Both the Cal men’s and women’s varsity crews will head to Gold River, California, this weekend to compete in the Pac-12 Championships against the best crews in the conference, including rival Stanford and powerhouse Washington.
The No. 4 Cal women, featuring a varsity eight that carries an undefeated record into the Pac-12 Championships this year, will face heavy competition from several top-10 programs, including No. 2 Washington, No. 6 Stanford and No. 7 Washington State. All of these teams carry the sort of talent that is necessary to take down the Cal varsity eight and go home with a Pac-12 Championship.
The Cal women will be looking to prove they are the best the West has to offer, as they are set to go into the NCAA Championships against the top teams from the Midwest and the Ivy League. With everything on the line, the Bears need to see consistency from the second and third varsity eights, along with the varsity four. The Bears cannot rely solely on the dominance of their varsity eight. Cal will need every boat on the team to perform well in order to take the Pac-12 Championship away from defending champion Stanford.
Unfortunately, both the Cal men and women will have to deal with the added stress of final exams coinciding with the buildup to the Pac-12s.
“It’s definitely a challenge heading into the weekend. It’s a bit stressful, and we have to schedule practices to accommodate exams and review sessions,” said Cal men’s assistant coach Scott Frandsen. “But we’ve been pretty lucky. All the guys have been able to get in their training, and we haven’t had any injury problems since the beginning of the season.”
The Cal varsity men have held the No. 1 ranking for the last three weeks but will put that to the test when facing No. 2 Washington at the Pac-12 Championships. The Huskies will come in looking to take down the Bears after the teams split their dual in Seattle several weeks ago. Additionally, teams such as Oregon State and Stanford will be looking to exploit any weaknesses Cal and Washington show. The Beavers and the Cardinal are both fully capable of winning individual races.
The crux of the race, however, will be the battle between Washington and Cal. The two are some of the sport’s traditional powerhouses, with 33 total IRA championships between them, including eight of the last nine titles.
Cal has had a relatively smooth season so far, but the team is confident that the added pressure of being the favorite will not be an issue. Additionally, although the men’s varsity eight has been putting up outstanding times all season, its times have likely been helped by favorable racing conditions.
While winning the Pac-12 Championships would be a point of pride for Cal, the races will also serve as a crucial opportunity to prepare the team for the upcoming challenges presented by the Ivy League’s crew powerhouses at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships.
“The Eastern Sprints are at the same time, and any number of crews can make the top five. Princeton is very good this year. Crews like Northeastern and BU are improving every season,” Frandsen said. “They’ll be fast and push whoever comes out of the West. But we need to first focus on performing at Pac-12s.”
Although it is difficult to guarantee any result in rowing, the Cal men’s team appears to be poised to defeat Washington at the Pac-12 Championships and triumph at the IRA Championships, while the women’s team will look to do the same in the NCAA Championships.
George Wu covers men’s crew. Contact him at [email protected].