Sunday morning, men’s crew swept the Intercollegiate Rowing Association, or IRA, championships for the first time in Cal history, becoming back-to-back champions.
At the IRAs, Cal had four boats competing: three varsity eight crews, as well as a varsity four. All of the crews placed first, gaining a total score of 288 points — a perfect score — earning the James Ten Eyck Memorial Trophy.
“Just as it all settles in, I’m really proud of the team and how all of the boats raced,” said head coach Scott Frandsen. “(I’m) just thrilled for the experience that the guys all got to have and the memories that they will have together of rising to the challenge and racing really well when the pressure was on.”
The first boat to win its respective event was the V4+ on Saturday, which Frandsen said kickstarted the energy the Bears needed for the weekend.
The 3V8+ followed suit with a time of 5:42.22, beating both Harvard and Washington. Cal had lost to the latter of the two during regular season dual races. The blue and gold were able to get their nose out in front of the crimson and hold them off for a win by four-tenths of a second.
Having their most dominant race of the season, the 2V8+ had the race in control from the first stroke, beating their main rival Washington with a time of 5:39.60 to Washington’s 5:42.07.
The V8+ crew had a vast amount of pressure to finish the sweep off, gain the back-to-back championship and row their race plan the best they could. The boat moved out quickly with close racing. The Bears were leading from the first stroke and pushed away well in the middle of the race to win by three-fourths of a length.
“We got off to a really good start and then our plan was just to build through the race and keep putting pressure on the other crews to have to respond to us which we were able to do really well through the second and third 500,” said V8+ rower Angus Dawson. “Then, just before the fourth 500, Washington put on a move. We were able to maintain our lane, which was good, but the last 150 meters could not have come soon enough.”
The last time Cal won back-to-back championships was from 1999-2002, when the blue and gold clinched four national championships in a row — when Frandsen was out on the water as an athlete for the Bears.
This makes the 2023 championship Frandsen’s sixth overall win, with three national titles as a student athlete along with three titles as a coach.
“The emotion and nerve doesn’t change for me, at least as an athlete or a coach, because I know how hard it is to be in that boat and perform under pressure, but then also (you get) the memories that you take with you for the rest of your life,” Frandsen said.
With the season now coming to a close, the next step for the blue and gold is rest and recruitment. Last summer, the Bears extended their season to include the Henley Royal Regatta after IRAs. Instead, this summer the team will be taking a few weeks of rest as the coaches begin the recruitment process.
The 2023-24 season is going to see a whole new group of rowers as the Bears lose a portion of their team to graduation, while others will be taking the next year off to trial for the Olympics in 2024.
Dawson will be among as many as six rowers taking a leave of absence for the 2024 Games, giving younger teammates or incoming recruits the opportunity to move up quickly into the open seats on the upper boats.
Looking ahead to next season, Frandsen said he looks forward to the challenge of reestablishing team culture and developing the new recruits to continue their successful run.