Cal's Varsity Eight Edges Washington for IRA Title

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Every stroke of a crew race is pain. The closer your boat edges to the finish line the more tempting it is to let up for just one stroke.

The strength of will required to keep slamming your legs down, stroke after stroke, until the very end is what sets the best crews ahead of the rest.

In the second half of their grand final race at last weekend's championship regatta, the Cal varsity eight found that inner power.

The then-No. 2 Bears narrowly defeated then-No. 1 Washington in the men's varsity eight grand finals at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta by 0.263 seconds. For the first time since 2006, the Cal men won IRAs.

"To do that was a dream come true," senior coxswain Zachary Vlahos said.

Prior to their last match-up at IRAs, the Bears had not beaten the Huskies this year. The two teams competed in a dual meet in the end of April and lost all four races-varsity eight, second eight, varsity four and the novice eight.

"I think this year coming into the IRA I felt like I had nothing to lose. It was my last race, I wanted to have my best race possible," Vlahos said.

Their loses against Washington in their dual meet and at the Pac-10 championships were great motivators. But it wasn't just the disappoint of loss that spurred on the men's varsity rowers.

Vlahos reminded his rowers that more than half of them were graduating and would not return to the IRA race course in Camden next year. He talked about Cal's loss at the 2009 IRAs by 0.89 seconds to Washington.

And he reminded them that women's coxswain Jill Costello, who has been struggling with stage IV lung cancer for the past year, was at home in California supporting her teammates on the men's squad.

"We've been in contact with Costello the entire time we've been here. We took a big push for her in the second half of the race," Vlahos said.

A month ago, while the team was still in the heart of racing season, men's coach Mike Teti talked about increasing boat speed.

"I don't have a magic wand where I can all of a sudden get four seconds faster," he said.

In the end it was something a little more than training that got the Bears across the finish line first. On Saturday, in the varsity eight's grand final race, a lot of training, a few cathartic words and just a little bit of luck pushed Cal's bow ball ahead of the Huskies'.

"I think we got a little bit lucky. I think we needed a little bit of luck to win," senior coxswain Zachary Vlahos said.

The men's varsity eight claimed the only title of the weekend for Cal. The Bears raced five boats in total: a second varsity eight that placed sixth, a varsity four that placed fourth, a novice eight that placed second and an open four that placed fifth.


Contact Anna Hiatt at [email protected]

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