The California Varsity Eight recorded an impressive victory over a stacked field on Lake Mercer last weekend, finishing a second up on fierce rivals Yale University. The Mike Teti-coached crew established an early lead and never looked like relinquishing it, powering home in 5 minutes and 38 seconds.
Cal’s win ended the Washington hegemony over the Varsity trophy, with the Huskies down in fourth after losing their Pac-12 title to California the previous weekend. Princeton University, who had a tussle with Yale through the middle of the race, finished third.
Teti told Row2k: “On any given day we thought any of the crews in the final could win. We were also very conscious of the fact that the past two years we won our heat and semi but fell short in the final. The guys saved their best race for when it mattered the most.”
Senior Cal coxswain Julian Venonsky credited the crew’s speed mostly to a strong and reliable base, which he says is established in the stern.
“Our stroke Natan (Wegrzycki-Szymczy just sets a great rhythm, and then it is everybody backing and supporting him,” Venonsky told Row2k. “With this boat, we found a base that I’ve never felt at Cal before my four years here, and just a base that goes and moves. Every stroke is just powerful.
Venonsky said the crew did not shoot for an exceptional row, however.
“This piece wasn’t anything super special; it wasn’t a religious experience, the clouds didn’t open up,” he said. “It was just what we knew we were capable of doing coming from our semi yesterday, which was really solid, really good. And then we just trusted each other. We knew if we just had a good piece–we didn’t even need to have a great piece–just a good piece that we’re capable of doing, we knew we could win it.”
Washington did recover some glory by claiming victory in the Freshmen’s Eight. The Second Varsity Eight title went to Harvard University to cap an undefeated season whilst Princeton were victors in the Third Varsity Eight.
Columbia University collected their first ever lightweight title at the IRA’s in impressive fashion, beating out Yale by 2 and a half seconds. Columbia four-seat William Solberg told Row2k: “The last three weeks, as a boat, we really stepped up,” he said. “We committed to the piece, and when we crossed a thousand, you felt everyone on the same page, and we crossed 300 meters, it was like we kind of knew. You knew that there was no guy in a boat that could ever let anyone else down. We were just going to go for the line. It was phenomenal.”
Stanford University, so often a centre for female sporting excellence, completed their undefeated campaign with the lightweight varsity eight title.