Bears Hit Second Place in NCAAs

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Crews build through the whole season, race by race, to win championships. They tweak lineups, make small adjustments in technique and work out the perfect plan for that long 2000-meter race. After hours of practice and thousands of strokes the season culminates in a short, six plus-minute race.

For Cal women's crew, that final race day came during Sunday's runner-up finish at the NCAA championships. All three of their best boats -- the varsity 8+, second varsity 8+ and varsity 4+ -- lined up at the starting line on Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif. With their legs at attention, the start was called and the race began.

The Bears faced their toughest competition this year in the grand finals, crossing the finish line in second, third and fourth place. The Cal women raced premiere collegiate crews from around the country, including Brown, Yale and Virginia.

When the Bears raced Saturday, their goal was to place top three in each of their races. In qualifying heats, the top three boats move on to the grand final and the bottom three boats move on to the petite final.

Over the course of the weekend the women's team managed to scoop up enough points for the second-place overall finish, a task that would not have been possible without all boats advancing to the grand final races.

"Cal and Virginia were the only programs to accomplish (getting all boats to the grand finals)," women's coach Dave O'Neill said. "So we knew the two of us had the best chance to win it all on Sunday."

The varsity 4+ (7:13.18) placed second behind Virginia (7:07:98) in the grand final giving Cal the advantage it needed to secure at least second in the overall points tally.

When the weekend came to an end and the points were tallied, the Bears came ended up five points behind the Cavaliers.

There's a common phrase coaches use in rowing: keep your head in the boat. The only thing a rower can change about the race is the effort and drive they put into every stroke.

O'Neill made it clear this season that each Cal crew takes to the water with one primary goal in mind: race the best piece possible in the boat you're in.

"We didn't want to rely on other crews placing between us and Virginia to win the championship," O'Neill said. "Unfortunately, we came up a bit short, but none of us have any regrets in how we prepared or performed."

The last time Cal won the NCAA championships was in 2006 when the Bears tied Brown. The year before that, Cal claimed the title alone -- beating Virginia by four points.

The women placed second at the NCAA championships last year as well, just three points shy of Stanford.

Just a few weeks ago, the Bears swept the Cardinal in a dual meet. Stanford placed fourth overall at the NCAA championships and posted a total of 75 points.


Contact Anna Hiatt at [email protected]

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