The No. 2 Cal women’s crew team got its spring season started off in familiarly dominant fashion Saturday. The Bears, who finished second at the NCAA Championships in 2015, won eight of 10 races at the Pac-12 Challenge regatta in Redwood Shores, California.
Cal was joined at the event by No. 9 Stanford, No. 20 Duke and UCLA, although the Bears didn’t race against the Blue Devils. Cal swept past the Bruins, winning almost every one of its five races by huge margins. The closest UCLA came to topping the Bears was when the teams’ varsity eight boats faced off.
The Bruins proved more competitive than expected in the afternoon race, as their varsity eight finished with an impressive time of 6:38.40. Cal, however, showed why it’s expected to be the Pac-12’s best team yet again, finishing with a time of 6:33.80.
The Bears’ other boats consistently routed UCLA. Cal won both second varsity four races by at least 16 seconds, winning the second with a time of 7:39.90 to 7:58.24. The Bears’ second varsity eight also made quick work of the Bruins, winning with a time of 6:48.60. This was more than 17 seconds better than UCLA’s 7:05.90.
But Cal’s biggest win came in the varsity four race, which it won by more than 25 seconds. The Bears recorded a speedy 7:55.40 to UCLA’s lackluster 8:21.90.
Cal struggled a bit more against its top-10 foe, Stanford. The Bears managed to win three of their five races against the Cardinal, but every single race was excruciatingly close — none of their races were decided by more than 10 seconds.
The closest race yet again for Cal was the varsity eight race. The Bears and Cardinal went back and forth, trading the lead over and over again. Cal finally took the lead for good with about 500 meters left, but even then, it wasn’t able to build any sort of significant gap. The Bears ended up winning by a tiny 2.40 seconds, 6:15.60-6:18.
Cal’s win came after it lost its initial race to the Cardinal in the varsity fours. The race was another thriller, but Stanford was the team pulling away with a slim victory this time, as the Cardinal won by only 2.60 seconds.
Stanford picked up a win with its second varsity four as well, but the Bears were able to redeem the loss when the two boats faced off again. Cal’s second varsity eight also beat the Cardinal, coming in with a strong time of 6:22.90, while Stanford came in at 6:28.98.
With that victory, the Bears clinched winning records against both of their Pac-12 foes. This was a fitting start to the season for the team, which picked up right it where it left off last spring. Cal will look to continue to build on its hot start and reassert its place as one of the nation’s best crews next week at the San Diego Crew Classic.