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Cal Men’s Crew at IRA Championship Preview: Can Cal best UW?

It will likely come down to Cal (2016 champ) vs. Washington (2011-2015 champ) again for the national title on Sunday.

Golden Bears will be seeking the 2nd consecutive and 18th overall IRA national title on Sunday.
Cal Crew Facebook Page

The oldest and grandest organized sports in the rich Cal history will see its 147th season (it started in 1870) ends at the 115th annual Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championships. This year’s IRA National Championships will take place at the familiar Lake Natoma in Sacramento, after the last few years on the East Coast. Golden Bears will be racing for program’s 18th national championships.

I previewed Cal Men’s Crew at the beginning of the season. I also did a Q&A about rowing with Calympian and current associate head coach Scott Frandsen at the beginning of the year. With the Golden Bears returning 6 of the 8 rowers of the National Championship winning boat of last year, expectations for 2017 is quite high.

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."

Another returning Bear is Netherlands native, Maarten Hurkmans - a sophomore who was highlighted in an early spring Inside the Lair article 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.

Golden Bears needed to replace since graduated coxswain Venonsky as well as Morgan Hellen and Niki Van Sprang - one third of the boat. Given the depth of roster in the program, there were also some expected shakeup in boat rosters and well as boat positions throughout the season.

At the start of the season, the three graduated members as well as Ferdi Querfeld have been replaced this year by a new coxswain in sophomore John Amorosana and three rowers in sophomore Jack Gosden-Kaye (from the UK), freshman Christoph Seifriedsberger (from Austria who has rowed the coxless quad with Ferdi Querfeld internationally as well), and senior Kyle Flagg. Querfeld has apparently reclaimed his spot in the V8 boat from Gosden-Kaye going into this championship weekend.

Coming off a 2nd place finish at the Pac-12 championship to rival Washington (more on this below), a change before the IRA is not unexpected. From the official Cal Crew preview of the IRA:

"The whole season has been gearing for up this," said head coach Mike Teti, the 2016 IRA Men's Coach of the Year. "We have made a few changes since the Pac-12s and I think we've found some speed. The guys are all excited to race this weekend and put the full year of training to the test. Having the championships back on the west coast this year is also exciting and Lake Natoma is a course our guys know very well. We can't wait to welcome the east coast schools to our backyard and look forward to a great weekend of racing."

From Regatta Central, this is the Cal V8 lineup at the IRA Championship consists of:

C: John Amorosana

8: Alexander Wallis

7: Maarten Hurkmans

6: Joachim Sutton

5: Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk

4: Ferdinand Querfeld

3: Christoph Seidfriedsberger

2: Martin MacKovic

1: Kyle Flagg

We shall find out on Sunday whether head coach Mike Teti pushed the right buttons to assemble this boat.

For comparison, this was the Cal lineup at the Big Row earlier this year. There has been quite a shuffling of seat positions.

National Title #18?

Cal men’s crew has won the IRA national title (as decided purely by the Varsity 8 result) in the following years.

1928, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1939, 1949, 1960, 1961, 1964, 1976, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2016

18 national titles are the 2nd most in Cal Athletics history, behind only rugby.

Bears will also be racing for a 2nd consecutive Jim Ten Eyck Memorial Trophy (named for a former Syracuse rowing coach) - given to the school with the most cumulative points (akin to how the women’s crew at the NCAA Rowing Championships are scored). Despite the 18 national titles for Varsity 8, Cal Crew has only won the Ten Eyck twice - 2006 and 2016.

Golden Bears will have 4 boats in competitions this weekend - V8, 2V8, 3V8 (possibly the undefeated Freshmen 8 boat - the lone boat to win a Pac-12 title this year), and V4. The expectation is for all 4 boats to be racing in the Grand Finals on Sunday.

Washington at the IRA

Similar to the Golden Bears, the Washington Huskies boat is also very European.

Rowing Related preview has this to say about Washington:

The stern-three for the Huskies are Dutch: Freshman Bram Schwarz in stroke (he stroked their JV in the Cal Dual), Michiel Mantel (sophomore in seven), and Simon van Dorp (freshman in six). American international Ben Davison backs up that trio in the five seat, with big man Arne Landbow (team captain) in four.

German sophomore Philipp Nonnast is in two (he was stroking the V8 earlier in the season), with Guglielmo Carcano of Switzerland in bow. Also self-styled 'super-senior,' 24-year-old Aussie Stuart Sim is a very good driver in the coxswain's seat.

They also picked Washington to win over Cal due to how dominant they looked at the Pac-12 Championships.

This is the Washington lineup from Regatta Central:

C: Stuart Sim

8: Bram Schwarz

7: Michiel Mantel

6: Simon van Dorp

5: Ben Davison

4: Arne Landboe

3: Ezra Carlson

2: Philipp Nonnast

1: Guglielmo Carcano

Thanks to the preview above, we learn that the best of the East, Yale is going to miss their captain this weekend due to an illness. I don’t think anyone was going to pick Yale over Cal/Washington originally, but this news further push down the odds of a Yale Bulldogs surprise. Yale men’s crew is still coached by long time Cal men’s crew coach (and one time AD) Steve Gladstone.

Cal vs. Washington

College rowing in 2017 has been a battle between Cal and Washington for both the men and the women. The Washington women prevailed last weekend at the NCAA. Cal men will attempt to return the favor this weekend at the IRA. Last year, the Golden Bears swept both crew national championships.

Cal vs. Washington (Schoch Cup)

After much hype, the Golden Bears won the annual dual between the two crews.

Cal Golden Bears won in what was considered tricky conditions:

The more recent 2nd matchup between the two came at the Pac-12 Championships.

Men's 1V8+:

1. Washington 5:36.3;

2. California 5:40.6;

3. Stanford 5:52.0;

4. Oregon State 5:55.7;

5. Oregon 6:14.6;

6. UCLA 6:18.1;

7. Colorado 6:30.1

Washington won this race by a fairly sizable margin (twice that of the Cal win earlier). No doubt this failure to repeat at the Pac-12 has been fueling the Cal crew training in the past few weeks.

T. Gary Rogers

Finally, we note that a potential Cal victory this year will likely be dedicated to alum and long time supporter T. Gary Rogers. Rogers was instrumental in the hiring of current head coach Mike Teti after Gladstone has stepped down. Row2k had the story:

The University of California rowing program was on the verge of significant change in 2007 when head coach Steve Gladstone was about to step down to run the newly formed California Rowing Club.

Establishing the CRC was a longtime dream of T. Gary Rogers, a successful San Francisco area businessman who had rowed as an undergraduate at Cal, and later made a run at the 1964 U.S. Olympic rowing team.

Rogers, the story goes, went to trials in a four, lost, and came away from the experience believing that his team lacked sufficient coaching, equipment, and support. The former Cal oarsman was already using his business success to help fund his passion for rowing at Cal, but he wanted that one extra piece of the puzzle for athletes training in the Bay Area.

He wanted a place where young athletes could chase their Olympic dreams and have all the support he lacked. So he founded CRC and asked Gladstone to lead it.

But, before he hired Gladstone, he needed to help find the right coach to take over at Cal. For that, he called then U.S. men's national team coach Mike Teti, and brought him out to visit Cal. When Teti got there, Rogers set the table for what a new coach could expect.

"He told me, 'If you come here, this is what I am prepared to do for you, what Cal is prepared to do for you.'" Teti said. "It was boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. He was very detailed.

"Still, I went there thinking I wasn't going to take the job. But then Gary talked about family. He wanted this to be a good experience for me and my family. He was a good family guy. He understood what that meant, and he knew that my family was very important to me.

"He didn't say you should coach at Cal because we have this, this, this and this," Teti continued. "No, he knew how important my family was to me and he was prepared, they were prepared, to have it be a great situation, a great living experience, for me and my family."

And on that, Teti was sold.


Here is the schedule for Friday:

Golden Bears’ 4 boats will race today at:

The goal for today and tomorrow is to advance all boats to the grand finals on Sunday, preferably without having to go through the repechages this afternoon (top 2 from each heat today advances directly to the semifinals tomorrow).

Sunday, June 4 – Petite/Grand Finals

9:20 a.m. – Fours – Petite Final

9:30 a.m. – Fours – Grand Final

10:50 a.m. – III Eights – Petite Final

11:00 a.m. – III Eights – Grand Final

11:10 a.m. – II Eights – Petit Final

11:20 a.m. – II Eights – Grand Final

12:15 p.m. – I Eights – Petit Final

12:30 p.m. – I Eights – Grand Final

2017 IRA Championships

Where: Lake Natoma (Sacramento, CA)

When: June 2nd - June 4th

Stats: IRA

Live free online stream: US Rowing YouTube