Bears Bring Back Bronze from IRAs

Varsity Boat Finishes Third Place Behind Washington and Wisconsin

Photo: Cal men's crew took home the bronze as its varsity boat came in third with a time of 5:39.021, eight seconds behind the golden mark.
Nick Fradkin/File
Cal men's crew took home the bronze as its varsity boat came in third with a time of 5:39.021, eight seconds behind the golden mark.

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Note: This is not the story of David and Goliath.

On Saturday in Camden, N.J., it was the story of one undefeated team taking down another unbeaten in the varsity eight grand final in this year's IRA championship.

2007 was the year of Washington, and it appeared throughout the season that 2008 would be a repeat. The Huskies varsity eight shell crossed the finish line first in every race except on Saturday. Their perfect season was spoiled by Wisconsin, who completed their undefeated run to the IRA gold. The Badger boat finished just over a second half ahead of Washington (5:31.173-5:32.894).

The Cal varsity boat rowed their way to the bronze medal with a time of 5:39.021. The Bears were able to match the eventual winners' speed for a while but was unable to maintain a gold-medal pace.

"Our guys gave full measure," Coach Steve Gladstone said. "It was a very strong performance given where we were coming from."

Cal was coming from a losing streak that spanned all the way back to the second regatta of the season. In rowing, a successful season is defined by the finish at the IRA's, and this year's third-place finish is the result that matters most. In Gladstone's second coaching stint at Cal, his varsity crews have claimed medals in 11 out of 12 years.

The Bears' second varsity shell captured the silver medal in its grand final, finishing behind the Huskies (5:41.350-5:39.308). Yet, the Cal oarsmen still had to give their shirts to their winning Washington counterparts.

"It was a very bittersweet feeling," sophomore Benedict Tufnell said. "We were not disappointed with our result. We don't regret anything about it. We knew that we couldn't have raced any better. We left our best strokes on the race course."

The freshmen eight also left their best strokes on the course. The freshmen boat, which has had an up-and-down year, was able to repeat as national champions. The Bears, who finished six seconds behind Washington at the Pac-10 championships on May 18th, were able to overtake the Huskies' quest for another gold winning by a half second (5:37.372-5:37.880).

Overall, the Cal crew took second in the team competition. With his crew taking home national medals, Gladstone seemed content. For a coach who is accustomed to national gold, though, this season might have been a learning experience.

"Without question, this has been the most challenging year I have had at Cal," he said. "There were times of intense discouragement, but I never doubted us. This was a very, very strong result."

His postseason rest lasted all of three questions before he began looking forward to next season.

"This year's sophomores have matured tremendously," Gladstone said. "You put that group with some of the freshmen, and I could see us being number one next year. But you never know."


Contact Joseph Cannon at [email protected]

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