Cal men’s crew, still training apart, works toward spring 2021 season

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After the men’s rowing season was cut short in mid-March because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rowers continue to sit on the sideline, awaiting clearance to practice together as a team.

What had been a strong start to their 2020 spring season quickly flamed out as some of the most important races — the dual against Washington, the San Diego Crew Classic, the Pac-12 championship and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association, or IRA, National Championship — were canceled one after another. Now the team is looking to get back on track toward another championship run in spring 2021.

Men’s rowing is not actually governed by the NCAA but is rather part of the IRA. Nonetheless, the team is following COVID-19 protocols that closely mirror those of NCAA sports.

According to head coach Scott Frandsen, roughly 25 rowers are in Berkeley, while about 30 are spread out throughout the world. Team members are only able to train on their own at home, with a local club or with their respective national teams. This lack of unity has made it increasingly difficult for the team to coordinate its training efforts. Frandsen is emphasizing the importance of communication among rowers, which mainly occurs during the team’s Zoom meetings every Friday.

“Everybody on the team needs to be on the same page and trust that the work is being done,” Frandsen said. “If the work isn’t getting done in the fall, we have zero chance of winning in the spring.”

Looking ahead, Frandsen believes that the team’s most important races in the spring are likely to happen, and he is still holding out hope to be able to train in a large capacity for the team’s winter camp, which is usually held in January.

In the meantime, it is up to the rowers themselves to follow their training regimens and be prepared to compete in the future.

“Whoever is dealing with these challenges better is going to be in a position to win in the spring,” Frandsen said. “That’s what I continue to drive home: We need to be getting solid work in the fall.”

While other national championship contenders such as Washington and Yale have been able to train as a team, Cal has not. However, Frandsen has faith in each individual’s training efforts as well as in the team’s ability to overcome setbacks brought on by the pandemic once the members are able to eventually train together again.

“As long as we’re not starting from square one, we will be fine,” he said. “Our guys are being resilient through it.”

In the end, it remains a challenging time for the men’s rowing team. The uncertainties of the future and the isolation from other members of the team have been weighing down on the rowers.

“It’s optimistic to say that they’re not struggling in all capacities, in classes being online and training being cut short or eliminated and not having that community to interact with on a daily basis,” Frandsen said. “They miss it. They miss it absolutely.”

Alex Wang covers rowing. Contact him at [email protected].