Atop the Nation for Most of 2008, the Bears' Season Ended in Bittersweet Fashion

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They may not have won the national championship, but the members of the Cal women's rowing team are pleased with their season as a whole.

Taking third as a team at this year's NCAA Women's Rowing Championships was not the ultimate goal-they wanted to nab the program's third title in four years. However, third in the nation is nothing to complain about.

"Despite a finish that was not quite what we had hoped for, the season was quite an amazing experience," senior Summer Ohlendorf said. "The NCAA results were indicative of our season in the sense that it was a whole team effort."

The Bears varsity boat went undefeated until they reached the NCAA championship, where they fell to Yale in the semifinals and took fourth in the grand finals.

At the first race of the season, the Pac-10 Challenge, the crew established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, nabbing wins over Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Virginia. They proceeded to win convincingly in duals against Texas, Washington and Stanford.

Keeping up the undefeated record and staying consistently in the No. 1 position in the rankings took a certain kind of attitude.

"We've done a great job of showing up every day ready to race and enjoying the process," said Ohlendorf. "One of the themes of the year has been to focus on the effort, then evaluate the results."

While they may have gone into the national championship with an 8-0 record and the No. 1 ranking, Cal's varsity eight was not able to live up to their billing, falling to the defending champion Bulldogs, the Cardinal (whom they defeated twice during the season) and Brown.

The Bears' second varsity and varsity four did not fare as well as the varsity eight during the season, losing most of their races. However, at the Pac-10 Championship, the Bears' second boat won the title and the four took second, and at NCAAs, they took sixth and fourth, respectively.

The results at Pac-10s were enough to garner Cal a team victory, but the team's performance at NCAAs was only good enough for third, as they fell to defending team champions Brown, who took third in the varsity eight, first in the second varsity eight and third in the varsity four, and a surprising Washington, who took fifth in the varsity eight, third in the second varsity eight, and first in the varsity four.

While they could not find the speed to take the title, the Bears seem content with their performance.

"A third-place finish at NCAAs is a title to be extremely proud of in the competitive field of women's rowing," sophomore coxswain Jill Costello said. "Every year, teams get faster and faster."

Unlike other sports in which one or two individuals can determine the outcome of a game, crew depends on the efforts of nine people. For Cal, taking third in the nation as a team depended on the efforts of the entire squad.

"More this year than any other, our high team finish didn't hinge on the performance of any one boat," said Ohlendorf. "It took commitment from every person on the squad."


Contact Olivia Lasky at [email protected]

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