Monday, May 16, 2011

Pac-10 Championships, 2011: Thunder, Lightning Make for 'Epic' Racing on Lake Natoma

Husky Men, Cal Women Shine through on Rainy Day in Sacramento (Photo: B. Kitch)
The Pac-10 Championships on Lake Natoma typically feature 75-80 degree weather, with shorts and flip-flops everywhere, as the Central Valley edges toward Summer. This year – not so much. The weather was changeable and violent, with the height of the drama coming in the women's Grand Final, both on and off the water.

On the men's side, the regatta has become a dual of sorts between Cal and Washington. The Huskies looked dominant in the 2V and V4, with huge, open water victories on the field (Cal taking second place in each case). The Cal Frosh 8 continued their undefeated season, expanding the margin over the Huskies in the first final of the morning, and setting the stage for what was a very closely contested Varsity 8 Grand Final at 11:00am. Two weeks ago, the 'Dawgs' defeated the Bears on the Cut by nearly four seconds. On Sunday, Cal battled the Huskies all the way down the course, taking an early lead, though Washington edged out to a five to six seat advantage by the 1,000 meter mark – a margin that they were able to maintain through the second half of the race, crossing the line in 5:38.20 to Cal's 5:39.90 (see the first half of the video below). IRAs are starting to look very interesting.



On the women's side, there was a great deal of very close racing, with California rising to the occasion and capping off the day in impressive fashion. The Cal Frosh were not going to be outdone by their counterparts on the men's squad, and took the race by open water over the field. A very strong showing from Oregon State saw their Frosh 8 take second in the event, pushing Washington into third place. In the 2V event, the Cardinal entry was dominant, as Stanford shot out to an early lead, and expanded on that lead throughout, crossing the line some eight seconds ahead of the Bears, with USC in the third position.

Then, just before the start of the women's Varsity 8 Grand Final, a storm swept over the course, announcing its arrival with rolling thunder and hail whistling through the air. Within minutes, a powerful headwind kicked up, gusting upwards of 30 mph, and creating a virtual wall of wind and water into which the crews crashed at full force as they crossed into the final 1,000m of the race. The Bears battled through it all to win the Varsity 8 by roughly five feet over a very talented Stanford crew, with the top seed (and our pick to win the WV8) USC trailing (see the second half of the above video).

As a very happy Dave O'Neill alludes to in a video interview with the Pac-10 media team from the course, the Cal women showed a great deal of poise in winning their fourth straight Pac-10 Championship (and seventh in the last eight years). Looking ahead to NCAAs, we are expecting to see a very strong showing from the Pac-10, with Cal, Stanford, and USC all very deep, well-coached, and mentally tough. Princeton has been strong all year, and took top honors at EAWRC Sprints on Sunday as well, and if we know Kevin Sauer at all, UVA will be in the mix in two weeks' time. The Brown Bears will also bring a strong squad to Sacramento.

For videos of all the races from the finish line, as well as further interviews with coaches, check out the coverage of the event from the official website of the Pac-10.

Note for FeedBurner subscribers: Click the title of the article to view the video on our website.

Thanks very much to the Pac-10, as well as to Jamco for doing a great job with the timing and results at the regatta once again.

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