This Saturday, all three Stanford rowing teams, each ranked in the top 15 in the nation, will face Cal in the annual Big Row at Redwood Shores.
The No. 11 men’s team is coming off of a weeklong hiatus from competition after three consecutive weekends of racing, the last of which was a sweep at home in the Stanford Invitational.
In preparation for No. 2 Cal, the men spent the week after the Invite doing more work on the erg (indoor rowing machine) and split the varsity into two four-boats to keep the team in a competitive mindset. This past week, however, was a transition back onto the water with the emphasis placed on speed work at race pace.
“With the races every week, we really were on the water all the time, which is great,” said senior Austin Hack. “But it’s nice to kind of taste your own blood a little bit and just hit it hard on the erg to just remember what it feels like.”
In last year’s regatta, the Cardinal were successful against Cal, upsetting the clear favorites by 1.5 seconds and winning the Schwabacher Cup for the first time since 2008. This year, the Card head into Saturday’s regatta with more uncertainty as the final varsity boat (1V8) lineups have been in constant flux this season and four freshmen are vying for positions, as opposed to the four veteran seniors that held those spots last year.
“It’s different than last year for sure. We had the eight guys who had been rowing all season and then maybe one guy would have a chance [of getting in the 1V8 boat],” Hack said. “Against Cal, we might switch out but in reality the lineup would be consistent, but this year we are just looking for something that looks better than what we have.”
“It’s four seniors [last year] versus four freshmen,” said junior Kaess Smit. “If you look at the raw power of the boat and talent, empirically we have the faster boat [this year].”
Cal heads into Saturday’s regatta coming off of a narrow loss to then-No. 2 Washington at Redwood Shores last weekend. Cal and Washington are projected to finish in the top two spots in the nation at the IRA Championships in May, so Saturday will be a good barometer for the men’s team moving forward before Pac-12 Championships and IRAs.
“We’re always going to be the underdogs, that’s always how it’s been [against Cal]. But if we can figure it out and put forth a lot of good spirit it might turn out [well],” Hack said. “No matter what you feel about the race, when you reach the starting line, even if you think you’re going to lose, if you’re even 500 meters in, then all that is behind and it’s just racing from there.”
The women’s races will be a top-five showdown as No. 4 Stanford takes on No. 2 Cal. Cal has beaten the Card and taken home the Lambert Cup for the past four years. With none of the current rowers on the Stanford team having beaten Cal during their times on the Farm and after being swept in all four races last year, the extra incentive and motivation to succeed this Saturday is great.
“It should be a good race, we’re feeling pretty good,” said senior Christina Bax. “We’ve never beaten Cal during my time at Stanford and I’m a senior so this is my last chance. So it is exciting that this could be the year, and I hope it is.”
Last weekend, the Card competed against USC, with the 2V8 winning its second straight race against the Trojans and the 1V8 falling just short.
“Coming off a loss for the 1V [against USC], we’re really fired up to figure out how we can go faster and win this weekend,” Bax said. “It’s hard to lose, but at the same time, it’s good to lose because it motivates you even more because you don’t want that feeling of losing anymore.”
Finally, the No. 2 Stanford women’s lightweight team will go up against the Cal 3V8 and 4V8 boats, as Cal does not have a lightweight team. The Card, however, already gained experience against Cal’s openweight boats at the Pac-12 Challenge in early April. The 1V8 loss to Cal’s 3V8 was one of their only defeats of the season and the Card are ready for a second shot at the Bears.
“We’ve really been working over the past couple of weeks at fine-tuning our race plan and seeing how we can get off the start faster,” said sophomore Katherine Christel. “So I’m really excited to start practicing that before IRAs because we really only have this regatta and then one more after that before we go to nationals.”
Stanford’s lightweight team will start competition for the day at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, with the rest of the races alternating between the men’s and women’s teams until 11 a.m.
Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.