Both the men’s and women’s rowing teams will compete this weekend in their final regatta of the season. This weekend, the Bears will finally get a chance to do what they look forward to every season, and what they didn’t have the chance to do last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic: win a national championship.
The men’s rowing team will be competing in the 2021 IRA National Championships on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, New Jersey. Cal’s crew represents one of 31 crews selected across the country to race in the event. Seeking their 18th IRA national championship and first since 2016, the Bears are eager to add hardware to their bloated trophy case.
This year, the IRA National Championships — traditionally a three-day event — have been trimmed down to a two-day event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Time trials will begin the morning of Friday, May 28, followed by semifinals that evening. The finals will be held Saturday, May 29.
The Bears arrived in New Jersey on Saturday evening and have been training their usual two workouts per day since then, according to senior rower Jack Robertson. Robertson also detailed the atmosphere surrounding the team in the days leading up to the biggest race of the season.
“Very positive,” Robertson said. “A lot of the younger, newer guys who didn’t have an opportunity to race at their first national championship last year, as well the guys who just joined us this year — they’re really excited to compete on a national stage. And then the older guys who have been there before are excited to have one last crack at winning a national championship.”
There will be no spectators in attendance on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, all races will be broadcasted live on YouTube.
Similarly, the women’s team will be competing on the East Coast, but on its southern end. The crew will compete this weekend in the NCAA championships at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida.
This marks the 21st consecutive time that the Cal women’s rowing team has been selected to attend the NCAAs. The Bears were ranked as the eighth seed in the varsity eight, the 10th seed in the second varsity eight and the 14th seed in the varsity four.
Senior Isabella Marshall detailed what she would regard as a successful regatta this weekend.
“It would be a successful weekend if we all came off the water feeling like we executed the way that we’ve been practicing and just felt really good about our races regardless of the place,” Marshall said. “We’re going to do pretty well this weekend. If everybody goes as hard as they can and just executes what we’ve been practicing, then I think we should have a really good weekend.”
Although they placed third in the Pac-12 championships this year, the Bears will be looking to win this weekend. The team holds two of the past four NCAA titles to its name and should not be underestimated.
The NCAA championships begin Friday, May 28 at 6 a.m. PST. The semifinals will be Saturday, followed by the finals which are to take place Sunday.
The NCAA championships will be livestreamed on NCAA.com.