It’s like the saying goes, “first is the worst, second is the best”.
Coming back from an impressive second place finish at both the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championships and the Pac-12 Conference Championships in 2021, there is no argument that Cal men’s rowing is anything short of successful and experienced. However, the team was still unable to secure the number one spot, as it fell short to the University of Washington.
Will the Bears reign supreme this upcoming season in one of the biggest rivalries in collegiate rowing? Kickstarting its season at both the Lake Las Vegas Collegiate Invitational and California Challenge Cup, this weekend may be an opportunity for Cal to help answer this question.
“Every year is different, and we definitely have approached the last eight months to try and pick up speed, and challenge everybody,” said head coach Frandsen. “It’s been a really productive period, and the guys are all excited.”
The Varsity and Second Varsity eights will begin their season on Saturday, in Henderson, Nevada, to compete in the Las Vegas Invitational. The last time the Bears rowed the waters of Lake Las Vegas was in 2020, in which they ended with a remarkable win across all four of their races.
This year, however, the Bears may face a couple metophorical (and physical) bumps along the way. In contrast to the near-perfect weather conditions during the 2020 Invitational, Henderson is projected to have moderate 10 mph winds this weekend –– which may or may not hinder the Bears, depending on the direction the wind blows.
The blue and gold are scheduled to race against five schools, with the most threatening being Cal’s across-state rival: Oregon State. The Beavers ended their 2021 season just behind the Bears, coming in third at the Pac-12 Championships.
Closer to home in Newport Beach, Cal’s Third Varsity and Freshman eights will be rowing at the California Challenge Cup. For the first time in two years, the Bears will once again have the opportunity to row with teams from all over the state. Similarly to the Las Vegas Invitational, Cal finished ahead of its competitors in every single race, with the most recent being the 2020 California Challenge.
Participating in such an event allows for Cal to row against schools outside of the Pac-12, including UCI and UCSD.
High expectations for Cal men’s crew is nothing unprecedented. With incoming freshmen, such as Gennaro Alberto Di Mauro, entering the fray, the season is looking exceptionally bright for the Bears. Gaining global recognition before even stepping foot in Berkeley, Di Mauro competed in the 2020 Summer Olympics for Italy. The 6’10 rower participated in the men’s single sculls event, placing eighth overall.
“Gi Mauro’s brought Olympic level talent,” Frandsen said. “But there hasn’t been an ego about it, which has been just awesome to see. He’s just excited to be here and to be contributing to the team – which he definitely is.”
Especially with new additions to the team, Cal men’s rowing is poised to have an undoubtedly interesting season ahead.