Cal women’s rowing kicked off its season in victorious fashion last weekend at the Las Vegas Invitational. Throughout two days of competition, the Bears claimed five of six races between their varsity four, varsity eight and second varsity eight.
The blue and gold’s road to their first regatta was not a smooth one, however. According to Cal women’s rowing head coach Al Acosta, the Bears dealt with last-minute COVID-19 complications, as one of their opponents’ boats that was set to compete had athletes who tested positive for COVID-19. The news resulted in lineup changes for Cal just days before racing.
In spite of this setback, the Bears swept the field of Washington State, San Diego and USC in their first day back. This included a narrow comeback victory from the varsity four, in which it narrowly beat runner-up Washington State, catching the Cougars with about 300 meters left before the finish. Despite the varsity four’s slow start, Acosta appreciated his rowers’ ability to recover.
“I was surprised when they were that far back after 1000 meters,” Acosta said. “To make up that amount of distance in that short of time is pretty impressive. It says a lot about how mentally tough [they] are.”
On Saturday, the varsity eight finished with a time of 6:21.91, the second varsity eight 6:33.48 and the varsity four 7:19.75.
Cal’s results were nearly identical against the Crimson Tide and the Trojans the following day, except the varsity four placed second to Alabama. On Sunday, both the varsity eight and the second varsity eight improved upon their times, hitting marks of 6:17.39 and 6:31.10, respectively. The Bears’ varsity four, meanwhile, took 7:22.33 to finish.
“They did great,” Acosta said. “They haven’t raced [in] a year and a half, so they were pretty excited to get out there and do it again, and they did a good job.”
Cal women’s rowing will next race April 24 when it hosts Stanford in Oakland for the Big Row.
But fear not, rowing fans. The men’s rowing team will be competing this weekend for the first time in more than a year — the Bears’ last race came Feb. 29, 2020, before their season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cal faces off with UC San Diego this Saturday in a dual competition that will take place on the Oakland Estuary.
“The guys are excited to race,” said Scott Frandsen, Cal men’s rowing head coach. “We have a lot of inter-squad competition and racing within the team, but there’s something different about lining up with a different opponent and racing. The guys haven’t had that for a long time.”
Frandsen and his rowers are all very excited to finally experience race week once again. The Bears will surely be looking to put their best paw forward this weekend to see how they produce after such a long hiatus — only after will they worry about making adjustments.
Saturday marks the first of three consecutive weekends of racing for Cal before it receives 15 days off to prepare for the Pac-12 Championships on May 16. Amid everything that has unfolded over the past year, Frandsen is simply happy to have the opportunity to compete and appreciates the remarkable people that helped make that opportunity a reality.
“[We’re] grateful to all of our administration, from [Cal Athletics Director] Jim Knowlton to all the people that have worked really hard to make it possible for our team to train and get through the ups and downs of this past year,” Frandsen said. “It’s really, really cool.”
Conner Parker covers rowing. Contact him at [email protected].
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a Cal women’s rowing athlete tested positive for COVID-19 before a race at the Las Vegas Invitational. In fact, it was not a Cal athlete who tested positive, but a member of another team.