Gophers’ novice group to row in San Diego Crew Classic

Novice rowers enter college with little to no experience, but they have a chance to make a varsity sport.

Katherine Windsor, 3rd from front, rows during practice with the varsity team Wednesday afternoon on the Mississippi River.  Windsor rowed for the novice team during 2010-11 season.

Image by Satchell Mische-Richter

Katherine Windsor, 3rd from front, rows during practice with the varsity team Wednesday afternoon on the Mississippi River. Windsor rowed for the novice team during 2010-11 season.

by Dane Mizutani

Upon arriving on campus as college freshmen, many incoming athletes who didn’t make it to the next level in their respective sports struggle to temper their competitive edge. 

That’s where novice rowing can serve as an outlet for some.

Minnesota’s novice rowing team gives students a chance to compete for a position on the varsity squad the following year.

To attain a spot on the novice rowing team, all freshman athletes have to do is try out — and a majority of the time no experience is needed.

“Usually in the beginning of the fall, we have about 70 or 80 [students] who try out,” assistant coach Andy Foltz said, “and our goal is to have … [three groups of eight] competing in the spring.”

Foltz, the primary novice coach, said the opening weeks of the school year are reserved for teaching the basics of rowing.

“We teach them from scratch a lot of the time,” Foltz said, “and that’s what novice rowing is: It’s beginners getting to compete against other beginners.”

Although actual experience is not required, athletic aptitude is pivotal in the growth of a rower.

Many students who try out at the beginning of the school year have played other sports prior to their time with the Gophers.

Silvia Coleman, a freshman from Omaha, Neb., said she had watched rowing as an Olympic sport but never really considered competing in it until she arrived on campus.

“I was a swimmer for 12 years, so I’ve been used to demanding competitive sports,” she said. “I needed something to fill the void.”

Coleman said she received an email about rowing when she got to campus and decided to try it out.

She said since that time, she has learned a lot about a sport she never thought she would compete in.

“It doesn’t really matter if one person is doing well, because you are only as fast as your slowest link,” Coleman said.

While there are many cases similar to Coleman’s in which an athlete has no prior experience, freshman Shannon Boardway is an exception.

Boardway, a Madison, Wis., native, entered with a little more than four years of rowing experience but said she did not plan to row with Minnesota.

Then current teammate Eleanor Ludkey, who also rowed with her on a club team in Madison, convinced her to try out.

“She said, ‘Why not give it a chance?’”Boardway said. “I love rowing a lot, and it’s been a part of my life for so long. I couldn’t imagine a life without it.”

Despite the work they put in this season, only a select group from the novice squad will earn a spot on the varsity team next year.

Katherine Windsor, a current competitor on the second varsity eight, rowed as a member of the novice team last year and has transitioned well to the varsity level, head coach Wendy Davis said. Davis added that Windsor filled in nicely on the first varsity eight last weekend against Iowa.

Foltz said he is excited to see where his current novice team can go because of the athletic ability the rowers have.

“This group came in with a lot of athletic experience, and they are just athletes,” Foltz said. “We have a lot of athletes … then we teach them how to be rowers.”

San Diego Crew Classic

Minnesota will send its novice rowers to San Diego to compete in the San Diego Crew Classic on Saturday and Sunday.

It will serve as an opportunity for the team to face a variety of competition early in the season.

“We’re definitely excited to get [to San Diego],” Coleman said. “It’s going to be some really good racing.”