San Diego Crew Classic
The Cal varsity began the 1996 season at the Crew Classic facing an uphill battle. With a limited number of athletes on the squad, the varsity finished 10th, and the JV, which by season's end included five athletes from the second novice eight, finished eighth . The novice, however, raced to their best Crew Classic finish in years, placing second out of 21 crews. In the heats, the Cal novice women posted an open water victory, advancing to the final. In the final the novice led the race for the first 1500m only to be overtaken by Washington in the final 500 meters.
The varsity picked up its first win of the season over UCLA. In its other race, the varsity was handily beaten by Washington State Once again the women's novice prevailed, notching a five-second victory over the Cougars. Cal's varsity four also found success as it beat Stanford by a length.
The Cal women hosted up-and-coming Gonzaga on the Oakland Estuary April 20. In the only women's race, the varsity emerged victorious with Gonzaga second and the Cal JV eight finishing third.
The Cal women were swept by three strong crews that had won all three women's events at the Crew Classic earlier in the year. Cal's varsity finished third behind the Husky varsity and JV crews, while the novice crew lost for the second time of the year to UW.
Stanford defeated Cal in both the varsity and JV events, but the novice squad showed its depth by defeating the Cardinal in both the novice "A" and novice "B" races.
After suffering a first round loss to Oregon State, the varsity went on to defeat USC and UCLA for an eventual fifth place finish at the Pac-10 Championships. The surprise of the regatta was the JV, which posted a stunning opening round upset of second-seeded Stanford, knocking the Cardinal out of medal contention. The excitement was short lived, as the Bears fell to Washington in round two and again to Oregon State before finishing fourth overall. The novice posted victories over WSU and Stanford advancing to the championship final against its nemesis, the Washington Huskies. Once again the Bears, who were undefeated against all other competition, were unable to beat UW and finished in second place in the Pac-10.