Bears Finally Return To Action At Las Vegas Invitational
The Cal women's rowing team will compete in its first race in 532 days on Saturday, and the preparations for the competition have looked nothing like what came before.
Attempting to compete amidst a global pandemic presents unprecedented challenges, athletically and otherwise. While the past year of training has been unlike any others, so have the logistical challenges of trying to successfully negotiate the season.
"Our focus has been just getting to the race; not the race itself," Cal head coach Al Acosta said.
The Bears will kick off the spring season Saturday and Sunday at the Las Vegas Invitational. It's a culmination of uneven training time and technique while safely navigating COVID-19 health protocols.
"It feels like we have our hands full just getting to the airport," Acosta said. "We've spent hours on the itinerary. I've told the kids that once they are on the lake and lined up and ready to go, everything will be back to normal. In between, expect some awkwardness."
Cal didn't have a spring season in 2020 and competed just once in the Fall of 2019. Before that, the Bears' last competition was the 2019 NCAA Championships.
The team wasn't together in the fall. Athletes worked out on their own until finally training as a team in January.
"I think we were a lot more patient as far as our training goes," Acosta said. "We usually come back in the spring and have some erg standards and traditional workouts that we do, but all that stuff has changed. We came back and had to train very slowly, but at the same time we had to get ready to race. It was a very weird balance."
The Bears have some experience in their varsity boat with fifth-year senior Kailani Marchak, who won a Pac-12 championship in the seven-seat of Cal's varsity eight in 2019. She's back in that spot this year. Sophomore Fien Van Westreenen, who won the silver medal in the quad at last year's U23 European Championships, will stroke the varsity eight for the Bears.
A couple of freshmen will also be in Cal's top boat – Tabo Stekelenburg and Antonia Galland. Stekelenburg is a 2019 Dutch Junior Indoor champion while Galland took the silver medal in the German varsity eight at the 2019 European Junior Championships.
"As far as team chemistry or building trust goes, usually all of that stuff takes a while during the fall," Acosta said. "But this team trusts each other quite a bit because it took a lot to get back here. For them to trust each other to be safe around COVID, to prove it to each other, they've built a lot of trust in that area. They've been really fun to coach. The morale has been really good."
The Bears will have a varsity eight, a second varsity eight and a varsity four racing this weekend. Other schools in the field include Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Alabama and San Diego.
LAS VEGAS INVITATIONAL SCHEDULE
(All Times PDT)
Varsity Four - 9:40 a.m.
Second Varsity Eight – 10:20 a.m.
Varsity Eight – 11 a.m.
Varsity Four – 9:20 a.m.
Second Varsity Eight – 10 a.m.
Varsity Eight – 10:40 a.m.