Bears Open Season With Win Over UCSD
OAKLAND – As Cal's top two varsity boats passed under the Park Street Bridge along the Oakland Estuary on Saturday, head coach Scott Frandsen overheard a few people on the bridge yell "Go Bears!"
"It got me choked up," Frandsen said. "We're doing this – this thing that we all care so much about and have been working toward through all the ups and downs. It was awesome."
The Cal men's rowing team competed for the first time in over a year Saturday, defeating UC San Diego in its first race in 25 years on the Oakland Estuary. Cal's varsity eight won the race in a time of 5:45.86 while the Bears' second varsity eight was second with a mark of 5:53.49. The Tritons entered just one varsity eight and was third at 6:05.39.
Saturday marked the Bears' first competition since the 2020 season was shut down last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was pretty special," Frandsen said. "It's been a lot of work, a ton of effort in making this possible. I'm just extremely grateful this is happening."
Cal's varsity eight was a mixture of experience and new oarsmen, as Brett Cataldo coxed a boat made up of mainstays such as George Finlayson and Jack Robertson along with freshmen Frederick Breuer and Daton Wolfaardt. Cataldo coxed the Bears' second varsity eight that won the IRA national championship in 2019.
"It was great just to get out there again," said sophomore Balthasar Issa, who rowed the 6-seat in the varsity eight. "It's our first race so it wasn't going to be perfect. We have plenty of work to do for our upcoming races, but I think the team morale is pretty high and we are all very confident."
Cal's usual home course is Redwood Shores in San Mateo, but the limitations of COVID-19 forced the program to get creative and host a race near its training center at the T. Gary Rogers Rowing Center. The Oakland Estuary was the Bears' home course for almost 100 years before conducting the last competition there on May 11, 1996 for the Big Row against Stanford.
"To do it here for the first time in 25 years is something very special," Issa said. "We are very fortunate to have this here. To race past the boathouse was pretty special."
Saturday marked the beginning of a shortened but busy spring season for the Bears. They will race against Oregon State, Santa Clara and Stanford next weekend at Redwood Shores before traveling to the Pacific Northwest the following week to hold their annual dual with rival Washington.
"I'm really happy we were able to organize this with UC San Diego and just get the guys into race mode and go through the paces of racing and executing," Frandsen said. "I thought it went really well.