The feat was remarkable for two reasons. First, the double sculls had long been the domain of the Europeans. The U.S. hadn't won gold in that event since 1932.
And second, Enquist and his partner, Brad Lewis, weren't supposed to be representing the U.S. They were only there though gumption, having decided -– after being snubbed by the U.S. sculls coach -- to enter the national time trials in the hopes of defeating the boat that had been hand-picked by the U.S. coach to compete in LA.
The underdog nature of their victory over the chosen boat, manned by Ivy Leaguers, was fitting. Enquist is a WSU graduate and Lewis a Cal-Irvine product. U.S. rowing in those days was truly dominated by the Harvards and Yales of the world. To think a Cougar and Anteater comprised a gold medal-winning tandem is almost miraculous.
It's a story of grit, determination and perseverance.
Ironically, the roots of it all can be traced to the hardwood of Bohler Gym, where then-WSU coach George Raveling told aspiring 6-foot-6 walk on Paul Enquist of Ballard High that his services wouldn't be needed. Enquist decided to try his hand at crew instead.
Son Charlie Enquist, on the other hand, looks like he's going to stick around Bohler for quite some time.
"Charlie's done a great job," says Johnson. "He's really improved over the last year. It's been exciting to watch him come in here and bang around in the post with Aron (Baynes) and Robbie (Cowgill)."
Enquist was a standout at King's High, a Class B school in Seattle, but the college market for a string-bean from a tiny school wasn't big. Especially so in light of the fact he broke his wrist late in his senior season. He had an offer from Northern Colorado and interest from Rice. That was about it.
And then Bennett came along with a proposal.
Come to WSU, work hard, and learn the lessons of Pac-10 post play that the bruising Baynes and wily Cowgill can teach, Bennett said. In exchange, you'll redshirt and get a one-year scholarship, with the promise of getting every opportunity to earn playing time as a walk on starting in 2008-09.
"You could call it a two-for-one," says Johnson, referring to the scholarship for the season just concluded and walk-on status next year.
The Cougars are hopeful Enquist's improvement continues. They are losing their most consistent post presence over the last four years -- the 6-11 Cowgill -- as well as Chris Henry, a 6-9 mainstay in practices.
Cowgill started 34 of 35 games this season and averaged 28.1 minutes per outing.
Daven Harmeling (6-7) and Caleb Forrest (6-8) will be back next season, but they're true forwards rather than fixtures in the paint. Moreover, with his long-distance shooting abilities, Harmeling looks right at home on the perimeter.
"We're not hugely deep on the interior next year, so there's minutes available for somebody," says Johnson.
Besides Enquist, one of those somebodies could be 6-11, 230-pound German import Fabian Boeke, a sophomore-to-be who is looking for a new beginning in 2008-09. His freshman year was ruined by a back injury and an NCAA ruling that he had to forfeit that first season of college eligibility because of an issue regarding the stipends some players received on a club team that Boeke once played on in Germany.
The NCAA snafu is cleared up -- and so is the bad back that limited Boeke's practice time this season to little more than some low-key shooting.
"Fabian is a little older (he just turned 22), has good size and length," says Johnson. "He's been cleared (medically) for spring workouts. His surgery and rehab have gone well. We're excited to start working with him. We recruited him as a scoring forward. He's got a good facing jumper."
Another name to look for in the post when practices start in the fall is 6-8 James Watson of Stringtown, Okla. He's the tallest member of the Cougars' incoming class of five recruits and has the hops and wingspan to protect the rim the way Ivory Clark once did, says Johnson.
NOTABLE: Playing post in the Pac-10 is not for the faint-of-heart. But it's getting better. The Lopez twins at Stanford and Ryan Anderson at Cal have announced they're leaving early for the NBA, and Kevin Love (UCLA) is thinking about it. Add Arizona's Jordan Hill to the list and all would be well in the crimson paint, jokes Johnson. "Our coaching staff would be glad to see them all go," he quips.
BOEKE STRETCHES OUT FOR THE CAMERA LAST FALL.