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Cal’s Lindsay Meltz hopes to lead Bears to rowing victory

Lindsay Meltz can quickly define three types of coxswains because she can be all of them – drill sergeant, flight attendant and cheerleader.

The ability to adjust her personality is helpful during 61/2-minute bursts when Meltz is motivating eight Cal teammates to row 2,000 meters at different degrees of fast.

The Bears varsity eight boat is undefeated this season and the senior coxswain from El Dorado Hills hopes to maintain the winning streak beginning Friday at the NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships at Lake Natoma.

“The best kind of coxswain is a coxswain who can incorporate all three kinds into their style,” said Meltz, who will conclude her collegiate career at the three-day regatta. “A lot of coxing is just making judgment calls.

“If you’re in a situation where your crew is down and you’re being pushed and the other boat is moving, you need to try the technique, ‘OK, everyone needs to take a deep breath’ and get back to work and then it’s drill sergeant.”

The quick adjustments worked last weekend at the Pacific-12 Conference Championships, also at Lake Natoma. Top-seeded Cal trailed Stanford after 750 meters. Meltz adjusted the team’s approach midrace and the Bears won by six seconds to maintain their top seed for the NCAAs.

Twenty-two Division I schools, including five from the Pac-12, are entered in the competition, at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center for the eighth time.

Since the competition’s debut in 1997, teams with Bear mascots have combined to win nine D-I titles. The Brown Bears have won seven times, including the inaugural year, and Cal won in 2005 and 2006.

Ohio State, whose varsity eight also is undefeated this season, is the two-time defending champion, with Cal the runner-up the past two years when the event was in Indianapolis. Ohio State is the seeded second and Stanford third.

Humboldt State and Trinity College won the Division II and III titles in 2014. Including D-II and DIII, the 2,000-meter races will be nearly continuous throughout heats, repechage (second chance), semifinals, petite finals and grand finals.

Competition begins Friday today at 8:30 a.m. with D-III heats and continues Saturday at 8:30 a.m. with D-I semifinals. The first of 15 finals will begin Sunday at 8:30 a.m.

Cal has defeated Stanford, Brown (seeded fourth), Washington (fifth), Virginia (sixth), Washington State (11th), Notre Dame (14th ), USC (16th) and Gonzaga (17th) this season.

Ohio State and Cal haven’t competed against each other this season, but Meltz likes the Bears’ chances, particularly considering her familiarity with Lake Natoma. Meltz joined the Capital Crew team at 14 as a freshman at Oak Ridge High School, and she’s rowed on Lake Natoma for nearly a decade.

“I’ve raced it more times than I can ever count,” said Meltz, a four-year coxswain at Cal who also guided the the United States to the U23 world title last summer in Italy. “For me, it’s just home.

“Sitting on the boat and without even looking at the buoys, they’re all different color every 500 meters. The other coxswains might have to look at the lines or the buoys. I know every landmark. I know exactly where I am. I don’t have to look at anything.”

If you go

  • What: NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships
  • When: Friday through Sunday; competition begins at 8:30 a.m. each day
  • Where: Sacramento State Aquatic Center, Lake Natoma, Nimbus Flat State Park, Gold River
  • Admission: $15 per day
  • Parking: $10 per vehicle per day; follow signs to lot off Tributary Road, across Hazel Avenue from center; free shuttles every 10 minutes
  • Park information: Spectators may bring coolers, food, camping chairs; leashed dogs are allowed; pop-up and private shade tents are not allowed; food vendors will be on site; no glass or alcohol allowed
  • Live coverage: NCAA will stream at ncaa.com/liveschedule
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