2001 Men's Crew Outlook
April 2, 2001
Coming off its second consecutive undefeated national championship season, the Cal men's crew are the odds-on favorite to win the title again in 2001. Unlike last season, when Cal returned only two oarsmen with varsity IRA gold medals to their credit, this year's squad boasts six Olympians, eight returning varsity IRA champions and seven returning freshman IRA champions.'Competition for seats is fierce,' said coach Steve Gladstone. 'As a consequence the standard of rowing has been raised from last season.'
As a program, the Bears are coming off three seasons worth of Pac-10 championships at the varsity, JV and frosh level. Over that time period the Cal heavyweights have taken five of nine gold medals awarded in these events at the IRA. This top-to-bottom success has become a trademark of Gladstone-coached programs.
'Winning breeds winning,' said Gladstone. 'The mental approach to the sport is so critical. It's about self-confidence and confidence in your teammates.'
The 2001 edition of the Golden Bears varsity blends efficiency and power. Cal returns five oarsmen from its 2000 varsity eight. Most notable is senior Luke Walton, who stroked the eight in 2000 and sat seven in 1999. Walton is ready to make a run at being the first Cal oarsman with a four-year undefeated collegiate racing career that includes a freshman and three varsity IRA national championships. Also undefeated and entering his senior year is Eric Tiret, who raced with Walton in '98 and 2000. In 1999, Tiret was part of Cal's undefeated JV eight. Junior Scott Frandsen, last season's seven seat, returns, while Olympians Filip Filipic and Mladen Stegic return from the varsity's 'engine room' for their sophomore seasons.
Also returning this season are three members of the 1999 varsity that spent 2000 training for and competing in the Sydney Olympic Games. Nito Simonsen stroked the Cal varsity in 1999 before stroking the Norwegian coxless four to a world record and an Olympic appearance. Jake Wetzel has earned a world championship gold medal ('99 USA 4+) and a seventh-place Olympic finish as the stroke of the U.S. quadruple sculls since he last saw action as a Bear. Kevin White, the bow seat in the '99 varsity, raced at the '99 Worlds in the Canadian eight and was the alternate on the Canadian Olympic team. Rounding out Cal's Olympians is Ivan Smiljanic. An incoming freshman who raced in the Yugoslavian coxless four with Filipic and Stegic, Smiljanic may see action in the varsity eight this season.
Coupled with the returning varsity and Olympic oarsmen, the Bears also return seven oarsmen from the IRA champion freshman eight. 'We have one of the strongest group of sophomores that I have seen,' said Gladstone. 'As the training progresses they grow stronger and are beginning to establish themselves as candidates for varsity seats.
'Our athletes are working very hard to expand their basic fitness and improve their rowing efficiency,' said Gladstone. 'I'm confident that all these men are committed to high performance. I imagine it will simply come down to who is rowing the best together.'Cal figures to enter the season ranked No. 1 in the country--a position is has held since April 6, 1999. Brown, Princeton and Pac-10 rival Washington should also be contenders near the top of the rankings, while traditional powers Wisconsin, Harvard and Penn likely will round out the top slots in the USRowing Collegiate Coaches' Poll.
'There is no question that this season presents some unique challenges for us,' said Gladstone. 'The performance of our crews over the last two years has set a standard that our competitors are eager to match. That being said, this group of Cal oarsmen is every bit as ambitious as their predecessors.'
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