Cal captured its second NCAA women's rowing title in the past three years in May.
Cal Celebrates National Championship Week
Bears Captured NCAA Titles In Women's Rowing, Women's Swimming in 2018
– Just over a decade ago, Cal Athletics created National Championship Week, a fall celebration of the previous school year's national champions, and with consistently high levels of achievements, the Golden Bears have been honored every year since. In actuality, Cal could have begun the tradition 45 years ago and not missed a beat.
The school's national champion run dates all the way back to 1973, when the Golden Bear men's water polo team captured the NCAA crown. And Cal kept the streak fully intact during the 2017-18 academic year with four more championships to add to its impressive collection. The 2018 National Championship Week will be held Oct. 8-13, culminating with the champions being introduced on the field during the Cal-UCLA football game.
The first to step to the top of the podium was Kathleen Baker
in women's swimming & diving. For several years, she had set her sights on breaking the American record in the 200-yard backstroke and had come within half a second of the mark on a couple of occasions.
In the final session of the 2018 NCAA Championships, Baker at last claimed the record. In her race, she led from the start and touched the wall in 1:47.30 to win the national title in the event for the second straight year. Her time lowered the record of 1:47.84 held by another Golden Bear, Elizabeth Pelton, set in 2013. In fact, Baker's win gave Cal its eighth all-time victory in the race and kept the school's hold on the American record dating back to Natalie Coughlin in 2001.
The Bears then added three more titles to their total on a single day in May, all during the NCAA Women's Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Fla., in less-than-ideal conditions.
Due to an approaching tropical storm, the three-day regatta was shorted to two, with both the semifinals and finals condensed into one long Saturday on the course. In morning heats, the Bears set the stage for a championship by qualifying all three of their boats for grand finals later in the afternoon.
The varsity eight opened first with top-seeded Washington building an early lead. However, the Bears kept the Huskies within striking distance and used an impressive surge to draw even at the 1,000-meter mark. From there, Cal steadily built an advantage and crossed the finish in first place to give the Bears their first varsity eight national title since 2013.
In the second varsity eight, Washington claimed the win over second-place Cal, setting up a varsity four race with the NCAA team championship on the line. Cal and Washington battled throughout, with neither team leading by more than a few seats. The Bears, though, prevailed in the end, edging the Huskies by less than a second.
Not only did Cal win the varsity four race for an NCAA crown, but the result meant the Bears captured the team championship, as well – its second title in the past three years and giving them an 11th consecutive year among the nation's top 3.
Since its first national championship in 1920 when football stood atop the polls, Cal has had at least one national champion in 83 of the last 98 years. So chances are, when next fall comes around, the Bears will be celebrating National Championship Week once again.