2015 Pac-12 Rowing Championships set for action-packed Sunday
The 2015 Pac-12 Rowing Championships kick off Sunday morning at Lake Natoma in Sacramento. A day before the event, coaches from participating schools took stock of their team while looking forward to what are sure to be action-packed races between some of the nation's top rowers.
Cal, ranked fourth in the nation, is the team to beat at Lake Natoma: its Varsity 8 team is undefeated so far this season. The Bears' six-year Pac-12 Rowing Championship reign ended last year when rival Stanford took the title away from them. Coach Al Acosta feels good about his team's state of mind this time around. "We just finished taking final exams. So their minds are full of great knowledge from Cal," Acosta said. "I think the focus is starting to build today as they get on the water and obviously it will build more. Just to continue the effort that's gone on all year, and that's all we can hope for." Cal will look to get back to its winning ways, but Washington is poised to be Cal's tallest obstacle.
The Huskies, ranked second in the nation, are looking to grab their first title since 2003. They placed second last year and hold two first-seed spots, the Varsity 4 and Second Varsity 8, for Sunday's event. "I think we have an outside shot at winning the conference championship this year," said coach Bob Ernst. "We only have three seniors in our top four boats. I hope they grow up really quickly, but if they don't I won't be disappointed because, I'll tell you, they've performed perfectly all year long."
The Stanford women took its first title last year and, in so doing, ended rival Cal's six-year streak. The Cardinal has a strong Varsity 8 boat that's won five races this season and is seeded second behind the Bears going into Sunday's showdown. "That championship was hard earned. It was a barn burner to the very end," said coach Yasmin Farooq of last season's success. "I think this year in the Pac-12 we have fast boats from a number of teams. We're looking at four of the top seven in the country in this conference."
The Cougs have yet to win a rowing title, but is fourth-seeded as a Varsity 8 boat and second-seeded in the Varsity 4. The team looks to be on the rise, and coach Jane Lariviere was feeling nervous before the Sunday's races, in a good way. "Beside's feeling like I'm going to throw up, my team doesn't know I feel like I'm gonna throw up, I feel good," said Lariviere. "I think the team is in a really good place. You have to be a little bit careful that you're not too relaxed or too chill because it's going to be the hardest races of the year. And that is what we've prepared for by racing the other five, six Pac-12 teams."
The Trojans haven't won a title since 2007, but are fourth seeded in the Varsity 4 race and fifth in the Varsity 8.
The Bruins haven't taken a Pac-12 title since 1991, but are fourth-seeded in the Third Varsity 8 race. "I feel like we've done everything we can do to this point," said coach Amy Fuller Kearney. "We've hit some stumbles this year in terms of racing to the best level we can on race day, but it's a process, it's a journey. We'll come out and put down some good stuff tomorrow and see how that turns out among this incredibly impressive field."
Oregon State is holding down the last seed in all races except the Third Varsity 8, where they are fifth seed. Coach Emily Ford hopes her squad sticks to what got them here on Sunday. "The team is doing great. This has been a really great group to work with this year. They take it one day at a time, they're working the process and I think that's what were staying focused on for tomorrow."
The five-time Pac-12 Champions are seeded first in the Varsity 4, Third Varsity 8 and the Second Varsity 8. But a top-ranked Cal squad looms large over Washington's quest for a sixth consecutive title; the Bears snagged the Schoch Cup this year, ending the 'Dawgs' eight-year streak. Washington is ranked second in the collegiate polls behind the Bears. "We have a new challenge this year," said coach Michael Callahan. "California is very good. Stanford's very good and Oregon State is on the up and rising."
The top-ranked Bears might be the best bet to dethrone Washington. They'll race across Lake Natoma on Sunday morning in pursuit of their first title since 2009, when they broke up the Huskies' two-year win streak. Cal holds the first seed in the Novice 8 and, most importantly, the Varsity 8 races. Cal coach Mike Teti knows what his team is up against. "It's a young group," Teti said. "We have two freshman, two sophomores, three juniors, one senior...They know they're gonna have a hard race tomorrow. Washington's good. They know that they have to bring their A-game if they want to be able to get their bow in front." The two crews have exchanged bragging rights for 25 years; no other Pac-12 team has taken a title since UCLA won back in 1989.
The Cardinal holds the third-seed in the Varsity 8, fourth for Second Varsity 8 and fourth for the Third Varsity 8. The Stanford men have yet to win a rowing championship, but rank 13th in the country this season.
The Beavers are sneaking behind Cal and Washington as the fourth seed in the Men's Varsity 8 race and the third in two others. Oregon State, who finished third last year, is making its case as the team to watch. "They're really keyed up. They're really hungry for this. They're ready to go," said coach Gabe Winkler. "I think if there is anything we could do better, I don't know. It seems like they're as ready as they've ever been."
Stay tuned for more on the Pac-12 Rowing Championships when the races kick off tomorrow morning