Berkeley undisputed champs across all levels at college nationals.

Mercer Lake’s the home of Princeton rowing but Cal Berkeley owned it on the final day of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association finals in New Jersey.

The Bears 1V (First Varsity Eight) boat was swamped by the rest of the Cal squad as they came into the landing, following wins in the 2nd and 3rd Varsity Eights as well as the Varsity 4+.

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Photo: Sharron Bennett Photography. Photo features: The Cal Berkeley 1V (First Varsity Eight) boat with the rest of the Cal squad swimming out to to swamp the Eight crew as they came into the landing following their win.

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Photo: Sharron Bennett Photography. Photo features: The Cal Berkeley 1V (First Varsity Eight) boat being swamped by the rest of the Cal squad as they came into the landing following their win.

Kiwis Ollie Maclean (ex-King's College) and Campbell Crouch (ex-Hamilton Boys) have been part of the top Cal crew that hasn’t lost all season. Rowing through the grades in New Zealand made the win even more enjoyable, they say.

"We're a long way from home," says Ollie. "To have another Kiwi with you, to have that familiarity is something really special. And, you know, us growing up, going through high school rowing, you always looked up at these collegiate races and how historical and spectacular they are and being able to make history, not just for Cal but for Kiwis is pretty momentous."

"Coming to a school like Cal, it's so big," says Campbell. "So having Ollie by my side in the boat is such a big thing and it's been so helpful."

Cal was wearing specially embossed suits with the initials CS in honour of former squad member Christoph Siefriedsberger, who was killed while out training on his bike with the Austrian squad in Italy in January.

He provided the motivation as Cal stormed home in 5:31.7 over second place University of Washington (5:32.9).

“Going to that last 200, we had a call after Christoph,” says Ollie. “That was dedicated to him and for what he's done to our programme. He was a huge part of our culture and [the reason for] where Cal is today.”

Berkeley hasn't been beaten on home soil for 2 years now, with Ollie also a huge part of that success after being named Pac-12 rower of the year for the second consecutive time.

Both are graduating this year so it's the end of college rowing, but they have plenty more to look forward to with New Zealand Elite trials coming up this month.

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Photo features: Kiwis Ollie Maclean (ex-King's College) and Campbell Crouch (ex-Hamilton Boys) part of the Varsity 1 Eight Cal crew. 

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The successful Cal squad at the conclusion of the IRAs. 

Three other Kiwis were in the 1V Grand Final - in the late charging UW crew were Logan Ullrich and Blake Bradshaw who secured 2nd place and Cole Brann finishing 6th in the Northeastern crew.

Former Auckland Grammar rower Tommy Barell stroked Cal’s 2V in a dominant win over Washington and Yale. Barrell set what the commentator called a “punishing rhythm”, as they led from start to finish, never falling below 39 strokes per minute, crossing the line in 5:39.6.

Three other Kiwis were in the medallist boats with Kieran Joyce (HBHS) steering the Washington crew that also had Ethan Blight (St Kentigern) in bow.

Yale had Olympic eights gold medallist Dan Williamson in its crew.

Matt Waddell was in Cal’s winning 3V boat (5:42.2) and he’ll celebrate his success by heading to New Zealand U23 trials up at the Bears’ training venue in Briones Reservoir near San Francisco in just over 10 days' time.

Hawkes Bay's Fergus Ritchie was in the 2nd place Harvard crew, whilst fellow triallists Ben Shortt (Auckland Grammar) and Harry Fitzpatrick (St Peter’s College) were in the Washington crew that finished 3rd (5:47.1). Seth Hope (Cambridge High School) finishing 5th with Yale and Marcus Winter 6th with Brown.

The IRAs are also the benchmark regatta for lightweight rowing supremacy and there were two New Zealand athletes in the A final of the men’s eight.

Reuben Cook (Otago Boys’) was in three seat of the Princeton crew that won in 5:41.02 over Harvard, who had former Westlake student Brahm Erdmann in six seat

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Photo: Sharron Bennett Photography. Photo features: Reuben Cook after winning the A Final in the men's eight with his Princeton crew. 

NZ team

Photo: sharron Bennett photography. Photo features: a group of the Kiwis that competed at the IRAs along with Fiona Bourke, Rowing NZ's International Pathway Lead. 

The livestream from New Jersey featured an ad for American Magic’s America’s Cup campaign. They were on the lookout for cyclors to power their bid for the Auld Mug in Barcelona.

For many of the rowers at today’s regatta it will be the end of their rowing careers.

Kiwi rowers have shown they are pretty good at generating hydraulic power in a foiling Am Cup boat.

You can go places when you can push your legs better than anyone else in a boat.

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Andy Hay

Andy Hay is a freelance producer, writer and rowing coach. He was cox of the world champion New Zealand eight of 1982 and '83. He is NZ Olympian #446.