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A Washington Rowing Stewards Publication
February 15th, 2008

The Athletes’ Issue – See Inside

Crew of 1948   Crew of 1958   Crew of 1998

The 2008 Varsity Boat Club Banquet

Friday, March 28, 2008. Mark that date and make plans to be at Conibear to kick off the 2008 spring racing season and help celebrate magnificent crews from years past – great crews from the late ‘40’s, the ’58 crew, and the ’98 women’s champions.

You’ve already received the announcement in the mail and read about it on our website. If you haven’t signed up by now, you’d better do it as soon as possible because the banquet will be a sellout. Click the button to the right, print the form, fill it out and mail it with a check. Or you can sign up online on www.huskycrew.org.

Last year Al Erickson’s annual party was so popular he had to seat people both upstairs and down in order to handle the crowd. The turnout suggested it was time to change the format to a reception at Conibear followed by dinner a few steps away at the Dempsey Indoor facility but a scheduled indoor track meet foiled that plan. This year plan to gather and eat once more at the Connie – which isn’t so bad when you think about it. It’s our house!


In This Issue


VBC Banquet

Class Day Events

Walk-On Athletes

Conibear Leadership

The Dog from Down Under

What Is A Class Steward?



You can download 2008 Husky Crew Banquet invitation form here.

To purchase your tickets for the VBC banquet, use our new e-commerce feature at http://shop.huskycrew.org


Class Day Events

Thanks to great competition on the water and a group of long-time Husky volunteers, Class Day has become a signature weekend for the program. It kicks off with the VBC Banquet on Friday night – and ad hoc class reunions before and after in local watering spots.

The next morning, Dwight Phillips’ popular and long-running Cruise With Croissants offers the best way to watch the races from the start to the finish. The Argosy Goodtime II will tour Madison Park and the east side of Lake Washington before joining the races, giving fans, parents and alumni a chance to meet and talk and wake up with breakfast croissants, fresh fruit and espresso drinks. Come race time, coaches Bob Ernst and Michael Callahan will board the boat and provide color commentary.

Board the boat on Saturday, March 29, promptly at 8:00 a.m. at the Waterfront Activity Center (click on map at right for location). Parking is available in Lot 12 and costs $5.00. Enter the lot at the gate (#8) in front of Husky Stadium and park down by the climbing rock. The boat trip costs $33 per person, payable in advance. Note that there is a 200 person limit on the boat. Send your check now to Dwight Phillips, 24319 Crystal Lake Road, Woodenville, WA  98077. Get that check in the mail today and be sure to board the boat promptly because it will not be able to wait for late arrivals.

When the races are over, walk back to the shellhouse for comments from the coaches and the awards ceremony. And don’t miss the Stewards’ BBQ on the apron or, if it is raining, under cover on the deck. Peg Achterman, Eric Cohen, Tristine Drennan, Ellen Ernst, Al Forney, Kevin Hansen, Mike Hess, Mark Miller, Matt Minas, Erin O’Connell, Bill Pearce, George Teasdale and a few more alumni will be serving up hamburgers, soda and other great fare to top off the morning.

Class Day

For more images from previous Class Day, please
click here


February Features – The Athletes

Do Walk-On Athletes Succeed?

We’ve heard the question more than once. Do you have to be a high school rowing great to make the Husky crew? The answer is an emphatic no. Michael Callahan says: “Seven of the 16 top men’s varsity rowers had no high school rowing experience.”

Proof? Meet Lowell Neal. This 6’ 6” junior hails from Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the closest he’d come to crew racing was a t-shirt his brother wore – the Rochester Institute of Technology Crew. But he followed his brother’s advice to seek out the shellhouse in Seattle, and it was a great fit for this all-around scholar-athlete.  

Actually, the fact that he arrived in Seattle at all was a fortunate, last-minute attack of common sense. He had already signed up for Purdue and planned to attend when he awoke one morning and realized that Purdue sat in the middle of a cornfield while Washington sat at the base of mountains. It was a "duh" moment for this National Ski Patrol veteran. “Seattle had to be the best of both worlds,” he thought, “mountains and water.” And then there was the U Dub Aeronautical Engineering program, the best in the world for a budding engineer.

Like all walk-ons, Lowell listened to the experienced rowers talk about erg scores and race times and was a bit bewildered by it all for the first few weeks. But by opening day he had closed the gap, and back on the Cooper River that June he rowed the bow oar in the National Champion Freshman eight.

The following Christmas holiday he didn’t make the Winter Camp traveling squad but once again, come spring, Lowell was in the mix. And on the Cooper River in June, he won his second National Championship, this time in the second varsity. All seats are open for this year’s racing boats and Lowell is silent on his chances, but we think that three in a row has a nice ring.

Lowell’s mother is a mathematics professor and his father a theoretical physicist so he comes by his interest in math and science naturally. A junior in aeronautical engineering, he is certain to end up in aviation one day and, if he can work around height restrictions for pilots, he might even spend time in a cockpit.

At five or six, Lowell began to play the violin and at seven or eight he took up the trombone, too. Music is a Neal family tradition, a course of study expected by his parents. With three brothers and a sister, they could put together a brass quintet or a string quartet on any given day. He brought his violin with him to college his freshman year but quickly found that the demands of his engineering studies and rowing left no time to stay proficient on the instrument. He no longer has it in Seattle but it is waiting for him back in Los Alamos for life beyond graduation when he is certain to resume playing.   

Keep your eyes on Lowell Neal this year. He’s not just a great athlete – skiing, soccer, football and tennis as well as rowing - but a bright, affable and well-spoken young adult. And he is an outstanding answer to our initial question; walk-ons are the core of the Husky program, a not-so-secret rowing secret.  

And in case you think this fact is limited to those who are 6’6” and 208 pounds, read on.

Lowell Neal
Lowell Neal
Lowell Neal


Conibear Leadership

When Ashley Jones arrived in Seattle for the start of her freshman year, the standout West Valley High School (Yakima) student knew she wanted to continue athletics in college. A friend suggested crew so Ashley called Erica Schwab and then acted on Erica’s invitation to come down to the shellhouse. “The moment I arrived,” she told us, “was the first moment I understood that crew was a water sport. We had the Yakima River at home,” she added, “but no water sports like this!”

Ashley credits Erica Schwab – “an amazing coach” – for teaching her the foundations of rowing. In her sophomore year, Sean Mulligan coached her in the four and she says he conveyed a passion of rowing that was contagious. That’s when she fell in love with the sport. Under Eleanor McElvaine last year, Ashley started out in the second varsity but finished in the varsity boat. She was a fan of Eleanor’s and recalled for us an incident at the Nationals she will remember forever. During a final practice, Eleanor got into the varsity boat at six and rowed with her team for fifteen or twenty minutes. “ I wasn’t really sure why she did it but I kind of sensed the answer.” She recalls the moment as touching and memorable. “Every time I think back on it,” she said, “I remember it as a really cool moment.”

And now Ashley is experiencing the sport under her fourth coach, Bob Ernst. She finds the program he has installed amazing. “We’ve never been so fit; I’ve never been so fit,” she claims, “and our erg scores are way better than last year. I can’t wait to see how we do on the water.” As Commodore, who among other things is the intermediary between the coaching staff and the team, it was telling to hear her speak for the team: “We really, really respect Bob. We want to do this for him”

We asked her to comment on her election to Commodore but she held her comments to a single point: “I’m totally honored,” she said, “just overwhelmed with gratitude.” No wonder Ernst calls Ashley “a delightful and effective leader.”

This will be the senior walk-on’s last season and she is approaching it with enthusiasm and expectation. But she also has her sights set clearly on the future. Backed by her strong academics, she will enter graduate school next year. Following that, Ashley intends to enter social work. We have every confidence that she will succeed at that and at any other thing she takes on in life; Ruth and Herbert Jones’ daughter is one of those remarkable, upbeat, success and life-driven athletes who find their way to Conibear shellhouse and excel.   

Yes, the shellhouse is filled with recruited athletes, too, those with records of success in schoolboy rowing. Let’s meet one who was.

Ashley Jones
Ashley Jones
Ashley Jones


The Dog from Down Under

Thank Sean Mulligan for Toby Dankbaar, a senior on this year’s varsity. A few years ago Sean traveled to Australia to scout the Australian Schoolboy Rowing Championships, meet athletes and coaches, and promote the University of Washington rowing program. While there, he caught the interest of Toby who, with the support of his parents, came to Seattle for college.  

Toby came by his interest in rowing naturally. His father, William, is an Australian National Team oarsman turned coach. “It’s more than that, said Toby when we talked, “my father met my mother when he became her coach.” So, while he was a standout athlete in soccer and rugby, rowing was firmly implanted in his genes. Through the years of his youth, riding a coaching launch with his father became as normal to him as riding a bicycle became for the rest of us.

He began rowing himself at age 10 or 11 and put together a terrific schoolboy career that culminated in a spot on the 2004 Australian Junior  National Team coxed four which traveled to Spain for the World Championships.

Sean Mulligan liked what he found in Toby and let him know that Washington was interested. We aren’t certain but, in the process, it is likely that the Dankbaar family established one Husky recruiting record that will stand for years. His parents made the recruiting trip from Sydney to Seattle while Toby stayed home for his school exams. When they returned to Sydney, they told him: “These are some big boys.” But big or not, Toby leapt at the challenge and turned up the following January to join Mike Callahan’s freshman squad. 

It soon became known that Toby was far more than a one-note young man, and that he had come to Seattle for far more than athletics alone. He is a solid student majoring in Sociology and an accomplished musician. He plays the guitar for fun, took piano lessons once for about a year and then taught himself from that point on. But his real skill as a musician, and his first love in music, is the flute which he has played since he was eight or nine. From jazz flute to the University of Washington concert band, he handles it all with skill and joy.

Toby will return to Sydney when he graduates. And there may well be more rowing or coaching in his future. But for now, he is concentrating on the upcoming season. Our advice to our readers is to watch the lineups closely and take your binoculars to the races. You’re going to see a lot of our favorite Aussie, Toby Dankbaar, on the race courses.

Toby Dankbaar
Toby Danbaar
Toby Dankbaar


What Is A Class Steward?

You’ve read about our new Class Stewards program in these pages but do you really know what these volunteers are doing?

Let’s take a single example – Chuck Turbak, Commodore of the class of ’61. When Chuck volunteered, he knew it would require an initial chunk of time so this retired U.S. Marine officer tackled the job with his typical gusto. He talked with Erin O’Connell who is managing the project, got his marching orders, and set his objectives.  

The first step was to review the list of his class members already in our 1961 and 1962 data base. Next, he called and emailed a few friends and had them think back for names of others who did not appear on the list but who had been in the program. He made the effort to include everyone he could, not just four year rowers but those who had spent a year or two or three down at Conibear and, for one good reason or another, had to drop out.

Then he got busy. He sent out emails to the class members in the data base and had them send him updated contact information. He also asked them for input on the “lost” members of the class. Finding and updating records on those lost members didn’t go so quickly and it required some telephone time, but he was able to reconnect a number of alumni who still remember their days in the program fondly.

From this point forward, it will be a relatively easy task to update information as class members move or change their email addresses. And it will be relatively easy for him to contact class members with information meant specifically for them.

Thanks to the great work performed by Chuck Turbak, the classes of ’61 and ’62 now have 36 active members. We think it might be a record, especially for a group of old oars who graduated nearly 50 years ago.

If you haven’t been contacted by your Class Steward, contact him or her yourself and make sure your records are up to date. Offer names and information on classmates you know who might not be on the list. Our goal is to reconnect our entire family and you can help. Here are the names of our Class Stewards. If you don’t see a Steward listed for your year, email Erin O’Connell at ocone@spu.edu.

1961 and ‘62
Chuck Turbak
1966 through ’68
Bill Pitlick
1971 through ’73
Fred Schoch
Eric Cohen
1985 through ’88
Thom McCann, Adam Kriefall
1989 through ’92
Trevor Vernon, Toby Lumpkin, Matt Minas, John Kueber
1993 through ‘95
Eric Sjaastad, John Kueber
1996 through ’98
Andrew Dempsey
Sean Mulligan
Mike Chait
2001 through 2006
Charles Minett, Kyle Larson, Ian Sawyer, Ante Kusurin
1968 through ’83
Ellen Ernst
Jennie Bingham
1999 through 2002
Mary Whipple
2003 through 2006
Megan Kalmoe, Mary Reeves, Katie Gardner


Chuck Turbak in 1961
Chuck Turbak in 1961


2007 – 2008 Crew Calendar

The 2007-2008 year is scheduled and it's going to be busy. Mark your calendar today for the racing and related event days. Alumni events are highlighted in bold type.

Friday, March 28
VBC Banquet
6:00 pm
Conibear Shellhouse
Saturday, March 29
Class Day Races
10:00 am
Montlake Cut
Saturday, March 29
Class Day Cruise/BBQ
11:00 am
Conibear Shellhouse
Sat/Sun, April 5-6
San Diego Classic
All Day
San Diego
Saturday, April 5
Husky Open
8:00 am
Montlake Cut
Saturday, April 12
2:00 pm
Montlake Cut
Saturday, April 19
9:00 am
Montlake Cut
Saturday, April 26
Cal Dual
9:00 am
Redwood Shores, CA
Saturday, May 3
Opening Day
Stewards Enclosure
9:00 am
North side of finish line, Montlake Cut
Saturday, May 3
Opening Day
Windermere Cup
10:00 am
Montlake Cut
Sunday, May 18
All Day
Rancho Cordova, CA
Fri/Sun, June 1
All Day
Rancho Cordova, CA
Thurs/Sat, June 5-7
All Day
Camden, NJ
Saturday, August 16
Dave McLean Golf Tournament
Washington Nat'l

For more information about Husky racing schedule,
click here




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