Over the weekend, a uniquely challenging 2020-21 season came to an end for both the Cal men’s and women’s crew teams. Through COVID-19-induced logistical complications, opt-outs and a belated start to training, the Bears persevered and completed the season at their respective national competitions.
The men fared exceptionally well, placing second at the IRA National Championships in New Jersey. In doing so, the team earned its best finish at nationals since 2016. While the women had a less fruitful visit to the NCAA championships in Florida, their ninth-place finish comes with several silver lining: With only three seniors leaving the program, the Bears have a chance to develop their young team for next season.
On the men’s side, the blue and gold finished behind Washington, the only team that bested them at the Pac-12 championships. The Bears gave the Huskies a run for their money, falling just short in both the varsity eight grand final and the overall standings (360-344).
While they were of course looking for a win, the Bears will hold their heads high after putting up a valiant fight. This was the Huskies’ ninth straight time earning the James Ten Eyck Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the team that earns the most overall points. To have even challenged Washington’s rowing dynasty is a reason for pride.
Historically, a podium finish is familiar territory for the Bears at the IRA National Championships. This year marks Cal’s fourth time in the past six years securing a top-two finish in the battle for the James Ten Eyck Memorial Trophy.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment for the blue and gold came in the varsity four race. In the closing portion of the race, they faced a late challenge from Boston University. In a 200-meter duel, the Bears edged out the Terriers by exactly 0.2 seconds, locking up the silver medal.
The women’s team, meanwhile, exceeded expectations in several of its races. The varsity four placed significantly better than had been expected (placed 10th, seeded 14th) and the second varsity eight took ninth-place despite being seeded 10th.
The team’s ninth-place overall finish bodes well for next season, as all but two members of the varsity eight (Isabella Marshall and All-Pac-12 team member Kailani Marchak) will be returning next year. Additionally, only Jackie Hendricks will leave the varsity eight squad.
On top of that, Julianne Faralisch, a 2018 First Team All-American, will likely return after her time training with the German National Team and rehabilitating an injury. Similarly, sophomore Annabel Oertel, who was also a part of the German National Team and recovering from injury, is slated to rejoin the Bears’ roster.
With a large portion of its 2020-21 roster returning next season and a pair of major contributors coming back after a hiatus, Cal women’s crew team can look forward to an even stronger finish in its next campaign.
After clearing unprecedented hurdles over the course of the season, the Bears managed to impress at their national races in the final weekend of the season. With a full, uninterrupted season ahead of them, their potential is limitless; it’s possible they’ll begin to explore it upon the offseason’s conclusion.