Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cal v. Stanford: The Jill Row, 2011

The Cal Frosh launch at Redwood Shores (Photo: B. Kitch)
The Cal women entered the racing on Saturday for this year's Big Row against Stanford as underdogs, with the Stanford women coming in at No. 2 according to the most recent coaches' poll, and with the Cardinal having won the most recent match-up between the two schools at the Lake Natoma Invite just two weeks earlier in the Varsity and 2V8s. The first NCAA race of the morning was the Varsity 4+, which saw Cal and Stanford locked in a stroke-for-stroke battle throughout the first 500m. The Cal crew (a lineup featuring Jenn Helssen and Charlotte Palmer, who took second in the V4+ at the 2010 NCAA Championships) settled into their mid-race rhythm, making a big push again as they crossed 750m. In so doing, they pulled out to a length lead as they crossed underneath the bridge (just past the 1000m mark) eventually taking the race in a time of 7:29.6 to continue their undefeated season.

The Frosh 8s saw Cal continue their solid Spring, as they defeated the Cardinal by nearly 20 seconds and built further on their momentum following their great win in Washington a week ago.

Stanford showed their depth, however, in the 2V8 -- a race that saw Stanford built a lead just before the mid-point of the race, which they pushed out to a length as they crossed 1200m. The Bears pushed back, but Stanford held on, and took the race by just under three seconds (Stanford crossed in 6:35.0, with Cal crossing the line in 6:37.6).

In the Varsity 8, Cal entered the race as underdogs, but Stanford was without one of their star rowers in Anna Dawson of New Zealand (the Cardinal 7 seat), who was unable to race on Saturday. This meant that the Cardinal V8 had to be reshuffled, as Coach Yaz Farooq moved Michelle Vezie back into the 1V, along with Sarah Bolmer, while Annie Osborne was moved into the Frosh 8, and Julianna Kapjian-Pitt was shifted into the 2V. The Cardinal did have both of their Beijing Olympians in action, however, with Elle Logan at stroke and Lindsay Meyer in the 5 seat.

The race proved a very exciting one, as Stanford took an early lead, which they maintained through the 500m mark. Cal then pulled even, and the two boats were level as they crossed through 750m. Again, at the 1000m mark, Cal moved on Stanford, and the Cardinal were unable to respond. Cal broke the race open, and lead by roughly two lengths as they entered the final 500m. When all was said and done, California retained the Lambert Cup, taking the Varsity 8 race in a time of 6:20 to Stanford's 6:24.

On the men's side, Cal entered as the heavy favorite, and didn't disappoint. The first of the intercollegiate races of the morning was the Cal Frosh v. a combination lineup from Stanford (who have had to pull their most talented freshmen up into the Varsity 8 for most of the season). As predicted, Cal, in their wing Empacher, won going away in a time of 5:51.4. The men's 2V race was more competitive, but still saw the Bears build an early advantage over the Cardinal, which they maintained through the end of the piece, crossing the line in 5:47.7 to Stanford's 5:58.6.

The Varsity 8 race was again competitive through the first 500m, after which Cal, coming off a very strong performance last weekend in Seattle, walked away from the Cardinal through the middle 1000m, and successfully defended the Schwabacher Cup in a time of 5:39.2, with Stanford (with a lineup stroked by freshman recruit and 2010 Junior World Champion Austin Hack) clocking in at 5:48.1.

Dave O'Neill addresses the crowd (Photo: B. Kitch)
Athletes and spectators gathered for the awards ceremony (Photo: B. Kitch)
Following the racing, the athletes, coaches and spectators came together for the awards ceremony. As Cal was hosting this year, Head Coach Dave O'Neill thanked everyone for coming, congratulated all crews on a great day of racing, and said a few words about the late Jill Costello, in whose honor the races were held this year. Each of the coaches expressed their admiration for Costello. Stanford Head Coach Yaz Farooq then explained that last year, when she returned the Lambert Cup to California following the Varsity race, she had placed one of the specially printed Stanford tanks (with a pink block 'S' and a seafoam green ribbon printed on the left chest) inside the cup for Jill, who was away at the time of the regatta receiving treatment for lung cancer. "It was my hope," Farooq said, "that Jill would be here to pick it up this year." The Costello family was present, and representatives of the regatta presented Jill's mother with flowers.

Farooq addresses the crowd (Photo: B. Kitch)
Cal presents Mrs. Costello (left) with flowers (Photo: B. Kitch)
Thanks to everyone from Cal and Stanford for all their efforts in putting together a well-run regatta, as well as a truly heart-felt tribute to a wonderful person who is terribly missed, and who continues to have a strong, positive influence on all of her teammates, as well as all those who competed against her. For more information on upcoming events in honor of Jill Costello, or if you'd like to contribute to the Lung Cancer Foundation, please click here.

-RR

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