The No. 2 Cal men’s crew heads to Redwood Shores this weekend to race No. 11 Wisconsin in the varsity eight and second varsity eight events. Wisconsin, a traditional rowing powerhouse, is coached by Cal alumni Chris Clark, and the Badgers arrive in California looking to shake off a long winter by defeating the Bears.
Despite the Bears’ high ranking, coach Mike Teti stated in an interview that the team pays no attention to rankings and prepares for each opponent equally, whether they are competing against top-five teams such as Harvard, Yale and Washington or lower-ranked teams such as Wisconsin.
“Wisconsin is always tough,” Teti said. “We know Washington is really good. Yale, Harvard and all these East Coast schools are always tough. Everybody is trying to do the same thing. We need to keep improving and make sure we peak at nationals.”
Clearly, the Bears have not been lured into a sense of complacency after their initial dominance in early season racing over Boston University, Stanford and Penn. It is important to note that many top contenders, including Wisconsin, Harvard and Yale have been snowed in and unable to practice on the water after an unusually long and cold winter.
Teti noted that the Bears generally split time fairly evenly between land workouts and water workouts based on need, giving the team a significant advantage over the snowed-in crews from the Northeast and Midwest.
The 5:35 time posted by the Bears against Boston University was a very impressive time early in the season, but the large gap between the team’s times at its first two races is partially attributable to three rowers moving from the sideline into the two top boats after dealing with illness and one rower who injured himself after tripping on stairs.
Additionally, Teti mentioned that the lineups for the top two boats for the IRA championships are still being decided, despite the speed and technical proficiency displayed by the varsity and second varsity eights during the April 5 scrimmage against Boston University. Teti also said that every year holds surprises regarding who makes the top two boats at the end of the season.
“These guys improve and surprise me every year,” Teti said. “We have a lot of interchangeable parts. We’re pretty quick, but probably not quick enough to win nationals right now. We need to keep working and improving.”
As the Bears continue to emphasize their theme of continuous improvement, they must not look past Wisconsin. The Badgers have a decorated history at the IRA National Championships, with 48 total victories, most recently winning the varsity eight at the 2008 IRA Championships.
The varsity eight and second varsity eight crews for the Bears are looking to improve their times of 5:35 and 5:44, respectively, against Boston University this weekend against Wisconsin. Additionally, despite the team’s professed indifference toward rankings, the Bears are only one first place vote behind the University of Washington in the national rankings. If the Bears continue impressing in early season racing, they could take a No. 1 ranking and favorite status going into the Pac-12 Championships and IRA Championships in May.
This weekend’s race against Wisconsin marks the first of three consecutive weekends of racing for the Bears, including an April 25 date with the Washington Huskies, and the Bears will be looking to continue building momentum into the heart of the season.
George Wu covers men’s crew. Contact him at [email protected].