May 21, 2012
BERKELEY -By Tim Miguel and Kristin Obermeyer - Cal Athletic Communications
Becca Lindquist called it.
When the day came that she knew she was transferring from UC Davis to California, she told her friends that she was going to bring home an NCAA championship for the Golden Bears. Sure enough, Lindquist was part of Cal's Pac-12 and NCAA champion varsity four boat last season.
Lindquist, now a senior on Cal's junior varsity eight, will strive for another national title at the 2012 NCAA Championships from May 25-27 in West Windsor, N.J.
Lindquist transferred because UCD dropped its rowing program. When Lindquist started exploring other options, she really liked the idea of moving over to Berkeley, but she did not think she had a chance of rowing with the Bears.
An email from Cal assistant coach Sarah Puddicombe changed all that when she encouraged Lindquist to come check out the team. Having received a second chance, it took Lindquist just one year to turn her bold prediction into a reality.
"Every day I thought about winning," she said. "I visualized myself up there on the podium with the trophy in my hand. It was a huge deal for me. I went from the lowest to the highest in just a year."
Back in 2010 when Lindquist was still an Aggie, rumors of UC Davis needing to cut some of their varsity sports began spreading, and the women's rowing team began to worry. Despite being told not to worry and to just focus on winning, a press conference was held announcing that the women's rowing team would no longer be a varsity sport at the school. Lindquist said the team felt a little betrayed because they had no idea about the news beforehand.
For Lindquist, giving up rowing was not an option, and Cal was where she wanted to go.
"I actually remember saying to one of my teammates that the only place I'll transfer to is Cal," Lindquist said. "There's no other school that compares because Cal consistently podiums at NCAAs, and it's the top public university in the world. If I'm going to go, I'm only going to go to the best."
About a week later, Lindquist received the promising email from Puddicombe.
"It was like my mouth to God's ears," said Lindquist about the new opportunity.
Puddicombe and head coach Dave O'Neill were aware of Lindquist's potential long before the UCD program ended. Former Cal rowing coach Martin McNair, who is a family friend of the Lindquists, told the Cal coaches about her, but Lindquist was already enrolled with the Aggies, so there was nothing O'Neill or Puddicombe could do at the time. When they heard the UCD program was getting cut, they remembered Lindquist immediately and did not hesitate to reach out to her.
Now at the end of her topsy-turvy collegiate career, Lindquist continues to improve and make O'Neill and Puddicombe grateful to have her on their squad, if only for two years.
"She's improved a lot," Puddicombe said. "She's one of the team leaders. You kind of forget that she only joined the team last year because she's so determined, and she has such an outgoing personality on the team. She definitely has those strong characteristics of a leader. She almost has a chip on her shoulder in the right way. She's always trying to prove herself."
Added O'Neill: "She definitely came across as somebody who was going to be a hard worker and seemed like somebody who was focused and intense. "All three of those have been correct. She rows with an extra intensity and an extra fire."
Luckily for Lindquist, she was able to make the transition with a familiar face. Christine Bernatz, now a junior rower, made the move from UC Davis to Cal with Lindquist.
"I know it was always Becca's dream to come to Cal, but I understood it was also hard for her to leave a lot of her friends behind since she had established a life there for the past two years," Bernatz said.
Once Lindquist arrived at Cal, she immediately noticed the increase in the competitiveness and determination of the team as well as the physical fitness.
"It was really rough at first because our everyday workout [at Cal] is Davis' hardest workout," Lindquist said. "It was a huge jump in volume of workout and intensity of workout. The team dynamic is a whole different story. Everybody wants to win. It's not just about having friends here. You are here to win."
The hard work paid for Lindquist as she earned a seat on the varsity four. A strong season propelled the varsity four to the conference championships, in which they won gold. Just two weeks later, the varsity four boat captured gold again at the NCAA Championships, helping the Bears finish third overall.
"It has been really cool seeing Becca make such great strides as an athlete over the past two years," Bernatz said. "As a friend and teammate, I can always count on her to give it her all when I'm in the boat with her. She has a big smile that demonstrates her positive attitude, and an even bigger heart, which has proved she's a fighter."
Lindquist indeed fought hard to rise from an athlete without a program to one who would now be called a national champion.
"For her stepping up and becoming an important part of our team last year, it was great to see," O'Neill said. "This year, it's been even more impressive, being a senior and becoming even more of a leader and stroking one of our top two eights. It was great to see her have success last year, but seeing what she's doing this year has been really impressive."