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Berkeley crew sweeps varsity races at home

By Jared Green, Daily Planet Staff
Monday March 25, 2002

Novice boats finish second 


\The Berkeley High crew team hosted its first league meet on Saturday, winning both varsity-eight races against Los Gatos and Stockton. 

Both varsity squads won fairly easily, the boys by nearly five seconds and the girls by more than three seconds. The closest race of the day came from the freshman girls eights, with Los Gatos and the ’Jackets racing side-by-side until the final 70 meters of the 2000-meter race, with Los Gatos pulling away at the end for a two-second victory. Los Gatos duplicated the win on the boys’ side, beating the Berkeley boat by 28 seconds. 

“Our varsity boats were impressive, and we were fairly competitive in the freshman races,” Berkeley coach Molly Brannigan said. “Our JVs felt they had good rows too, but they just couldn’t match the other teams.” 

Berkeley’s strong varsity program comes as no surprise, as both the boys and girls have a strong tradition. But the ’Jackets tend to struggle at the lower levels compared to the club teams they row against. As the only high school-specific program on the West Coast, Berkeley High has a smaller group of kids to choose from, usually meaning less depth on the squad. 

“We’re always hoping for a big turnout,” Brannigan said. “But we do tend to get kids who don’t have any crew experience, so we have to teach from the ground up.” 

The ones who do come out for the team tend not to have a lot of athletic experience. But the Berkeley coaches have had great success with the kids they do get, sending several rowers onto compete in college and guiding the girls’ team to a third-place finish in the state last season. 

“I’d say 80 percent of the kids we get have no sports experience,” Brannigan said. “But their work ethic is very good, and they don’t need the hand-eye coordination you need for most other sports. It’s a sport anyone can do, if they’re willing to work hard.”