Crew Leaves Tar Heels in Its Wake

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OAKLAND - The Cal women's crew team rebounded from a rocky start to defeat North Carolina in its first race of the season at the Oakland Estuary Saturday.

The Bears held a short lead midway through the 2000-meter race, but pulled away in the last half of the race to finish strong with a time of 7:21.93, 17 seconds better than North Carolina's 7:39.08. It was the first official race for Cal, which finished third in the NCAA championships last year.

Despite the slow start, the sound victory marked an important step for the Bears.

"It took our varsity about 1000 meters to get into a groove, then they took off," Bears coach Dave O'Neill said. "I would attribute that to first-game jitters. North Carolina is a developing crew, so it was a good first test. We did everything we needed at this stage of the season."

The Tar Heels - not known as a powerhouse in crew - nevertheless started strong but were soon matched by the quicker Cal squad.

"Off the line, we figured that North Carolina would be a little quicker, so we came from behind," junior coxswain Kelly Reed said.

While this was the Bears' first race of the season, the Tar Heels have raced four times previously in the past eight days. Despite the recent races, O'Neill did not think North Carolina was affected by fatigue.

"They knew we were the most important race for them," O'Neill said. "If there was fatigue involved, that would have been outweighed by emotion."

In addition, Cal seemed to match up well with the bigger Tar Heels team.

"We are smaller than UNC, which is a big factor in rowing," Reed said.

The endurance of Cal also showed in the last half of the race, where they convincingly pulled ahead of North Carolina through the finish.

"We are pretty fit," said senior Blake Likins, who rowed three seat in Saturday's victory. "The less than ideal conditions made it a challenge, but we rose up to that challenge."

The race was also critical for the Bears, who recently switched senior Elizabeth Powell to rowing starboard after rowing port for eight years. Due to the imbalance in the number of starboard and port rowers, O'Neill felt it was necessary to switch Powell to put in the eight strongest rowers. He approached Powell about the switch, and the move seemed to work out well in Saturday's race.

"Liz has really stepped up for the team and proven herself to be a valuable asset to the team," Likins said.


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