Small Step Down Followed by Big Row Rivalry

After Losing Its Top Spot in the Poll, the Varsity Eight Meet the No. 8 Cardinal at Redwood Shores

Photo: Cal women's crew dropped to No. 2 in the nation despite a win over No. 15 Washington. The varsity eight face Stanford on Saturday.
Nick Fradkin/File
Cal women's crew dropped to No. 2 in the nation despite a win over No. 15 Washington. The varsity eight face Stanford on Saturday.





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Number one no longer.

Sandwiched between defending national champion Yale and an unexpectedly fast Washington State, Cal women's crew has fallen to the No. 2 spot in the nation.

Now, this is nothing to complain about for the Bears. The team is undefeated, has a consistent and fast varsity lineup, and anticipates a surge of speed going into the Pac-10 championships. However, after a less than convincing win over No. 15 Washington last weekend, Cal dropped to No. 2 in this week's Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association/US Rowing Poll.

But the Bears aren't letting the rankings get to them. The Cal varsity eight battles No. 8 Stanford in the Big Row this Saturday at 9:30 a.m., and they plan on racing the way they always do: going out hard, being calm and staying internal.

"We don't race another team as much as we race ourselves," sophomore Kirsten Campbell said. "It shouldn't matter who we're racing or how they're doing as long as we're being 'Cal.'"

The Bears may be focusing on themselves for now, but they should be wary of a speedy Cardinal boat. Stanford raced two weekends ago at its own Stanford Invitational, handily defeating UCLA and USC but falling by two seconds to the upstart Cougars.

Despite this loss to now-No. 3 Washington State, the Cardinal is still a force to be reckoned with.

The Stanford varsity eight is under the guidance of former U.S. National Team member and world champion coxswain Yaz Farooq, who led the Cardinal to a silver medal at the 2007 Pac-10 championships, topping third-place Cal.

"We're looking forward to putting it together on Saturday," Cal coach Dave O'Neill said. "We expect Stanford's varsity to be quite good, so I'm glad we've got a good crew, as well. It ought to be a great race."

Although the historic rivalry between the two schools doesn't extend into this race as much as it does the Big Game, for example, the race will be a fierce battle nonetheless.

"Just being a California Bear makes it an intense rivalry," senior Mara Allen said. "Although in the crew world, it's supposed to be against (Washington), the rest of the school spirit rubs off on you."

The Big Row is the last home race at Redwood Shores for Cal's six seniors, four of whom are in the varsity boat.

"The seniors on the team have done a great job during their tenure at Cal," O'Neill said. "They were part of NCAA champion teams as freshmen and sophomores, and their leadership has been really important this year."

Leaders like co-captain Allen, who has been in the varsity eight since her freshman year, are key to the Bears' success this year. Having experienced rowers in every boat is imperative for success at the collegiate level.

However, even with all her experience and success over the years, Allen maintains a practical attitude about the upcoming races.

"Even though we've been successful so far, it's so hard to make sure we're still doing everything right," Allen said. "We'll be able to answer that question a little bit more after Saturday. If we keep our heads in the boat and race really hard, hopefully we'll succeed."

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Contact Olivia Lasky at [email protected]



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