For second straight year, Bears finish third at NCAAs

The top-ranked Cal women’s rowing team concluded the NCAA Championships on Sunday with a third place finish at Lake Mercer in West Windsor, N.J. The Bears earned a total of 78 points at NCAAs, with title-winner Virginia earning itself 87 points.

This was the second year in a row that Cal entered the NCAA Championships as the No. 1 team in the nation, only to earn an upsetting third place finish.

“I think in order for us to have won they would have had to row above and beyond what they had been doing,” said Cal coach Dave O’Neill. “They rowed within themselves but we just came up a little bit short.”

The Bears have now finished second or third overall at NCAAs for five years in a row. Since winning the national championship in 2006, Cal hasn’t been able to repeat despite several close finishes. The Bears finished second overall in 2009 and 2010.

Despite this year’s third place overall finish, Cal was one of only three teams to advance all three boats to the grand finals. In the Division I Grand Finals, Cal’s varsity eight came in fifth place, while both the varsity four and second varsity eight each earned themselves spots on the podium with a third place finish.

“So many women stepped up to turn themselves into really fit, really mature, and really good racers,” O’Neill said. “So in terms of where we started off and certainly where we were back in early March to where we finished up, I’m really, really proud of this team.”

In the varsity eight grand final — the race with the most points at stake — Cal finished with a time of 6:27.19. On the first day of NCAAs, Cal finished the varsity eight preliminary race with a time of 6:52.19.

Their time improvement is notable for the young squad, which boasted six sophomores in the varsity eight boat lineup and only four seniors in a squad of over 60 women.

In the second varsity eight grand final, Cal took the podium third place finish with a time of 6:40.85, losing to first-place Michigan by three seconds. In the varsity four grand final, the Bears took another third place finish with a time of 7:21.15. This race marked the first time in the 2012 crew season that the Cal varsity four did not win.

“So many of the women turned into really good leaders and so many of them are going to be coming back next year, hopefully fitter, stronger and more mature,” O’Neill said. “Things look bright for the years ahead.”

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