The Cal men’s and women’s crew teams will race at their final regattas of the year this weekend: the IRA championships in West Windsor, New Jersey, and the NCAA championships in Gold River, California, respectively.
The No. 2 varsity men will race the best crews from around the country, with its most significant competition coming from the traditionally dominant crews of Washington, Yale, Princeton and Brown.
Yale, coming off a first-place finish at Eastern Sprints more than a second ahead of the field, appears to be the strongest crew from the Ivy League and will test the Bears and Huskies in a battle of East vs. West. Princeton and Brown finished third and fourth, respectively, and also look to be fast enough to claim the IRA championship.
The surprise of the Eastern Sprints was Northeastern, which finished second to Yale. The Huskies climbed from eighth to fourth in the rankings and look like a dark-horse candidate for taking the varsity eight race.
With their academic semester over, the Bears have spent the last week polishing off any remaining technical issues and preparing for their final race. Cal will look to seize a decisive lead in the first 500 meters of every race to force the other crews to tire themselves out racing one another. The crews from Washington and Yale will likely have faster finishes than Cal, but if the Bears can create a large enough lead at the beginning of the race, they may be able to hold off any challengers during the second half of the race.
The No. 2 varsity women’s team will stay close to home at Gold River for the NCAA championships and is one of the favorites to claim the 2015 national title. Brown, coming off a near sweep at the highly contested Ivy League Championship, vaulted to the No. 1 ranking and enters the NCAAs on a wave of confidence and dominant results. No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Virginia also arrive on high notes after dominating the Big Ten and ACC championship regattas, respectively. The NCAA champion will likely emerge from this group of crews, the winners of the most competitive conferences in rowing: Ohio State, Virginia, Brown and California.
The Bears were not nearly as dominant at the Pac-12 championships as the other three crews were at their respective regional regattas. Cal needed some help from Stanford to even claim the title, but Cal’s undefeated varsity eight is arguably the fastest boat in the country and the presumed favorite in the varsity eight final. The veteran crew will need to pull through in order for Cal to claim the team trophy, but it seems up to the difficult task. The Bears, however, will need the rest of their team to step up and win points in the second varsity eight and varsity four.
The varsity eight will be the last race of the regatta, so look for the Bears to remain within striking distance of the points leader throughout the regatta and to claim the victory by winning the varsity eight event.
The varsity men and women will be facing challenging opposition this weekend, but both crews are fully capable of pulling through for victories. For both teams’ championship hopes to come to fruition, the varsity men and women must put out their best effort of the season.
George Wu covers men’s crew. Contact him at [email protected].