The Daily Californian Online

Vlahos Leads Bears to Sweep of Stanford

By Danny Freisinger
Contributing Writer
Monday, May 4, 2009
Category: Sports > Spring > Crew (Men's)

After a disappointing weekend in Washington, the Cal men's crew team, led by junior coxswain Zachary Vlahos, bounced back in dominating fashion with a sweep over Stanford in the Big Row.

The Bears, who were upset by their cross-bay rival in last year's battle for the Schwabacher Cup, were victorious in the varsity, junior varsity and freshman events at Redwood Shores Lagoon in Redwood City, Calif.

"Last weekend was tough and no one was too happy about it," Vlahos said. "As the week went on, the team started to focus on our dual against Stanford more and more. We knew if we approached this race the right way we could get our spirits back, which would be huge with so much of the season still left."

In the first event of the day, the Cal varsity boat never trailed, winning the race by over 4.5 seconds.

The strong start, Vlahos said, was crucial.

"It's always hard to come from behind," he said. "Getting a lead can be huge come race time. I think it's much more important to have a lead in a two-boat race, as opposed to a six-boat race, which we'll see soon at the Pac-10s."

Vlahos has been in and out of the varsity eight this year, alternating in each spring race with senior Mike Porter.

His success as a coxswain dates back to high school, where he won a national championship with the Oakland Strokes. He also tried out for the junior national team three times, making team his junior and senior years.

"It was fun to go race over seas against other countries, but coming to Cal was a whole new experience," Vlahos said. "The way each practice is approached is so much different from any high school team or national team I've ever been on."

After former Bears coach Steve Gladstone announced his retirement, the team brought in Mike Teti, who took the job after coaching the U.S. men's Olympic crew in 2004 and 2008.

A coach like Teti is a perfect fit for Vlahos, especially if he hopes to one day cox a boat in the Olympics.

"Teti is an amazing coach," Vlahos said. "He has really pushed me as a coxswain this year. He has wanted me to be as effective as possible at my seat and has put the pressure on me all year to be the best I can. His high expectations have really helped me improve."

Vlahos will battle Porter for the spot in the Varsity boat with two major races left in the year. On May 16, Cal, Stanford and Washington will meet for the Pac-10 championships at Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif., where they will compete for the top seed in the national championships.

"Our next goal is to win the Pac-10s," Vlahos said. "Our eventual goal is to obviously win a national championship, but we have to take it one step at a time. This weekend, all we wanted to do was beat Stanford and we did that. So if we take that day-by-day attitude into every race, we'll definitely perform our best."

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