BERKELEY – The No. 1 California women’s crew team will compete in the sixth-annual Lake Natoma Invitational in Gold River this weekend, April 12-13. This year’s invitational, which Cal co-hosts with Sacramento State, contains the most competitive field the regatta has ever had.
Five of the teams racing are currently ranked top-10 in the country, and six teams raced at NCAA's last year. As a result, this event is crucial for NCAA selection as teams from five different rowing conferences are represented.
"LNI has become a highlight on the spring racing schedule, and I appreciate the effort all these teams make to get to Lake Natoma,” head coach Dave O’Neill said. “We started this event with the intent of having great, fair racing among terrific teams vying for NCAA selection and the championship, and that is certainly the case this year."
The Golden Bears, ranked first in the second regular season CRCA/USRowing Coaches Poll released on Wednesday, will compete against eight crews in the two-day regatta, Saturday and Sunday. The field includes nationally-ranked crews USC (No. 4), Brown (No. 6), Stanford (No. 7), Notre Dame (No. 9), and University of San Diego (No. 20), along with Oklahoma, Kansas and Sacramento State.
"This is a big weekend for our team for many reasons, and everyone is looking forward to the racing ahead,” O’Neill said. “The level of competition is outstanding, and each session of racing will be a big challenge. We'll race a few different line-ups over the course of the racing to see how things go, so this weekend is important for our own internal selection."
The Bears begin competition in the LNI at 8 a.m. on Saturday with the varsity four race against No. 20 University of San Diego and Sacramento State. Cal’s second varsity eight will face the Toreros and Hornets at 8:30 a.m., followed by the varsity eight race at 9 a.m. The Bears will race against No. 9 Notre Dame and Kansas in the second heat of the second varsity four race that concludes the morning session of racing at 9:40 a.m.
The afternoon session begins with two heats of the novice eight at 3:30 p.m. The Bears have a boat in each, facing Kansas and Sacramento State in the first heat and USC and Oklahoma in the second. Cal faces Notre Dame and Kansas in the varsity four at 3:50 p.m., the second varsity eight at 4:20 p.m., and the varsity eight at 4:50 p.m.
Fans can follow all the results of LNI 2014 on Twitter using the handle @NatomaInvite. For all the latest news on the Bears, you can follow them on Twitter at the handle @CalWCrew.
Last season, the Bears captured three of four grand finals at the Lake Natoma Invitational, defeating USC and Stanford in the second varsity eight and varsity four races, and Wisconsin in the novice eight race. USC narrowly defeated Cal in the varsity eight grand final, which helped earn the Trojans just enough points to secure their first-place overall finish.
Cal is coming off a strong performance at the San Diego Crew Classic in Mission Bay on April 6, where the Bears nabbed one first-place title and two second-place finishes in the grand finals. Cal won the Jackie Ann Stitt Hungness Memorial trophy in the second varsity eight grand final and finished second in the Collegiate 4+ and Novice 8+ grand finals.
Following the Lake Natoma Invitational, Cal hosts Washington at Redwood Shores in the battle for the Simpson Cup on Saturday, April 26 at 9 a.m.