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Golden Medals: Cal Men’s and Women’s Crew Previews

The road waterway to national championship repeats start this weekend!

Golden Bears will be looking to defend their national championships in both men’s and women’s crew in 2017.
California Crew Twitter page

This post today will concentrate solely on the two defending national champions in crew. Check back this weekend for tomorrow’s preview/livethread for Cal Women’s Gymnastics in the Fayetteville Regional. Sunday, there will be a preview/gamethread for the Big Splash between No.5 Cal Women’s Water Polo and No.2 Stanford.

For only the second time in school history, 2016 saw both Cal men’s and women’s crew won national championships in the same year (2006 is the other other year). Fortunately for the Golden Bears, we might not have to wait until 2026 to pull off this feat again. Both Cal men’s and women’s crew are perennial favorites to win the national championships; 2017 is no exception with the teams having that X-factor of the championship winning experience.

California Men’s Crew - 17x National Champions

The oldest and grandest organized sports in the rich Cal history will continue for the 147th season (it started in 1870). Defending IRA national champs (as well as the team points champ), California Golden Bears will begin their spring races this weekend down at the San Diego Crew Classic in Mission Bay.

The 2016 IRA national title winning Varsity 8 boat consisted of Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk, Martin Mackovic, Maarten Hurkmans, Joachim Sutton, Niki Van Sprang, Ferdi Querfeld, Morgan Hellen, Alex Wallis and coxswain Julian Venonsky.

The 2016 Rio Polish Calympian Natan Wegrzycki Szymczyk is back for his junior year. In the Spring season preview, he has the following to say about defending the national championship, "It is going to be big challenge to defend the national championship. We are taking things day by day, and trying to improve. Everyone is working on their own technical improvements so we all are able to row more uniform, and together."

One of the returning Bears is Netherlands native, Maarten Hurkmans, a sophomore who is highlighted in the latest Inside the Lair about his balance of the crew training and Cal academics (Hurkmans is in the Haas School of Business). Also back is Serbian native junior Martin Mackovic, Danish sophomore Joachim Sutton - 1st Danish rower in Cal Crew history and 2016 Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year, Austrian sophomore Ferdi Querfeld, and California junior Alex Wallis.

Interestingly, the last Cal national champ boat in 2010 produced 4 2016 Rio Calympians - Will Dean, Nareg Guregian, Marko Marjanovic, and Bronze medalist Olivier Siegelaar - who all competed in different events at Rio. I would not be surprised if several other rowers from the 2016 championship winning boat also becomes Calympians.

Golden Bears need to replace since graduated coxswain Venonsky as well as Morgan Hellen and Niki Van Sprang - one third of the boat. The presumption here is that the rest of the returning rowers are back on the top boat, but given the depth and the year round hard training, there may be other shakeup on the boat roster.

One of the newest addition to the roster this year on (which has really increased the amount of information on the boat roster, etc. in the last year) has been the “position” of the rower as either “Port” or “Starboard”. Based on the info listed on the returning rowers, the two new additions will need to fill in on the “Starboard” side. I don’t currently know how easy it is to have a rower switch from one side to another (please let me know in the comment section below, if you have rowing experience and know how about that transition).

Of course, the rest of the large Cal Crew squad will row in other boats - 2nd Varsity 8, 3rd Varsity 8, Freshman 8, and Varsity 4 are the other national championships competitions at the IRA every year. The more standard NCAA type of scoring also gave the team championships, the Ten Eyke trophy, to the Golden Bears at the 2016 IRA national championships. There are plenty of depth all the way around on the Cal Crew team. For the national championship, the Bears will likely be challenged once again primarily by the University of Washington Huskies - the other squad to win the national championships (5 in a row) between Cal’s 2010 title and last year.

Key Dates of the Season: At Washington - April 22nd; Big Row (vs. Stanford) - April 29th; Pac-12 Championship (from Sacramento) - May 12th; IRA National Championships (from Sacramento) - June 2nd-4th.


California Women’s Crew - 3x NCAA National Champions (& 1980 NWRA national championship)

The main difference between women’s crew (NCAA calls it “rowing”) and men’s crew is that the NCAA national championship is awarded to the team with the most points - combined from the results of the Varsity 8, 2nd Varsity 8, and Varsity 4 races. Golden Bears won the 2016 NCAA national championship, the first time since 2006 (2nd year of a back to back title) by winning the 2nd V8 and V4 races. It is the program’s 4th overall national championship (including the 1980 NWRA national title that predates the NCAA) and the 3rd NCAA national title. Bears placed 2nd in the V8 race to Ohio State - who had won the last couple NCAA championships before Cal snapped that streak.

Nevertheless, the Golden Bears will open 2016 as the top ranked team in women’s rowing ahead of The Ohio State. Bears will actually gain back 2016 Rio Canadian Calympian in Caileigh Filmer, who had to take an year off to train with her national team - they placed 4th in the women’s eight.

Bears will actually face some tough competitions to start the new season at the Pac-12 Challenge from Redwood Shores on Saturday. Ohio State (No.2), Michigan (No.3), and Virginia (No.7) will be racing against the Golden Bears this weekend.

While the boat rosters may see some shake up amongst all of these schools, it should still be eye opening to see who finishes first. Last year, the Cal Varsity 8 was undefeated all the way until the NCAA championships - where their 2nd place was enough to seal the team championship.

Here are the V8 roster for the Cal Bears last year:

Hannah Christopher (Cox), Kendall Chase (8), Rowan McKellar (7), Inger Kavlie (6), Dorothee Beckendorff (5), Charlotte Siering (4), Mia Croonquist (3), Jacinta Edmunds (2), Julia Vander Hoeven (1).

You can pencil in Filmer into the V8 boat this year. Bears do need replacement for Chase, Siering, and Edmunds.

2nd V8 roster from last year - defending national champs:

Rachel Lether (Cox), Charlotte Wesselmann (8), Roisin Duffy (7), Sydney Payne (6), Dana Moffat (5), Ellen Heile (4), Charlotte Passot (3), Katherine Kelly (2), Sarah Schwartz (1).

A couple of these girls will likely move up to the V8 boat.

V4 roster - also defending national champs:

Riley Brown (Cox), Eleanor Howe (4), Hunter Deuel (3), Kendall Ritter (2), Francis Wood (1).

Brown has graduated. Ritter and Wood are now seniors. I don’t personally know how different it is to row a 4 vs. an 8. Will head coach Al Acosta try to keep his national champion boat intact, with just a new coxswain?

With the NCAA (women’s) rowing championship taking place in Lake Mercer, NJ (near Princeton) this year, I will likely get the chance to see our Cal women in action in person (it helps a great deal that this championship will be one week before the rugby 7s championship rather than during the same weekend like the IRA championship).

Key Dates of the Season: Pac-12 Invitational (April 1st - 2nd); Big Row (vs. Stanford) - April 29th; Pac-12 Championship (from Gold River in Sacramento) - May 14th; NCAA Championship (from Lake Mercer, NJ) - May 26-28.