Now in his 12th year at UW and eighth year as the head coach of the Washington men’s rowing team, Michael Callahan has helped establish Husky Crew as an indomitable force in world rowing.
In June 2015, Washington men’s crew made history by winning their fifth straight and 18th overall IRA National Championship and ninth straight Ten Eyck trophy (team points title), an achievement unseen in collegiate rowing.
Callahan has now led the Huskies to five straight straight National Championships, for a total of six National Championships in his eight seasons. At the 2012, 2013 and 2015 Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Regattas, Washington achieved perfect sweeps by all five Husky boats—a feat unmatched by any crew in the history of the regatta.
The high level of achievement on the water has continued to exemplify the standard at Washington’s Conibear Shellhouse. Thirteen rowers who have at one time competed under Callahan have become Olympians: four from Canada and nine from the U.S., winning a total of six Olympic medals. Callahan’s athletes have also become ubiquitous at the U-23 level. In 2014 alone, 14 of Callahan’s oarsmen represented their various countries at the U-23 World Championships. In 2015, seven current UW rowers and alumni competed at the Senior World Championships.
Callahan credits his oarsmen’s results to his commitment to developing athletes, demonstrated by his extensive contributions to the U.S. National Team and willingness to take his Washington teams abroad to compete beyond the traditional season.
He led a United States Under-23 men’s boat in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 (gold), and coached rowers from his Northwest Development camp to success in the 4+ at the 2011, 2012 (silver), and 2014 U-23 Championships.
At the senior level, Callahan coached the U.S. pair of Charlie Cole and Glenn Ochal to the A Final at the 2014 Senior World Championships in Amsterdam (marking the United States’ first appearance in the 2-A Final since 2009.)
During Callahan’s tenure, Washington has also sent four boats to the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta in England. At Henley, the Huskies twice won the Temple Challenge Cup (2010, 2012) and in 2013 the Varsity 8+ earned world-wide recognition by making it to the final of the Grand Challenge Cup, where the crew would have set a course record had they not been narrowly beaten by World Champion Great Britain crew.
Off the water, Callahan, who graduated from the UW in 1996, has pushed his oarsmen to excel in the classroom as well. In spring of 2014 the Husky men’s crew had the highest team grade point average (GPA) of the UW’s large sports teams. The Pac-12 and IRA have continued to recognize Washington athletes on their all-academic lists, and 18 members of Washington’s 2014 National Championship crew were on the University’s Dean’s List.
Callahan places importance on developing coaching talent. Lucas McGee, current coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team eight, served as Callahan’s freshman coach for five years at Washington before joining the U.S. National Team coaching staff. Bryan Volpenhein current USA Men’s 4- coach was the intern coach at Washington in 2005 while Callahan was freshmen coach. Carlos Dinares now with RP3 was the intern coach in 2006. Successful women’s coach, Conor Bullis, now the UW’s first assistant coach interned for Callahan in 2007 & 2008. Others have interned and gone on to coaching positions at Cal, Cornell and Dartmouth. Those relationships have continued to breed success with Callahan recently reuniting McGee and Volpenhein them to coach the U.S. National team during the summers. At the 2014 Senior World Championships the U.S. Men’s National Team had all three sweep boats in the A final for the first time in recent memory.
Callahan’s impact has been widely recognized. In 2013, USRowing named Callahan its “Man of Year” and the Pac-10/12 has continued to recognize Callahan’s accomplishments, naming him its “Coach of the Year” in six of the eight seasons he’s led the Washington program, including in 2015.
Before coaching, Callahan built an impressive resume as a rower himself. He strives to ensure his experiences on collegiate, national, and Olympic teams can help guide his current athletes.
While at Washington, Callahan was the captain and commodore of the 1996 team and earned a degree in history. Callahan won four Pac-10 Championships and the Ky-Ebright trophy in the Men’s Varsity Eight three times. In 1995 and 1996 his crews won a bronze and silver medal in the Men’s Varsity Eight at IRA National Championships.
Before coming to Washington, Callahan won a gold medal at the 1992 World Rowing Championships in the Junior Men’s Eight in Montreal. After graduation, Callahan joined the U.S. Men’s National Team, winning a bronze medal in the 1995 Under-23 Nations Cup Regatta, followed by a gold medal at the 1996 Under-23 Nations Cup Regatta. He stroked three U.S. National Team boats at the World Championships between 1997 and 2002. Callahan was a medalist at the 1999 Pan-American Games and 2000 World Rowing Cup, and a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team.
While growing up, Callahan lived with his family in six states, including Washington while his father was stationed at Bangor as a U.S. Navy Submarine Captain.
Callahan now lives in Seattle’s Portage Bay neighborhood with his wife Joanna and their daughter Ellison, whom they welcomed in 2013. Joanna Hess Callahan is a Washington native who rowed at Yale. Her father, Mike Hess, is a two-time UW crew Captain and member of the UW Hall of Fame. Her mother, Andy, was a co-captain of the UW track team. Being a Husky is all in the family.