Minn. struggles against top-tier talent at Virginia Invitational

The Gophers won five races Saturday but placed last in four of five races on Sunday.

by Dane Mizutani


The Gophers rowing team battled top-tier competition over the weekend at the Virginia Invitational and held its own throughout the first day of competition.

The second day was a different story.

Minnesota placed first in the second varsity eight, first varsity four and first novice eight races in the Saturday morning session and followed that up with two wins in the afternoon session.

While the team triumphed on the first day of the regatta with five wins in 10 races, it sputtered Sunday and failed to record a victory.

“It was great, but at the same time, it was also disappointing,” head coach Wendy Davis said.

Minnesota’s 19th-ranked first varsity eight — consisting of Emilie Sabourin, Christine Beauparlant, Rachel Sartor, Ali Haws, Rebecca Braak, Molly Kalmoe, Kayla Thom, Becky Kinchen and Ellen Hughes —struggled to find its way over the weekend.

It finished at second- and third-place Saturday and was dominated by No. 1 Virginia on Sunday.

The Gophers finished nearly 18 seconds behind Virginia in the flagship race for the team.

“In the [first varsity eight], we had an opportunity to show what we could do, but we didn’t handle the pressure,” Davis said. “In that division, we can’t get away with that.”

Davis said that although the top boat underperformed on the weekend, the losses will help it shift toward a winning attitude.

The Gophers’ first varsity four executed well. It walked away with two wins Saturday, but similar to the first varsity eight, it was shellacked by Virginia on Sunday.

Davis said she was satisfied with how that crew competed.

“They did a really nice job [Saturday] but kind of ran into the buzzsaw on Sunday with Cornell and Virginia,” Davis said. “They did well, and we have good depth in the program, and that showed.”

Davis added she was also impressed with how well the novice group battled in a regatta of such magnitude.

Minnesota’s first novice eight won both races on Saturday and was 16 seconds off the pace set by Virginia on Sunday.

“I think everybody knew that Sunday was going to be the big showdown,” Davis said. “They did a great job Saturday but did not row particularly well Sunday.”

The Gophers’ second varsity eight was the only crew that beat Cornell on Sunday — every other crew placed third in their respective races.

Minnesota won’t compete next weekend but will resume April 29 against Wisconsin. This will be the first and only regatta the Gophers host this season.