Second-Half Fade Drops Cal at NCAAs





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The story of the Cal women's crew's season is best told by its finish.

A furious start, a steady follow-up and a slow fade down the stretch.

After racing Brown in a near-dead heat for the first 1000 meters, the Bears watched the eventual champion slip away over the final 1000 and Washington and Virginia pass by to drop Cal into fourth place at the NCAA Women's Rowing Championships in Cherry Hill, N.J., Sunday.

After beginning the season ranked second in the nation, the Bears hovered between third and fifth for most of the year before settling to fourth following the title race in the Garden State's Cooper River.

See how they come in threes?

"We went for the win today and I am proud that we challenged Brown in the first part of the race," Cal coach Dave O'Neill said. "With the quality of teams there, you're not going to pull a big come-from-behind victory."

In the varsity eight race, the Bears trailed Brown by as little as two seats at 750 meters, and were behind by 1.25 seconds at the 1000-meter mark. At 1500 Brown had pulled ahead by a boat-length and Virginia and Cal were even, with Washington beginning to make a run. The Bears finished the race with a time of 6:46.50, behind Brown (6:37.20), the Huskies (6:41.10) and the Cavaliers (6:42.79).

Cal's varsity four and junior varsity eight boats finished fourth and sixth, respectively, to give the Bears fourth place in the overall competition as well.

Still, the finish isn't a disappointment for Cal. For the second consecutive year, the Bears garnered a team berth in the championships, and the varsity eight only fell off slightly from last year's bronze-medal finish. O'Neill believes his crew has proven itself a legitimate rowing powerhouse.

"With all three of our crews earning spots in the grand finals, this year's team has established itself as one of the elite programs in the country," O'Neill said.

In fact, the Bears' increased depth translated into an improved overall team finish this year. The JV eight and varsity four made up for the varsity eight's dropoff from '99 to improve the team finish two spots from last year's sixth-place showing.

In the qualifying heat Friday, Cal's varsity eight finished second behind Brown to secure a spot in the next day's semifinals. The Bears finished second again in that race - this time to Washington - to qualify for Sunday's grand finals.

The other two crews also cruised through qualifying trials to make the finals.

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