NCAA region sprints on tap

The event is still a week away, but coach Wendy Davis has her seat positions set.

Kent Erdahl

With seat positions set a week before Minnesota’s rowing team’s NCAA Central Region Sprints, coach Wendy Davis said she hopes her athletes examine their food carefully and look both ways before they cross the street.

Davis knows better than to take the simple things for granted before such an important race.

While coaching at Stanford and Yale, Davis witnessed one rower fall ill to food poisoning and another struck by a car right before NCAA competition.

Davis said she does not expect to see another athlete in the hospital before the team travels to Knoxville, Tenn., on May 15.

But she admitted the toughest aspect of the week before the biggest races of the year comes down to avoiding all of the distractions off the water.

“We’ve got athletes having to train in addition to taking final exams and in some cases moving out of apartments,” Davis said. “You can either come out of it slower or holding your speed.”

If the Gophers want to accomplish their goal of a berth in the NCAA Championships they will definitely need to do the latter.

Minnesota can only qualify for the national races during the regional qualifying, and with 22 teams competing, every race looks to be competitive.

Only three boats compete in the remaining races of the season, the First Varsity Eight, Second Varsity Eight and First Varsity Four.

With only three boats, Davis said each one probably needs to finish in the top six in order to make the NCAA Championships.

To reach sixth, Davis said the Gophers will most likely need to get past Texas, Notre Dame and Tennessee. But she added that the teams will not be separated by much.

“In the last few years the distance between the sixth- and ninth-place teams has only been a few seconds,” Davis said. “I’m tired of being ninth.”

If Minnesota is tired of finishing just short, the athletes will need to work hard on the water and in the classroom.

According to captain Heidi Rose, the only way that can be accomplished is with proper preparation and plenty of sleep.

“We don’t have the option of staying up all night to cram, or we’ll ruin days of practice,” Rose said. “We know when the races are and we must be prepared.”

The preparation will be easier for Rose and the other seniors in the First Varsity Eight boat. But Rose said they need to encourage the younger rowers who might be swamped by the flood of finals.

For sophomore Jenna Buskohl, the stroke of the Second Varsity Eight, working hard in practice is still a must, despite having to take three finals and move out of her apartment before leaving for the races.

“We need to be getting a lot of sleep, which will be hard to come by with finals,” Buskohl said. “But when you come to practice you still need to go all out.”

No matter the schedule, Davis said she still needs to find ways to get the most out of her team if it is to earn the first NCAA berth in school history.

“I yell at them a lot,” Davis said with a laugh. “You try to keep the workouts interesting and keep changing things up.”