No. 1 Bear Crew Defends Pac-12 Title

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By David Bush, Staff Writer
Posted May 14, 2017
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2017 BearInsider.com


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Men's V8 crew vs. Washington
Top-ranked and defending champions, the Cal men's crew takes to the water Sunday in the Pac-12 Championships this weekend in Sacramento.
Cal, which also won the prestigious IRA Regatta a year ago, will be favored again.

"I think it is a similar boat to last year," Cal head coach Mike Teti, in his ninth season in Berkeley, said in a telephone interview this week. "A lot of the guys are back and are a little bit better. But I think the competition is the same, as well. I think Washington has jumped a little bit from where they were last year, so they're right back. We had a really tough race with them in Seattle, so I expect we'll have the same thing."

Cal narrowly defeated the No. 2 ranked Huskies April 22 in Seattle under choppy conditions. The two schools have dominated crew on the West Coast for the better part of a century. In Washington's celebrated victory in the 1936 Olympics, celebrated in the best-selling book "Boys in the Boat" the main competition was not from Germany in Berlin, but from Cal in the U.S. The rivalry has not stopped.

Teti said this year's Bears have a different personality than last year's successful crew.

"Sometimes you have a little bit more fun group. Sometimes you a more serious group," Teti said. "I would say the group we have now, this is the most academically inclined group I've had. They're all pretty serious about their academics and their GPAs reflect that. And it's a mature group. It's not a like big rah-rah.

"They're aware they're going to be against some formidable competition. They know they have to execute, this is a more academically inclined Xs and Os type of group. ... Some crews seem to be more fun. You can win in a lot of different ways."

Where some crews tend to hang back during the early portions of a race, the Bears this year are fast starters, although they don't dawdle in the middle or the end, either."

"In order to win you are going to have all the bases covered. It's like saying we're a great hitting lineup but we don't have any pitching. Well, you're going to need pitching, too. The same thing in rowing," Teti said. "You are going to have to have a good start, you are going to have to a solid base which is the bulk of the race And you are going to have to respond if you are being challenged at the end.

"So like everybody else we work on all aspects of the race. In general in the last couple of years we have been a pretty good starting crew because they are all tall guys with a lot of leverage. And that is really helpful at the beginning of the race."

The Pac-12 champions are determined not only by the results of the showcase Varsity Eight, but also the other races, second varsity, third varsity, freshmen and fours figure in the scoring. But the points are not allocated equally and are weighted toward the Varsity Eight.

"It's hard to lose the Pac-12 championship if you win the Varsity Eight," Teti said. "Overall there is a point structure but if all our boats have their best race, we like our chances. You can't be slightly off against Washington. They're too good. Our whole focus has not been winning the points but executing really well with all our boats. I've always sort of been that way."

And all the Cal boats should hold their own.

"I think the second boat is a solid group," Teti said. "I think with our varsity this year we have three or four pretty exceptional guys. And I think the next eight are all interchangeable so that would bode well for the second boat.

"I think the freshman have been strong all year. The four is going to be a new boat, just made it up this week.

"I think the third boat made some improvement since the race in Seattle (when the Bears finished behind two Huskies boats). So all our boats are going to be strong."

Teti likes the venue on Lake Natoma in the Sacramento area. The large snow melt has caused some currents on the course, but Teti said it is a fair test. "It's a great course," he said. "An outstanding venue. And it's good for us because it's right in our own backyard."

It is also the site of the prestigious IRA Regatta, where the Bears will try to defend that title starting June 2. The competition will be familiar.
"In my opinion it's between Washington, Yale, Harvard, Princeton and us," Teti said. "We are all very similar. I think on any given day any of them can win."

The Yale coach of course is Steve Gladstone who had two stints as Cal head coach totaling 18 years. He also served as athletic director.

"I talk to Steve all the time. He's pretty much the reason I'm out here," said Teti, a graduate of St. Joseph's (Pa.). "Last year when we won they were second, and they have everybody back.

He's doing well. He coaches in the morning then he gets to go the beach. He's having a good time back there."

Women Eye Title, Too

The Bears Women's Crew, ranked second in the country behind Washington (who else?), will be going for a third consecutive Pac-12 title on the same day at the same venue.

However the women are undefeated this year, with seven wins over teams ranked in the top 10 nationally. The Bears topped Washington earlier this season on the Montlake Cut for the Simpson Cup and swept Stanford in all four races at the Big Row to close out the regular season.

"After the NCAAs, the Pac-12s is probably the toughest race in the country," head coach Al Acosta told the Cal website. "Five of the teams are ranked in the top 15 and everybody will be going all out to qualify for the NCAAS. We're excited that all of our boats are coming together at the right time. The team has done some great things on Lake Natoma and we're looking forward to getting back out there."
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