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Another road test for Gophers in Los Angeles vs. UCLA

Minnesota will row at UCLA this weekend on the heels of a road sweep last weekend.

Things seem to be going ahead of schedule for Minnesota’s rowing team this season. And that hasn’t been said in the past.

After losing their first match of the season last month against Louisville by four-tenths of a second, the Gophers first varsity eight hasn’t been beaten.

In fact, they’ve been rowing so fast that they didn’t even give Iowa, Wisconsin or Creighton a chance last weekend in Iowa City, Iowa.

The Gophers eight-boats will try to continue that success this weekend at UCLA, while the team’s four-boats stick around campus to practice.

“When you’re racing, it’s one time down the course as fast as you can go,” coach Wendy Davis said. “In practice, it’s three or four times down as fast as you can go, so you get a different workout.”

While this weekend gives the competing eight-boats a chance to build on their competition speed, the four-boats staying back will work on fine-tuning their starts, first varsity four coxswain Kaja Tally said.

“Obviously you always want to be competing and who wouldn’t want to go to UCLA,” junior Tally said. “But staying back gives us more time in the water to work hard on our starts and some other things we want to work on.”

Minnesota’s top four-boat of Tally and rowers Tracey Tallman, Katie Engel, Christine O’Donnell and Alissa Almquist topped Wisconsin by four seconds last weekend, but Tally said they could have gone faster.

Davis said that in order for her team to shave even more seconds off their times, they always need to be working on getting in better shape.

“We focus in on what we can focus in on,” Davis said. “And that comes down to getting fitter, and it takes lots of hard work to get fit.”

Fourteenth-ranked UCLA didn’t appear as fit as the field last weekend when they competed in the grand finals of the San Diego Crew Classic. Although the Bruins qualified all of their eight-boats for their respective finals, they failed to capture a win.

Minnesota beat UCLA last year at Lake Phalen in the first varsity eight race, but lost to the Bruins in the second varsity eight contest.

“UCLA is one of those teams you love competing against because they’re a great nonconference opponent,” senior Cheryl Wick said. “It’s nice to see where you are at in comparison to other teams in the country.”

But it’s not just about eyeing up the nonconference competition for the Gophers, as the young program doesn’t want to lose its early-season momentum.

“We are way further along than we were last year, or any year maybe,” Davis said. “And that’s a total credit to the athletes because they worked hard in the summer to be able to do things in September we were never able to do in September. They got themselves ahead of the game.”

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