Trip to Michigan offers Gophers relief from that ‘hamsters in a wheel’ feeling

Minnesota has only been able to practice on a 300-meter stretch of the Mississippi River, as opposed to its usual five miles.

by Josh Katzenstein

The Gophers rowing team hasnâÄôt competed in three weeks, but as the women look ahead to this weekendâÄôs meet against Michigan and Michigan State, theyâÄôre excited just to practice.

Lakes in the area have yet to thaw, and this week Minnesota could use only a 300-meter section of the Mississippi River for training.

âÄúThink hamsters in a wheel,âÄù coach Wendy Davis said. âÄúThatâÄôs us.âÄù

The course the Gophers typically use for practice is five miles long, but the flooding on the Mississippi wonâÄôt allow them to stretch that far. The makeshift 300-meter distance takes only 30 seconds to row with the current and two and a half minutes against it. They will have a chance to practice in full on Friday in East Lansing, Mich., before competing against two conference foes on Saturday.

Missing out on practices is nothing new for the team, and the Gophers did fairly well against Tennessee on March 19, winning three of five boats after not practicing on open water for months.

âÄúI wouldnâÄôt put anything past these guys,âÄù Davis said.

In addition to seeing the water, this weekend also gives the Gophers a chance to see top Big Ten opponents and where they stack up. Wisconsin will also compete, but the Gophers and Badgers will effectively be partners. Both will row against the Michigan schools.

âÄúItâÄôll be good to see everyone and see how much weâÄôve progressed,âÄù Davis said.

Looking forward, DavisâÄô projections donâÄôt have area lakes thawing until around April 23. She also doesnâÄôt know when the team will be able to fully utilize the Mississippi because of flooding.

Even once they start practicing on water regularly, Davis said it could take a couple weeks to actually see how fast the team is. In 2009 the team had to deal with intense flooding on the river, and one of the teamâÄôs boats improved by 18 seconds in a month without water time.

Davis hopes the strength training forced on the team can produce the same results this season.

âÄúTheyâÄôre really focused,âÄù she said. âÄúTheyâÄôre doing everything they can to do as much as theyâÄôre capable of.âÄù