Bears Clinch First, Second With Ailing Costello on Their Minds

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Season after season, the Cal crew teams have proved their preeminence. The squads have standout individuals, - rowers and coxswains who received invitations to train at the National Under-23 Team camp, but it's the depth of talent on the squad - that keeps the Bears' national rankings high every year.

The women's squad posted winning times consistently throughout the season to maintain a first-place ranking.

After taking first at the Pac-10 championships, the women moved on to the NCAA championships. There, they faced crews from the East Coast, ultimately falling to Virginia as runners-up on May 30.

"We all raced as hard as we could, and that is all I could ask for," women's captain Mary Jehgers said. "Knowing that we trained and raced as hard with no regrets was a perfect ending."

A week later the men traveled to Camden, N.J., to compete in the IRA Regatta, the men's equivalent to the NCAA championships in rowing.

In the most important race of the season, the men captured first place against Washington.

After a promising start to their season at March's San Diego Crew Classic - where the men won the Copley Cup for the varsity eight category - their losses against the Huskies at their dual meet were disheartening.

"It's an emotional race. It absolutely is. It's frustrating," senior men's coxswain Zachary Vlahos said afterwards. "But that being said, it's how you come back from it. I want to make sure that we bounce back and get right back to work."

Over the next weeks of racing, the men chipped away at the Huskies lead. During the season's final race in Camden, the Cal men's crew team edged out the Huskies by .263 seconds to take first place at IRA in varsity eights.

As coxswain, Vlahos' job was to inspire his team to work harder, be better, finish stronger and cross the finish line faster.

This year, the team got an extra push from women's coxswain Jill Costello. Her ongoing battle against stage IV lung cancer motivated the team throughout the hardest parts of the season. Whether she was on the racecourse with them or not, Costello was in their thoughts.

"I think that Jill has taught our team that we all have to come together and do it as a team, instead of an individual standout," Jehgers said.

From the February footrace Jog for Jill - a fundraiser for the fight against lung cancer - to the dual meet against Stanford to the motivation each individual Cal rower has found in their teammate's battle, this season has been dedicated to Costello.

"(Costello) was in our minds the whole day," Vlahos said after the Stanford duel. "The whole thing was dedicated to her."

Now that the season is over, five Cal rowers, including Vlahos, men's rower Nareg Guregian and women's captain Mary Jehgers, are off to training camp for the 2010 National Under-23 Team.

"The competition this year is extremely aggressive," Jehgers wrote from training camp on the East Coast. "It is a great experience to get to row with the best collegiate rowers around the country, which only makes you better."

After a summer of racing and training with a premiere group of rowers, Jehgers will return to Cal as a senior.

Spurred on by the newest crop of incoming freshman and a gaggle of "feisty seniors," Jehgers already got her sights set on next year.

Tags: CAL MEN'S CREW, CAL WOMEN'S CREW


Contact Anna Hiatt at [email protected]



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