Benedict Tufnell

East And West Coast Conferences Conclude; National Championships Await

by Benedict Tufnell

Over the weekend America saw the best collegiate crews, on both it’s the east and west coasts, battle it out for conference titles in the final tests before the national championships.

On the west coast, the men and women were contesting the Pac-12 championships – the conference for the 12 biggest programs on the Pacific coast. To the east it was the Eastern Sprints Regatta for the men, and the Ivy League Championships for the women.

The Pac-12 event was of particular significance as it contained both the first and second ranked crews in the nation for both men and women

These conference championships are the final competitions in the US collegiate rowing calendar ahead of the IRA national championships for the men in early June and NCAA national championships for the women in late May.

The Pac-12 event was of particular significance as it contained both the first and second ranked crews in the nation for both men and women; in both cases the University of Washington (UW) and California (Cal).

On the men’s side, Cal’s varsity had started the season as the top ranked crew in the country, just ahead of Washington. Their position’s in the polls were traded however after UW beat Cal at the Cal-Washington duel in April.

The #2 ranked Washington beating the #1 ranked Cal Varsity in Redwood Shores at the 2018 Cal-Washington Duel in April. Photo © Zach Franzen

The question going in to the weekend was whether Cal, under the leadership of coach Mike Teti, had managed to turn things round since their last clash with the Huskies to put themselves back on top heading into the final showdown at the IRAs.

This will be Teti’s last season with the Golden Bears before he re-joins the US national team. Having won the Head of the Charles last October, Teti has struggled all year it seems to find the right combination for his top boat and has shuffled the lineup of the crew between every race so far.

Washington meanwhile arrived at the Pac-12s off the back of another Windermere Cup win, where they beat the UK’s top University program Oxford Brookes by half a second.

When it came down to it, it was Cal who took the upper hand off the start, leading the Huskies by three seats going through the 500m marker. The Huskies however remained strong through the middle of the race, drawing level by the thousand and moving to a six seat lead in the third 500.

Cal V8 take the lead off the start in the Pac-12 final, but Washington proved too strong. Photo © Zach Franzen

Cal managed to reduce it to a three seat deficit by the finish, closing the gap since their last encounter, but were unable to overturn Huskies and remain off the pace. UW won with a time of 5:51.243, Cal were second with 5:52.691 and Stanford a distant third in 6:09.293.

Washington’s men also won the 2V, 3V and Varsity 4, finishing second only in the freshman eights event behind Cal.

it was Cal who came in to the weekend on top, after beating Washington in the duel last month.

On the women’s side, Cal and Washington have also been vying for the top spot in the national polls all season, however it was Cal who came in to the weekend on top, after beating Washington in the duel last month.

Washington are reigning national champions in the women’s varsity. Pictured here at the 2017 NCAA championships.

In the women’s varsity final, the Huskies caught Cal off guard, jumping to a lead off the start and extending it to a length by the half way point. The next surprise came in the form of number five ranked Stanford also overhauling Cal in the second half of the race to finish second, a length behind Washington, with Cal a further few seats back in third.

The Washington women’s program was on dominating form across the board, ultimately making it a clean sweep of wins in all five events on offer.

Photo © Zach Franzen

Meanwhile, at the same time on the East coast, it was the favourites and reigning national champions Yale, lead by Coach Steve Gladstone, who were staking their claim as contenders for the men’s national title next month. Yale won convincingly and by more than a length while a close battle for podium places ensued behind between Harvard who took silver just ahead of Brown, with Harvard a further half second back in fourth.

Yale Coach Steve Gladstone pictured at the 2017 IRA Regatta.

For Gladstone, it was confirmation of his trust in Charlie Elwes who returned to the boat for this race after a nine week absence due to injury. With another two weeks for Elwes to gain fitness ahead of the IRAs, Yale will have renewed confidence going into the national championships next month.

The weekend’s racing was rounded out with wins by Columbia in the lightweight mens varsity eight at the Eastern Sprints and Princeton in the women’s varsity eight at the Ivy League championships.

The women’s national championships (NCAAs) will take place at Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota FL on the 24th – 27th May.

The mens national championships (IRAs) will take place on Mercer Lake in Princeton NJ on the 1st -3rd June.

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