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Golden Medals: Cal Men's Crew and Rugby Sevens Preview

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Golden Bears are considered the favorites for the two non-NCAA national championships this weekend. The two most successful Cal Athletics programs are going for their 31st (rugby) and 17th (men's crew) national championships.

Golden Bears are looking to win the CRC (rugby 7s national championship) for the 4th consecutive year.
Golden Bears are looking to win the CRC (rugby 7s national championship) for the 4th consecutive year.
Cal Varsity Rugby Facebook Page

With respect to the 4 Golden Bears athlete competing at the NCAA Track and Field Championships next weekend, this is the last full weekend of exciting Cal Athletics action in the 2015-16 school year (I know, graduation was weeks ago for semester system schools like UC Berkeley). It is an additional treat for yours truly, living in Philadelphia, as both of these two events take place within 40 minutes drive (with no traffic, but in opposite directions) from me and the Golden Bears are strong contenders to win them.

Cal Rugby going for national championship #31 (#4 in Sevens)

Cal Rugby will be going for a four-peat at the Collegiate Rugby Championship - the rugby 7s national championship from Chester, PA (just outside Philadelphia) with games broadcasted annually live on NBCSN and final on NBC. In some way, it is now hard to fathom how the Bears did not win in the first three years of this event [I have only been attending this event yearly since 4 years ago...correlating with the Bears going undefeated], but the championship game margin has gotten tighter and tighter every year. Last year, it took a "golden try" in OT by since graduated captain Jake Anderson for the Bears to defeat the Kutztown Golden Bears for the second straight year and three-peat as national rugby sevens champions.

To relive the past three Cal Rugby 7s championships more:

2015: Cal 17, Kutztown 12 (OT)

2014: California 24, Kutztown 21

Photo Essays (part 1part 2)


2013: Cal 19, Life 14

Cal Rugby 2013 CRC win 3

Bears are 31-3 all time at the CRC, which includes an undefeated record in pool play on Saturdays. This year, the Bears will play the Tennessee Volunteers (at 7 AM PT), Maryland Terrapins (at 9:20 AM PT in the NCAA basketball matchup that we didn't get in March), and the rugby powerhouse program in Arkansas State Red Wolves (at 1:49 PM PT that will be shown live on NBC). I will be providing live coverage of these games on location via the Golden Blog Twitter. Once the pool play is over, a bracket is formed for Sunday with the top 8 teams vying for the championship. The seeding is done by record and then the margin of victory as the first tiebreaker.

This is the first year where the Golden Bears can go for the double of winning both the Varsity Cup (national championship in Rugby Union or 15s) and the CRC (national championship in Rugby Sevens). Bears defeated 15s nemesis BYU by a 40-29 result. Past Varsity Cup winners in BYU does not compete in the CRC (since the CRC tournament requires playing for the entire weekend).

Leading the Golden Bears is the Man of the Match from the Varsity Cup, senior Russell Webb. Webb is making his 3rd CRC appearance, after missing out on the 2015 championship with an injury. The senior from Hong Kong is always a threat to make defenders miss. He is also one of the best kicker on the team, particularly on live play as a mean to earn a lineout or to get himself or a teammate to pick up the live ball for a try.

Other Cal Rugby vets include 4-timers in Anthony Salaber, Patrick Barrientes, and Nicklas Boyer. Three timers and key contributors include Jesse Milne and Harry Adolphus. Bears would also need to break in a few new faces into the lineup this weekend - including Thomas Robles, a JuCo transfer who played a huge role in the 15s season as well as in the fall 7s season (see video below).

More detailed information about the team can be found in the embedded link below:

Bears had an undefeated fall 7s season with a 17-0 record and a 4th consecutive PAC Rugby Conference title (which included teams from all Pac-12 schools except for Washington and Washington State). Those matches were shown on the Pac-12 Networks.

Some rain is expected on this weekend, particularly on Sunday. We shall see if the weather becomes an issue for our Sturdy Golden Bears as they go for this unprecedented 4th consecutive CRC championship and 31st national championships across both 15s and 7s.

Here is the TV schedule for the CRC this weekend:

Sat., June 4 Rugby Rising 1 p.m. NBCSN
Pool Play 2-4 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Pool Play 4-6 p.m. NBC, Live Extra
Sun., June 5 Rugby Rising (Encore) 1 p.m. NBCSN
Playoff Rounds 2-4 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Playoff Rounds 4-6 p.m. NBC, Live Extra

Collegiate Rugby Championship

Where: Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL Park) in Chester, PA

When: June 4th-5th

Favorites: Cal (3x defending champs), Kutztown (2x runner-up), Life



Cal Men's Crew going for national championship #17

Also on the East Coast for the weekend is Cal Men's Crew, who will be racing in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Championships from Mercer Lake in New Jersey (it's near Princeton). The storied Cal Men's Crew, the oldest and grandest of Cal sports, will be going for their 17th national titles.

Unlike the NCAA women's rowing championship, just won by the Cal women for the 3rd time this last weekend, the IRA national championship will be awarded to the boat that wins the Varsity 8 grand final.

University of Washington Huskies are the unprecedented 5 time defending champs. They have also won 6 straight Pac-12 title before the Golden Bears defeated them three weeks ago.

Bears are actually ranked 2nd in the country coming into this weekend. The top ranked team is the Yale Bulldogs, led by a very familiar face for the Cal Crew fan (and general Cal Athletics fans at large) in Steve Gladstone. Gladstone coached Cal crew from 1973-1980 and then again from 1997 to 2008. From 2001 to 2004, Gladstone pulled the double duty of being both the coach of Cal Men's Crew while also being the Athletic Director for the entire Cal Athletics.

At the San Diego Crew Classic, the Bears finished behind the Bulldogs in the Varsity race final. Have the Bears found a way to close that gap since then? Yale was also the favorite coming into the IRA last year, but Washington retain the title with the Golden Bears placing 2nd.

In addition to the Varsity 8 (V8) boat, Bears also have boats racing in 2nd V8, 3rd V8, V4, and Freshman 8. All of the boats, except for the Freshman 8 which is just one race on Sunday, require wins on Friday and Saturday to advance to the Grand Final.

On this Friday morning, Cal V8, 2V8, and V4 all advanced directly to the semifinal for winning their respective heats. 3V8 placed 3rd and would need to win the afternoon Repechage to advance.

All of the weekend IRA action are streamed live (and archived) on YouTube. Here are the links to this morning and afternoon.

Saturday's Stream:

Sunday's Stream:

The full weekend schedule are the following:

Friday, June 3

8:40 a.m. – Men's Varsity 8+

9:30 a.m. – Men's Second Varsity 8+

10:20 a.m. – Men's Third Varsity 8+

11:10 a.m. – Men's Varsity 4+

2:00 p.m. - 3:10 p.m. – MV8+, M2V8+, M3V8+ repechages

Saturday, June 4

9:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. – Men's Varsity 8+ semifinals

10:10 a.m. - 10:20 a.m. – Men's Second Varsity 8+ semifinals

10:40 a.m. - 10:50 a.m. – Men's Third Varsity 8+ semifinals

11:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. – Men's Varsity 4+ semifinals

Sunday, June 5 (only grand finals listed)

9:50 a.m. – Men's Varsity Four grand final

10:50 a.m. – Men's Third Varsity 8+ grand final

11:00 a.m. – Men's Freshman 8+ grand final

11:20 a.m. – Men's Second Varsity 8+ grand final

12:30 p.m. – Men's Varsity 8+ grand final

Reading perhaps a bit too much into the V8 result from this morning, the Golden Bears did have the fastest time.

We will certainly have an open thread for Sunday morning for folks to watch the races from home. It is likely that for the 2nd consecutive year, I'll attempt to pull the double duty and go to both the IRA championship and the CRC championship on the same day. Nonetheless, this is one of my favorite weekend being a Cal fan and writing for CGB.

Intercollegiate Rowing Championship

Where: Mercer Lake in West Windsor, NJ

When: June 3rd-5th

Favorites: Cal, Washington (5x defending champs), Yale (ranked No.1)