The Cal varsity men’s crew raced against the best crews in the country this weekend at the IRA Championships on Mercer Lake in New Jersey, while the women raced at the NCAA Championships at Gold River, California.
The women fought hard through the qualifying races in Gold River, advancing to the Grand Final in the second varsity eight and securing a berth in the Petite Final for the varsity four. The varsity four’s failure to qualify for the Grand Final cost the team a chance to earn more championship points.
In the Grand Final for the second varsity eight, the Bears finished in a time of 6:35 and secured fifth place overall in the event. The Bears were 11 seconds behind Brown, which placed first, but only three seconds behind third-place Washington.
Despite their disappointing Petite Final placing in the varsity four, the Bears pushed through the race and finished in a time of 7:28, good for eighth overall in the event.
The undefeated Cal women’s varsity eight breezed through qualifying races and went into the Grand Final in a familiar position, needing to win in order to have a chance at the overall championship. The Bears went head to head with the boat from Ohio State, trading the lead multiple times throughout the race. The Bears, however, were unable to close out the race, losing in heartbreaking fashion with a time of 6:18.6, half a second behind the Buckeyes.
This half second would prove to be costly, as the Bears ended up second on the overall-points leaderboard, 12 points behind champion Ohio State. The Bears will return home with a second-place finish and can still hold their heads held high, knowing that they can hold their own against the best crews in the country.
The Cal men held themselves steady through two wild days of qualifying at the IRA Championships that saw powerhouse Yale fail to qualify its varsity eight for the Grand Final. Instead, underdog Northeastern continued its run to the Grand Final of the national championship after inching out the Bulldogs by two hundredths of a second.
The Bears managed, with relative ease, to qualify for the Grand Final of every event in which they were entered. The varsity eight won its semifinal in a time of 5:30, raising hopes that the Bears would have the speed to take down the Washington powerhouse that was coming off four straight IRA titles.
The Cal freshman eight was looking for redemption in the Grand Final after losing to Wisconsin during the qualifying rounds, and it put in a strong performance, finishing in 5:44 — good for second place overall. The crew got its revenge by finishing ahead of Wisconsin and defeated notable crews such as Penn and Cornell. The Bears, however, were unable to solve Washington in what would become a theme for the regatta, as the Huskies finished in 5:39.
In the varsity four Grand Final, the Bears found themselves head to head with rival Stanford and eventually managed to earn some bragging rights after finishing two tenths of a second ahead of the Stanford boat in a time of 6:19.6. Unfortunately, the two crews were racing for second place, as Washington pulled away from the field to claim first place.
The Bears finished fourth in the second varsity eight and third in the third varsity eight, failing to defend their titles in the two events.
The Bears had one final chance to go home with a first-place finish. In the varsity eight Grand Final, the Bears fought off a loaded field, including Princeton, Brown, Harvard and Northeastern, but they again couldn’t solve the Huskies, finishing two seconds behind Washington in a time of 5:30.
Both the men and women left the weekend with strong second-place finishes and can go into next season with the knowledge that they are both near the top of their sport.
George Wu covers men’s and women’s crew. Contact him at [email protected].