Bears Barely Hang On to Win Conference Crown
Monday, May 18, 2009
Category: Sports > Spring > Crew (Men's)
After a rough start to the Pac-10 championships at Lake Natoma in Sacramento, Calif., the No. 3 Cal men's varsity eight edged No. 4 Stanford and No. 2 Washington by a nose to capture its third conference championship in the last five years.
Three weeks after the Bears were swept by the Huskies in the Cal-Washington duel, they on the brink of another domination by Washington. The Huskies already had gold medals in the varsity four, freshman eight and junior varsity eight events earlier in the day, and they were just 500 meters away from the sweep.
But the Cal varsity eight helped the team avoid that fate with a winning time of 5:41.58, out-lasting Stanford, 5:42.68, and Washington, 5:43.39.
"It was hard for me to see the race so close for so long," coach Mike Teti said, "but it says a lot about the nine guys in that boat. What we know for sure is that these three teams are very close in talent. I give a lot of credit to our guys for fending off every challenge posed by Washington and Stanford, and I am very happy with the result."
Sophomore stroke Nick Lucey led the Bears past their west coast rivals in what turned out to be a close race to the end.
With all three crews within one second of one another coming into the final 500 meters of the 2000 meter race, Lucey was able to help give Cal that extra burst of speed needed to stay ahead of the dangerous seven boat field closing in on them.
"Nick is not a natural stroke, but he's such a tough guy," Teti said. "He's the guy I have the most confidence in on the team. I have him in there because he won't give up and he's either going to win the race or go down swimming."
Like last year's grand final, Cal again had a small lead on the field with 500 meters to go.
Last time, the Huskies were able to surprise Cal by sprinting past them, taking the gold and leaving the Bears asking themselves where things went wrong. This time, Lucey and the Bears held off all challengers and secured the gold.
"We never talked about last year's race, but it was in the back of everyone's mind," Lucey said. "We knew going into the race that it would come down to the wire."
While Cal will surely enjoy the win, the Bears understand that they have been training all season long with one goal: claiming their 16th IRA national championship.
"We definitely need to continue to work hard and smooth things out," Lucey said. "We didn't row a perfect race this weekend and considering the results were so close, we understand that nothing has been won yet.
"You don't get any points for winning the Pac-10s, so we'll definitely have our work cut out for us before the IRAs."
Contact Danny Freisinger at [email protected]
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