Women’s crew finishes in third place at NCAAs

The No. 2 Cal women’s crew team was two points shy of the 2011 NCAA Championship title. All three boats advanced to the finals on Sunday morning, but their 83 total points ended their run in third place. Though tying Stanford with 85 points, Brown won the title due to a better showing in the varsity 8+ final.

“I’m really proud of the way our team raced today,” Cal coach Dave O’Neill said. “Unfortunately, we came up just short of the overall win, but we gave it everything we had and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

The competition at the Grand Finals in Lake Natoma, Calif., including the likes of Princeton and USC as well, which rounded out the top five tied at 72 points.

The Bears’ varsity 4+ boat won their first race on Friday and emerged victorious in each of the following races — most notably, its grand final against Virginia. Despite trailing early, the Bears pushed on to a two second advantage and rowed across the line at 7:09.60.

“The Flying Bear four was great once again today,” O’Neill said. “The lineup has changed throughout the season, credit goes to all who contributed to the undefeated season.”

After mediocre performances by the varsity 8+ boat in the heat and semifinals, Cal battled to come away with a fourth place finish in the grand final for the second year in a row. The Bears placed ahead of Brown and the Cardinal in the second position for the first three splits, but as the boats approached the final mark, Cal couldn’t edge forward for the win — eventually clocking in at 6:30.6

“With so much on the line for the team title, watching that race was not for the faint of heart,” O’Neill said. “I’m really proud of the way they stepped up to every challenge this weekend, and it was great to see them on the podium.”

The Bears, who last attained the national title back in 2006, have now secured a top three finish for their fourth consecutive season. They have not placed outside of the top-four since 1998.

“There’s no disappointment whatsoever in coming in third because we truly did everything we could,” O’Neill said.

Camellia Senemar covers crew.