Despite strong competition and unaccommodating weather, Cal women’s crew pulled through, placing sixth overall at the NCAA championships this weekend in Florida. After respectively finishing fourth, ninth and seventh for the V8+, 2V8+ and V4+ races, the Bears accumulated 101 points — just one point ahead of Brown and one point behind Yale.
Friday morning started off smoothly as the varsity eight boat set off on its first race of the regatta. After maintaining a second-place lead throughout the majority of the heat, Cal was looking to edge out Princeton for that first-place spot during the latter half of the race. Although the team was ultimately unable to do so, the Bears’ second-place finish secured them a ticket straight to the A/B semifinals.
The second varsity eights shared a similar fate. After a massive lead from Yale in the first 500 meters, the Bulldogs were ahead with a full-boat advantage. Despite fighting with Ohio for the second-place spot in the first couple minutes of the race, Cal gained speed and passed the Buckeyes around the 750-meter mark. Luckily for the Bears, they were able to maintain this lead, finishing second, and sending the blue and gold to the A/B semifinals.
For Cal’s final heat of the day, the varsity four boat secured an early second-place advantage. Passing the 500-meter mark, the Bears’ were just about one second behind Princeton and two seconds ahead of Brown. Unfortunately for Cal, it lost its lead to Brown shortly after, being pushed back to the third-place spot for the remaining 1,500 meters. This meant that the Bears would need to secure a top-two finish at the repechage race later that afternoon in order to race in the A/B semifinals.
Luckily for Cal, it maintained a first-place advantage ahead of SMU and Rutgers throughout the 2,000 meters. The Bears finished first in their respective repechage, allowing them to head straight to the A/B semifinals.
Despite unfortunate weather conditions, the blue and gold started Saturday off with a bang. All three boats needed to finish within the top three at the A/B semifinals in order to advance to the grand final. The varsity eight boat did just that. After maintaining a third-place spot for the majority of the race, the final 500 meters of the semifinal came down to a matter of less than a second.
The Longhorns finished first in open water, while the fight for second and third came down to Brown, Cal and Ohio. The Bears secured a third-place finish coming in .045 seconds after Brown, and .394 seconds ahead of the Buckeyes. Cal would head to the grand final on Sunday.
Unfortunately for both the second varsity eight and the varsity four boat, the two were unable to clench a top-three finish. This meant that both boats would not be able to make it to the grand final, but the petite final instead.
On the final day, Sunday, the varsity four competed in a nail-biting petite final. After a close race for the majority of the 2,000 meters, the Bears overtook Virginia in the last 10 seconds, placing first.
The 2V8+ petite final also ended in a close call. Cal barely secured third place after finishing only three hundredths of a second ahead of SMU, and four hundredths of a second ahead of Pennsylvania.
The most important race of the regatta, the varsity eight grand final, was set off with a lead from the reigning champion, Texas. Strong competition from both the Longhorns, Cardinal and Tigers led the Bears to finish fourth — less than one second behind Princeton. Despite a fourth-place finish, Cal poured out all it had, not only finishing ahead of the Huskies for the first time this season, but also finishing with its second-fastest time. Although it was not a perfect finish, the Bears indisputably concluded their season on a high note.
Men’s crew will be heading to Mercer Lake, New Jersey this weekend to conclude its squeaky clean rowing season at the IRA championships. Entering the regatta with a Pac-12 title and a perfect season, its opponents will need to bring something extraordinary if anyone wants a shot at taking on Cal.
Madison Lee covers men’s and women’s crew. Contact her at [email protected].