The Daily Californian Online

Pac-10 Powers Clash at Lake Natoma For Conference Championships

By Danny Freisinger
Contributing Writer
Friday, May 15, 2009
Category: Sports > Spring > Crew (Men's)

No. 2 Washington not only swept the No. 3 Cal men's crew team in Seattle just three weeks ago, and it also edged the Bears out in the final quarter of the race in last year's Pac-10 championships.

Cal has an opportunity to avenge its West Coast rival this Sunday at the Pac-10 rowing championships at Lake Natoma in Sacramento, Calif.

"It will fun to race against Washington again," junior Brandon Shald said. "The fact that we lost to them definitely motivates us a bit more. But this weekend is just a great opportunity to see where we stand against the top crews, especially with the IRA's in a few weeks."

With mixed results in their early spring season, the Bears look to settle down and figure out roughly where they stand nationally with just two weeks remaining before the IRA national championships.

"If we were to win, it would show us we've been doing the right work," said Shald. "If we lose, it will just give us an opportunity to see what we need to fix before the IRAs."

Yet win or lose, Cal is preparing itself like it never has before.

For the first time, the ECAC and the IRA Board of Stewards decided to move the IRA championships from its normal venue in the eastern U.S. -- where the championships have been held for several decades -- to Lake Natoma, where the Pac-10's are being held this weekend.

Not only do the Bears have an advantage racing at the same venue they'll be racing at on June 4th, but they also avoid traveling across the country and having to compete in an unfamiliar environment.

"I definitely don't think it's going to hurt us racing here," Shald said. "We've been training the whole year for the IRA so I don't really buy into the home race advantage. We don't care where we're racing. It might be nice to have friends and family before and after races, but during a race, there's no advantage being near home."

Lake Natoma, known as one of the most beautiful courses in the country, is also renowned for its calm conditions and level of fairness from lanes 1-7.

"Lake Natoma has a pretty amazing venue," Shald said. "It's clean crisp water, and it's peaceful. It will be hot like New Jersey was, but the air will be dry. I'm definitely going to enjoy myself more at Natoma compared to a cramped and humid place like Cherry Hill."

The Bears will have their hands full come Sunday, when four nationally ranked teams will go up against one another. Aside from Washington, Cal has to face Stanford, which is tied with Harvard for the No. 4 ranking, as well as No. 16 Oregon State.

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