Paradigm shift: Can No. 1 Cal take home Pac-12 championship for first time in 4 years?

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Men’s crew:

California vs. Washington. Cal vs. UW. Bears vs. Huskies. Blue and gold vs. purple and gold. Whatever you may call it, rivalries don’t get much bigger in the realm of rowing than the one between these two schools. This Sunday will test this rivalry as the Bears head up to Dexter Lake in Lowell, Oregon, to compete at the Pac-12 championships.

Since the inaugural Pac-12 championships in 1960, Cal and Washington combined have won 56 out of the 61 titles. On top of that, the Bears and Huskies are the only two teams to have won the Pac-12 championship since 1990.

No. 1 Cal will be racing against No. 5 UW, No. 10 Stanford, No. 18 Oregon State, USC, UCLA and Colorado. However, it is safe to say that despite the fact that there are seven total schools heading to Dexter Lake, this championship boils down to Cal and UW.

Notably, the Bears have placed second — behind the Huskies — for the past four years in a row. Additionally, they have only won one Pac-12 title since 2010. However, with the trajectory of this season, will Cal be able to secure the top spot?

The answer skews heavily in favor of the Bears. Not only are the blue and gold currently ranked above Washington, but Cal also dominated at the dual meet against UW. To make matters worse for the Huskies, the crew is coming off of a disappointing loss to the Netherlands at the Windermere Cup.

If Cal can secure this championship, it will be one step closer to closing the 24-title lead Washington has.

Women’s crew:

The women’s team has had a tougher season. Currently sitting at No. 10, the Bears are going to need to have used these past two weeks to completely transform if they want to challenge for a Pac-12 championships title.

Cal has two main hurdles it will need to overcome on Sunday: Stanford and Washington. The Cardinal have had an amazing season so far, maintaining the No. 2 spot for the past month. The No. 7 Huskies, on the other hand, have had a subpar season. However, at Cal’s most recent race, the dual meet against UW, the Huskies prevailed, making them a strong threat this Sunday.

The history of the women’s Pac-12 championships are just as intertwined with Washington.

Since the first championship in 1987, Cal and UW together have won 30 out of the 34 titles. The Huskies have an upper hand in the title race, however, with 18 wins, compared to the Bears’ 12. Despite claiming nine championships during a 11-year period between 2005 and 2016, Cal has lost the title to Washington for each of the past four championships.

This upcoming Sunday will be an opportunity for Cal to overcome the disappointments it has had so far this season.

Madison Lee covers men’s and women’s crew. Contact her at [email protected].