Cal men’s crew wins big at IRA National Championships

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Updated 6/06/2016: This article has been updated with comment from Mike Teti, head coach for Cal men’s crew.

For the second weekend in a row, Cal’s rowers are national champions.

The No. 2 Cal men’s crew came into the weekend as favorites to take the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships. The freshly crowned Pac-12 champions looked to add another title to its already decorated trophy case.

“It’s a really good group of guys. I do think that the competition is severe,” said Cal head coach Mike Teti. “I think that all of those teams that were in the finals were capable of winning and I think our guys showed great composure — winning the heats, winning the semifinals and, I think, saving our best race for the final.”

The Bears towered over the competition Friday and continued their strong rowing into Saturday, having all of their boats advance to the grand finals. On the final day of the competition Sunday, Cal bested Princeton by three points — 205 to 202 — to take home the team’s second National Championship in program history. In addition to winning the overall points title, the Bears also won their 17th varsity eight title. The win comes only one week after the women’s crew team defeated Ohio State to win the NCAA National Championship.

To say that Cal dominated the competition on Friday is an understatement. In all but one event — the third varsity eight — the Bears celebrated with a first-place finish.

The Bears’ first victory of the day came against Columbia in the V8.  Cal carried the lead from 750 meters onward, finishing with a final time of 5:43.800 against Columbia’s 5:45.710. Cornell, which was one length behind the Bears with 1,000 meters to go, finished in third with a time of 5:45.820.

In the 2V8, Cal bested Wisconsin, 5:54.130 to 5:56.330, while also coming in first in the varsity four, with a time of 6:35.290. Cal finished third in the 3V8, but redeemed themselves in the 3V8 repechage — a consolation race — and finished first with a time of 6:04.730 to have all boats continue on to the semifinals.

On Saturday, the Bears once again advanced all boats to the next and final round. The results were more varied compared to an almost perfect day Friday, but Cal’s rowers still managed to place within the top three spots in each event.

The Bears got their only first-place finish in the day’s first race, securing the V8 with a time of 5:29.880 against Washington’s 5:32.620. The team followed its victory with a third-place finish in the 2V8, just behind Boston’s time of 5:38.090. Cal continued to slip in the 3V8, finishing in third at 5:44.780 but managed to put up a better showing in the V4, finishing at 6:22.79 for second place.

“Everyone made the final, we were only one of two schools to do that,” Teti said. “We had a boat in the final of every event, so I think that shows the depth of our program. I was really proud of how they all raced.”

The Bears ended the day victorious Sunday, not only winning the varsity eight title and overall National Championship, but also the silver medal in the freshman eight and bronze medals in the V4 and 2V8.

The championship-winning V8 team  — consisting of  Cox Julian Venonsky, Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk, Martin Mackovic, Maarten Hurkmans, Joachim Sutton, Niki Van Sprang, Ferdi Querfeld, Morgan Hellen and Alex Wallis — finished two seconds ahead of Yale, 5:38.710 to 5:40.700.

“The varsity eight race was pretty special. They’ve been consistent all year, winning the Pac-12 Championship and winning the National Championship,” Teti said. “That’s pretty hard to do both of them in one year, especially when the competition is there.”

The victory in West Windsor, New Jersey ended Washington’s nine-year Jim Ten Eyck title streak while also bringing the trophy to Berkeley for the first time since 2006.

Contact Chris Tril at [email protected].