Women’s Championship Eights

Golden Bears Shine in Women’s Champ Eights

 

By Matt MacCormack – Posted on October 18, 2015 

It had been 13 years since the California-Berkley women’s crew team made the 3,000-mile trek to Cambridge for the Head Of The Charles Regatta.

But all that time away from the Dirty River didn’t stop the Golden Bears from roaring past the competition Sunday afternoon.

The Bears, who ended last season as the second ranked team in the nation, continued their dominance with a victory in the women’s championship eights, clocking in at 15:58, 25 seconds faster than second-place Brown. It was a convincing victory for Cal, which launched 32nd out of 33 boats in the race.

“We don’t really ever come out here, so it’s a nice experience and a new race course,” said senior Kendall Chase, who sat stroke for the Golden Bears on Sunday. “We made the most of the opportunity.”

A blazing start gave Cal the fuel it needed for the rest of the race. The Golden Bears passed four boats between the start and Weeks Footbridge, and continued at a high pace for the rest of the way. Sophomore coxswain Hannah Christopher, who rowed in the event as a senior at Miramonte High School in Orinda, California, helped the team take the inside positioning at Weeks and later on at Elliot Bridge, which proved crucial in the win.

“Our mindset, as it always is in a head race, is just focusing on yourself and really pushing as hard as you can every stroke to the finish because you don’t have a boat right next to you telling you where you are,” Christopher said. “I think our inside turn, and then just keeping a super aggressive pace was our key to winning today.”

Chase, who attended Mullin High School in Denver and has been a crucial member since the Cal team won the national championship when she was a freshman in 2013, said the team wasn’t necessarily thinking about winning, but built momentum as soon as they got on the water.

“I think that the fact that we were able to sustain a high rate throughout the entire race helped us, and Hannah set us up really nicely for all of the turns. We got the inside and no crews really got in our way,” Chase said. “We just really executed what we wanted to do and let the time take care of itself.”

Chase also won two Gold medals at the Women’s World Rowing Under-23 Championships with the United States team in Italy in 2014. The senior rowed as the seven-seat for the women’s eight and the bow-seat for the women’s four.

The Golden Bears were followed by second-place Brown, which finished with a time of 16:23. Rounding out the top three was Virginia, as the Cavaliers clocked in a second later. The Yale team coxed by Jessica Michaels (16:40) and the Syracuse boat (16:48) followed.

Northeastern’s rowers fared the best of the hometown group, finishing at 16:57, good for a 13th placed finish. The two Radcliffe boats finished in the 20s, as did the women of BC and BU, with times in the 17 minute range.

The United States women’s team, which is filled by Olympians, did not participate in the Champ Eights this year, which opened up the field to the college teams. The Cambridge Boat Club did not field a “Great Eight” of international scullers either.

But for the Cal Golden Bears, that doesn’t make the victory any less sweet.

“Regardless of who’s in the race you try to win it no matter what,” Christopher said.

Although the NCAA Championships don’t take place until June, the regatta victory gives Cal a shot of momentum as they look to reclaim a national title. For Chase, the performance sets up the team well in her final season of collegiate competition.

“It’s still really early on, and what really matters is NCAAs and that’s quite a ways away,” Chase said as she stepped out of the awards ceremony as the sun set over the Charles. “But I definitely think that winning this gives us a little bit of extra boost going into the fall season.”

 

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