or was kicked off the team. And the tension then grew so large that on Nov. 24, 2015, then-athletic director Scott Woodward fired Ernst.

"There was lots of controversy about it but these women said 'Enough is enough.'"

The New Coach

Thiel talked with some of the rowers about the controversy this week.

"It was really a delight to go out and meet the rowers and their new coach, who succeeded Ernst," he said.

"Yasmin Farooq is the first coach in NCAA history to win rowing titles at two schools. She won a championship at Stanford in 2009. She's an ex-Olympic coxswain for the teams in 1992 and '96.

"I talked with some of the rowers and they were thrilled with her capacity for transparency, her willingness to be supportive and the dialog she created to understand who gets selected for what boat and why.

"So, that's been a transformative experience for the program. I talked to Sophia Baker, a junior from Washington, D.C., and she said that one of the toughest things mentally she'd ever done in her life was to weather this storm over the program and then to win a championship was just a tremendous feat.

"This was almost unprecedented. When you see coaching changes, you typically don't see immediate success thereafter.

"And I have to give credit to Bob Ernst; he recruited a lot of these people. But it certainly worked out for the best for all concerned."

UW Not Only Women's Crew Champs In Region

"The Western Washington University [women's] team in Bellingham won the Division II national championship," Thiel said.

"It was its eighth title in their history. They've got a long tradition there as well. Eight titles - that's very impressive."

And In Women's Professional Sports...

Thiel had a final note about women's sports in the region - this one on the professional level. The Seattle Storm are off to a great start this season, at 4-1.

"And, this Saturday 6 p.m. at KeyArena, they play the only undefeated team in the WNBA, the Minnesota Lynx. So, early season titans clash at The Key. It should be a fun weekend."

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You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.