Cal Rows in Pac-10 Challenge This Weekend at Redwood Shores

March 25, 2009

This Week
California, featuring the fifth-ranked varsity 8+, opens the 2009 collegiate season with the Pac-10 Challenge presented by Windermere on Saturday and Sunday, March 28-29, in Redwood Shores, Calif. The Golden Bears, Stanford and UCLA will send their men's teams and women's teams, while only the USC men will row this weekend at the Bay Area regatta.

The Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association ranked the Bears' top boat fifth in its 2009 preseason poll.

Puddicombe Joins Staff
Former three-time All-American and Division II NCAA champion Sarah Puddicombe joined the Cal staff as an assistant coach last summer. Puddicombe spent the 2008 season an assistant coach at UC Davis, her alma mater. A coxswain, Puddicombe won the Division II championship with the Aggies in 2002 under her maiden name, Sarah Whipple.

Puddicombe's duties at Cal include working with O'Neill and the varsity squad as well as coordinating Cal's recruiting efforts.

Her twin sister, Mary Whipple, coxed the U.S. women's 8+ to a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

Key Returners for the Bears
While Cal returns many of its key athletes from last season, the Bears' 2008 varsity 8+ was hit hard by graduation. Four members of the varsity 8+ - senior Elena Humphreys, juniors Lou Kinder and Taryn O'Connell, and sophomore Mary Jeghers - that placed fourth in the 2008 NCAA Rowing Championships return for 2009. Cal V8+ coxswain Krista Ellis is gone; perhaps the top candidate to replace her is senior Katy Milton, who coxed the Bears' second varsity 8+ to a sixth-place finish at NCAAs last June.

Six members of that second varsity 8+ (Milton, seniors Lauren Nowinski and Kaiti Seders, juniors Kristen Campbell Adrienne Keller, and sophomore Bridget Moran) return. Cal's entire varsity 4+ (junior coxswain Jill Costello, senior Melissa Herman, sophomore Sam Sartor, and juniors Kelsey Bates and Laurel Kuhn), which finished fourth at 2008 NCAAs, returns. Five Bears from the Cal freshman 8+ that won the 2008 Pac-10 title are back this year: Coxswain Erica Bellis and fellow sophomores Avalon Radys, Jenny Rusher, Danielle Detloff and Vanna Rocchi.

A Look Back
at the 2008 Season

Led by 2008 Pac-10 and CRCA West Region Coach of the Year Dave O'Neill, Cal's varsity 8+ took fourth place and the host Golden Bears took third place as a team with 53 points at the NCAA Division I Women's Rowing Championships on June 1 on Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif. Defending NCAA champion Brown won the national regatta with 67 points, with Washington taking second with 59. Cal took fourth in both the varsity 8+ and varsity 4+ grand finals and sixth in the second varsity 8+ event.

Cal's varsity 4+, coming off an exciting win in its repechage to qualify for the grand final, started the final day by taking fourth place with a time of 7:33.10 in the grand final to score nine points. When the Bears won the 2005 NCAA team title, they also placed fourth in the four.

But the Bears' next result was a sixth-place finish in the second varsity 8+ grand final, in a time of 6:52.15, which put Cal in a difficult spot heading into the last race of the regatta - the varsity 8+ grand final. The Bears earned 14 points in this race to stand in fifth place with 23 points, with Brown leading (34) and Washington second (32) at the time. Virginia (29), whose varsity eight was in the petite final, and Ohio State (28), whose varsity 8+ was in the third final, were third and fourth, respectively, before the varsity 8+ finals.

Cal's varsity 8+, which was ranked No. 1 and was undefeated entering the NCAA semifinal, placed fourth in a time of 6:36.21. The winner was defending champion Yale (6:34.05), which was followed by Stanford (6:34.95) and third-place Brown (6:35.25). The Cardinal had lost twice to Cal in their two previous meetings in the 2008 season.

On May 18 last season, Cal won three of four races to claim the Pac-10 championship. The Bears compiled 79 points, while Stanford (61) was second and Washington (59) was third. Cal has now won four of the last five Pac-10 titles, including three straight from 2004 to 2006. The Bears' varsity 4+ placed second behind Washington's boat.

Besides winning the varsity 8+ and second varsity 8+ conference crowns, Cal, led by 2008 CRCA Assistant Coach of the Year Sara Nevin, took home the freshman or novice 8+ title.

Bears senior co-captain Mara Allen, who earned her second straight All-America selection, and then-sophomore Taryn O'Connell claimed spots on the CRCA All-America first team, while Cal senior rower Candice Rediger and junior coxswain Krista Ellis earned second-team honors.

Next Week
Cal is off until it rows against UC Davis on April 11 in Sacramento.

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