Bears face ranked challengers at Stanford and Lake Natoma invitationals

A group of athletes row one boat through the water.
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After wrapping up at the San Diego Crew Classic, the Bears are back in the water and hoping to return to the top of the leaderboards in two events: the men’s team at the Stanford Invitational in Redwood Shores, California, and the women’s team at the Lake Natoma Invitational in Gold River, California.

On Saturday and Sunday, Stanford will host its annual invitational, welcoming crews from Hobart College, Oregon State, Santa Clara, UC Davis, Wisconsin and Cal. On Saturday, the No. 4-ranked Cal men’s Varsity 8 is set to participate in races against the Aggies, No. 14-ranked Wisconsin and No. 22-ranked Hobart College, while the Second Varsity 8 challenges Hobart and Wisconsin. Lastly, the Bears’ Third Varsity 8 will share the water with Wisconsin and UC Davis.

Last week in San Diego, the Bears challenged Yale, last year’s IRA champions, and came up just short, losing by about seven seconds in the Copley Cup Final. The Bears will look to this weekend’s event in Redwood Shores to put the lessons they learned in their race against the Bulldogs into practice against other ranked crews from around the nation. Wins over crews from Wisconsin and Hobart would not only solidify Cal’s place as a top contender as the season progresses, but they would also help motivate the team as it returns to the first-place ways it demonstrated at the beginning of the spring campaign.

At the same time, the defending NCAA champions and No. 1-ranked Cal women’s crew will race in this year’s Lake Natoma Invitational against Sacramento State, Gonzaga, No. 10 Brown, No. 11 USC, Notre Dame, Miami University, Tulsa and No. 3 Stanford.

In San Diego, Cal dominated the preliminary races, earning first place in the heats for the Jessop-Whittier Cup Invitational, the Jackie Ann Stitt Hungness Trophy and the Karen Plumleigh Cortney Cup. Despite such impressive showings and the wide margins by which they led the competition, the Bears were ultimately unable to reclaim first in the finals, apart from the Jessop-Whittier Cup.

On Lake Natoma, Cal will race Stanford once again after trailing behind the Cardinal in last week’s Crew Classic. The Cardinal were able to edge out the Bears in the Women’s Collegiate 2V Jackie Ann Stitt Hungness Trophy finals, the Carley Copley Cup finals and the Karen Plumleigh Cortney Cup finals.

The Bears will use this year’s Lake Natoma Invitational as an opportunity to not only test themselves against Stanford once again, but also to measure up against other high-ranking and competitive crews such as Brown, with hopes of preserving their nationally recognized first-place ranking.

The San Diego Crew Classic proved to be a challenge for both the men’s and women’s teams, but it provided valuable lessons that the Bears will need to capitalize on. It is still early in the season, and Cal has plenty of opportunities to become faster, maintain its national ranking and pose a serious threat as a top contender going into the national championships in June.

John Trevor covers rowing. Contact him at [email protected].