The No. 1 Cal men’s varsity eight won its fourth-consecutive Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, NJ, June 31. The winning time of 5:26.81 was just 3 seconds off the course record set by the Bears in 1999. In addition to the varsity eights success, the JV eight also brought home gold for the second consecutive year. For the record, it was coach Steve Gladstone’s 10th Varsity Challenge Cup title-second only to Charles “Pop” Courtney who won 11 titles between 1901-1915.
In the varsity race Cal got up early and stayed up all the way down the course to the finish. The Bears led by three quarters of a length as the crews crossed the 1000 while Wisconsin and Washington battled for second place. Cal stayed in front and was ready to sprint to the line but never needed to use its last gear. The Badgers beat the Huskies to the line, while Oregon State came through Princeton to take fourth as Navy finished sixth.
“It was a solid race,” said senior Scott Frandsen. “We picked up our start the last couple of weeks and we got off the line well today. We settled to a 37.5 and just hit a rhythm that was really, really solid.”
“That was an oarsome race,” said stroke Jeffrey Nalty. “We took it from the start and got like four seats in the opening 20 strokes and we kind of had the race from there. Every move we had we moved away. We rowed with rhythm and we rowed with length and the other crews just couldn’t keep up. The level of collegiate racing in the U.S. has stepped up tenfold from last year and that’s what makes today’s win so satisfying.”
“We weren’t down for one stroke of the race,” said coxswain Michael Vallarelli. “We executed our moves, stayed in the tube and found some really good swing today. Our plan was to not worry about the other crews and execute our race. It was nice that we didn’t have to come from behind against those crews, but so long as we executed our race, I think we’d probably get the same result.”
The Cal JV eight also led it’s race from start to finish. Cal and Washington established themselves as the early leaders with Cornell and Princeton trying to join the fray. At 500 Cal led UW by a third of a length. Cal continued to grow its advantage with four crews battling for second at the 1000. Cal continued to pull away from the pack and outdistanced Cornell and Washington to the finish.
After a excellent semifinal performance by the freshman eight, the Bears could not muster an encore on Saturday. However, the Cal freshman did finish off the season No. 4 in the nation.
The Cal varsity four withstood a strong early push from Wisconsin and Cornell, but emerged with the gold. The Bears open four brought home the silver.