There is truly no place like first. This Sunday, on Dexter Lake, Oregon, Cal men’s crew delivered at the Pac-12 championships: a top finish with 72 points. As expected, all five races came down to the Bears and Washington. To the Huskies’ demise, Cal ended their four-year reign, bringing home the blue and gold’s 16th Pac-12 title.
Setting the precedent for the day, the novice eight boat started the morning with a win. Despite a weaker start to Washington in the first 500 meters, the Bears dominated the remainder of the race, winning with a time of 5:44.98.
“When you see other members of your team win from behind, like the freshmen did, that just adds an element of confidence,” said Cal head coach Scott Frandsen.
The third varsity race started in a similar manner as the N8+, with an early Husky lead. This time however, the 3V8+ boat was unable to overcome the difference, finishing at second-place, less than a second behind Washington.
Luckily for the Bears, the varsity four boat snapped the team back into place. Maintaining a lead throughout the whole 2,000 meters, Cal made rowing look easy with a comfortable finish of 6:28.85, 13.6 seconds ahead of second-place Huskies.
It wouldn’t be a championship without a flare of drama, and the second varsity eights brought just that. What looked to be a Washington win for the first half, the Bears did not allow. Coming back to life in the second half, Cal made sure that the race came down to the last stroke. The Bears secured a win about 1/10 of a second ahead of the Huskies.
For the most important and final race of the day, the varsity eights rode the winning wave. Starting off strong with an early lead, Cal increased its advantage throughout the course, finishing the race with an open-water win.
In addition to a Pac-12 title, the Bears still have one opportunity remaining to continue its winning streak this year, at the IRA National Championships, the first weekend of June.
“The majority of the training is done,” Frandsen said. “We will just try to refine and get a little more efficient for a better time, and then we get ready to race. The next three weeks are going to fly by.”
The women’s team also showed up in Dexter Lake, but was unable to take down Stanford and Washington, finishing third overall.
Starting the day off with the novice eight race, Cal took an early lead. Unfortunately, as many good things do, the Bears’ dominating start quickly came to an end with the Cardinal and Huskies speeding past. Although Cal finished 10.79 seconds behind Washington and 10.83 seconds behind Stanford, it came in a colossal 46.45 seconds ahead of Washington State.
The 3V8+ boat also finished third, after overtaking the Trojans in the last stretch of the race. The varsity four mixed it up with the Bears’ only fourth-place finish of the day.
As if Cal had an attachment to the number three, the team placed third in its remaining 2V8+ and V8+ races of the day. This led to the Bears finishing the championships at third with 31.5 points. Even after this weekend, Cal has no time to rest. Qualifying for the NCAA championships from an at-large selection, the Bears will compete in Sarasota on May 27.
Madison Lee covers men’s and women’s crew. Contact her at [email protected].