Hershaw part of Husky rowing sweep

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Reiner Hershaw (fourth from left) holds a piece of the IRA Open Four National Championship trophy. The 22-year-old, who graduated from Washougal High School in 2008, was recently commissioned to the U.S. Marine Corps as a second leiutenant.

University of Washington went 5-for-5 during Saturday’s grand finals of the 2012 Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships, on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill N.J.

Reiner Hershaw, a 2008 graduate of Washougal High School, was right in the middle of all the excitement. He was a member of the open four crew that finished in first place and set a new course record time of 6 minutes, 15.257 seconds.

Hershaw then cheered all of his teammates on to victory in the other four races. It was a complete sweep for the purple and gold.

“We all pushed it to a level that for a long time none of us thought was possible,” Hershaw said. “It was like having the best race of your life on the last day of the season. Every boat did that. It was pretty unique.”

A stiff tailwind and a strong start gave Wisconsin a two seat lead over Washington, but Hershaw said the Huskies remained confident.

“It’s the trademark of a Washington boat,” he said. “You learn to grind in that moment.”

The Huskies gained a second wind in the final 700 meters of the race, but the Badgers couldn’t match their intensity.

“With 500 meters left, you could feel the enemy breaking and you just knew we were going to cross the finish line first,” Hershaw said. “It was pretty exhilarating. I have never experienced anything like that in sports.”

Hershaw started rowing for Vancouver Lake Crew during his junior and senior years of high school. He never thought the sport would become such a cornerstone of his college career. But once he started training for the Huskies as a freshman, he knew life would never be the same.

“I quickly realized how tired you get rowing 20 hours a week on top of a full course load of classes. You get up early in the morning and do a workout before class. Then you come back for another workout in the afternoon, do homework and get about four hours of sleep before you get up early the next day and do it all over again,” Hershaw said. “There’s working and then there’s working hard. I never really got that until I got here my freshman year.”

Although freshman season seemed just like a never ending workout, Hershaw said it helped mold him into an adult. By the time he was a senior, Hershaw grew to appreciate the time spent with his teammates, coaches and the Husky rowing community.

“Other places are known for their football and basketball. In Seattle, we are all about rowing,” he said. “It’s not just one guy in a boat or eight guys in a boat. The whole Husky nation is behind you.”

Hard work ethic will help Hershaw make the most out of his next chapter in life. After graduating from Washington in March with a bachelor’s degree in political science, the 22-year-old was recently commissioned to the U.S. Marine Corps as a second lieutenant. Hershaw will be infantry officer training in Quantico, Va. for the next six months.

“We strived for relentless speed every day in rowing,” he said. “I hope I can continue to have that relentless pursuit in every facet of my life.

“I never thought I would be a part of a national championship,” Hershaw added. “If you put in the effort, the results can surprise you.”