Building on a Legacy: Washington’s Michael Callahan is the 2013 Man of the Year

by Ed Moran, | Oct 08, 2013
Even when he was a high school college recruit, Michael Callahan knew there was something special about the University of Washington, its rowing program and its legacy.
Even when he was a high school college recruit, Michael Callahan knew there was something special about the University of Washington, its rowing program and its legacy.

“The University of Washington campus has been special to me since I first got here,” Callahan said. “I remember my first recruiting trip. I went out there and onto Lake Washington, and I loved the atmosphere.”

So Callahan chose Washington, was captain and commodore of the 1996 team, won four Pac-10 Championships, took the Ky-Ebright trophy in the men's varsity eight three times and in 1995 and 1996, his crews won bronze and silver medals in the eights at the IRA Championships.

After a stint on several national teams, Callahan returned to Washington to coach in 2001 and took over the men’s program in 2007. His record at Washington is impressive. He has won four national titles, seven consecutive Ten Eyck Awards as the points winner at the IRA and during the 2013 season, his crew swept all five grand finals and won its third consecutive national championship.

For his accomplishments, and those of his crews, the USRowing Board of Directors selected Callahan as the 2013 Man of the Year. Callahan will be honored Saturday, December 7 at the 2013 USRowing Annual Awards Reception presented by the 2017 World Rowing Championship Host Destination Sarasota-Bradenton in Seattle, Wash.

“When you get an individual award, sometimes it’s really the result of a collective effort of so many people,” said Callahan. “This is Washington rowing, and when I heard about the award for the year, I saw it as a collective effort of so many people, from the student-athletes up to our alumni and our administration.

“I’m really proud of that, and I’m definitely proud of our student-athletes,” he said. “In the end, that’s how I really feel. I come up with the ideas, but it’s up to the student-athletes to execute them, and they do. That’s the real special part.”

Callahan first came to Washington from Washington & Lee High School in Arlington, Va. He had a successful run as a collegiate oarsman and then rowed on four U.S. senior national teams and was an alternate for the 2004 Olympic Games.

Callahan, the son of a United States Navy submarine captain, returned to Washington as an intern coach under Bob Ernest, coaching the junior varsity eight that won a silver medal at IRAs and the men's pair that won a gold medal.

In 2007, Callahan took over for Ernst, who left the position to run the women’s program. His impact was immediate. Callahan's first season as head men's coach saw his crews win IRA gold in both the second varsity eight and the varsity four and the varsity eight win silver.

All five Husky boats competed in the grand finals and all five earned medals, giving Washington and Callahan his first Ten Eyck Trophy. He has been named the Pac-10/12 coach of the year three times. Off the water, Callahan’s crew honored their school and the program in the classroom as well.

Callahan’s athletes continuously earn conference academic recognition and in 2012, Washington had 13 rowers selected by the conference, including eight on the first team.

“One of the first values we teach here is Washington rowing is bigger than you or I, and you have to give up some of yourself to have the ultimate success with your teammates,” he said.

“In some ways, it’s all about the values we have here. I think Washington is a very special place. We have high standards. I’d like to say we have the best rowing program in the world, and we have a lot of people working hard at it. We really embrace that.”

United States men’s rowing coach Luke McGee took over the Washington freshman coach post when Callahan took over the varsity team in 2007. He worked alongside Callahan until USRowing hired McGee last fall.

"It is difficult to sum up my respect for Michael Callahan as a coach and as a person through a simple quote,” McGee said. “Michael is a great friend of mine and one of our country's best coaches. He taught me a tremendous amount about rowing and running a program. I loved working alongside Michael at the University of Washington and I hope to have an opportunity to work with him again.

“Michael cares deeply about his team and he is always quick to direct praise towards his assistant coaches and athletes, but we all know that he sets the tone. Great programs reflect their leader. And through Michael's hard work, determination and constant drive for that next level of speed, the University of Washington has raised the bar for rowing in the United States."

The accomplishments of his crews last season were capped off by a second place grand finals finish against the British national team in the Challenge Cup at the 2013 Henley Royal Regatta. But rowing wasn’t the only highlight of the year. Callahan and his wife, the former Joanna Hess, had a baby girl in August. They named her Ellison.

“The whole year has been pretty amazing, professionally and personally,” Callahan said. “The team really performed well, but in my personal life, my wife and I had a baby this year, so 2013 has been a good one.”

The Man of the Year Award is one of thirteen annual USRowing awards, which will be presented November 20 at the Golden Oars Awards Dinner in New York City and December 7 at the USRowing Annual Convention in Seattle, Wash.

Click here to see past award winners.

About USRowing
USRowing is a nonprofit organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States. USRowing has 60,000 individual members and 1,200 member organizations – offering rowing programs for all. USRowing’s official suppliers include Concept 2, Croker Oars, Filippi, JanSport, Nielsen Kellerman, Vespoli and WinTech. USRowing also receives generous support from the National Rowing Foundation and its corporate sponsors and partners ANXeBusiness Corp, Boathouse Sports, Citi Women, Connect-A-Dock, EMCVenues, Ludus Tours and Rudy Project. The USRowing National Team program relies on strong partnerships to enable continued success. New opportunities exist to support the teams through the next quadrennial, culminating with the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. America Rows, which supports diversity in rowing, and the USRowing adaptive programs also benefit from corporate support. For more information, visit
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