Sydney, Australia -- California women’s rowing finished the week in Australia on a memorable note, as four athletes raced for the USA at the Sydney World Cup. Agatha Nowinski and Kara Kohler represented one pair, while Kendall Chase and Rosie Popa were the other.
"The World Cup racing was a terrific experience for these two pairs and the rest of our team, as well,” Cal head coach Dave O'Neill said. “The four of them worked hard over the winter to get this opportunity, and I'm glad they made the most of it.”
Both pairs raced Saturday morning in the "repechages", which are second chance races. The Nowinski/Kohler pair finished second in their rep to move onto the A final. Chase/Popa finished fourth, and then raced in the B final later that day.
“Since this was our Spring Break, we did a lot of training in addition to the racing this week, so I'm impressed with how they did at the end of it all,” O’Neill said. “While I'm proud of their results, I'm most happy with the way they raced and improved throughout the racing. Both crews showed real poise and speed while being pushed pretty hard. Every crew in the filed had its own motivation and reasons to perform, and it was great to see our two pairs respond to the pressure."
In the A final, Nowinski and Kohler were looking to start fast and had the best start of any Cal boat during the week. They remained with the pack to the mid-way 1000m mark, but the pace proved too much. They finished sixth in a strong field of national team athletes.
"As someone who's aspiring to row after Cal, this racing was a great look into the talent and speed at this level,” senior Agatha Nowinski said. “While I've raced at junior and U23 worlds, this was my first time racing at the senior level, and I definitely felt more pressure than I have in a while. As a Bear, I learned a lot from racing in Australia, and I'm excited to integrate what I've learned into my training and racing this season."
"Racing pairs at the senior international level was a new experience for all of us,” senior Kara Kohler said. “The pair brings so many responsibilities that you just don't get in the eight. So, to have that experience under our belts while still in college is pretty unique. We felt like we had little to lose heading into the racing. Knowing we were racing top crews from other countries was only more incentive for us to see how long we could hang. Looking forward I think this World Cup experience has set our team up well to achieve our goals.”
Chase and Popa pair started well in the B final. They were fourth after 500m then showed terrific base speed and poise to take the lead through the body of the race. They held off of strong charge from AUS2 to finish first. The four Australian pairs that Chase and Popa passed in the B final were their senior national team broken down into pairs.
"At the senior level, the competition was fiercer, the rowers more focused, and the pressure was greater,” sophomore Kendall Chase said. “For me personally, it felt good to race in the USA uniform again, and I was honored to be given this opportunity. Being nineteen years old and racing against these women was very humbling. Although this was a 'training trip,' we wanted to represent the USA the best we could, so we felt some added pressure to race to our full potential, and that's exactly what we did."
"Since it was my first time racing at the senior level, I didn't have any idea of the speed of the other World Cup crews,” senior Rosie Popa said. “All we could do was focus on our boat and make it as fast as possible, and we improved every day. Kendall and I worked really well together despite the limited preparation, but we learn throughout the year to step into in any line-up combination and make it work. I'm encouraged and motivated after this experience to keep improving and cannot wait for our upcoming season."
"This experience will certainly help us in the goals we have at Cal, but the World Cup racing was definitely a development opportunity with their international pursuits in mind,” O’Neill said. “The four of them have shown they have a future in the sport beyond Cal, and all of us are thankful to the national team coaches for allowing us to do this, and I hope it will pay off for the USA in the years to come."
In the season's first coaches' poll on March 24, the Golden Bears were ranked No. 2 in the country. Cal returns to action this weekend to take part in the San Diego Crew Classic in Mission Bay, Calif.