Club rowing team faces challenge at varsity level

Courtney Scheskie

As one of the University’s most successful club teams, the women’s rowing team is ready to face a new challenge: varsity status.
The women’s athletics department announced last spring that rowing would be added as the 12th women’s varsity sport in the fall of 2000. It’s the third women’s sport brought to varsity status in seven years for the University.
While the team isn’t varsity yet, the work ethic is already in place. The rowers have up to two practices a day, but it doesn’t end there. They also do strength and endurance training in the weight room and on the rowing machines.
“We have good, hard practices. There is no real difference between our practices and the practices of other varsity teams,” said open weight rower Missy Lott.
The reason for the heavy work outs is simple: Some of the Gophers want to be ready when the team goes varsity next fall.
“We are prepared to go to varsity,” novice freshman Sarah Norenberg said. “The club team is really intense.”
Situated on the Mississippi River, the school has an excellent environment for the team. Assistant Women’s Athletics Director Donna Olson sees the potential the rowers have for success.
“I believe we have the opportunity to have an outstanding team,” she said.
The rowers are also looking forward to the change.
“We have so much pride in the University, and we are excited that the University is proud enough of us to make us a NCAA team,” Norenberg said.
There are perks with the new varsity status. The team is receiving new uniforms, a new boathouse and 20 full-ride equivalent scholarships.
“It’s hard to compete with other varsity teams that have funding. We look forward to competing without monetary barriers,” says sophomore coxswain Libby Sharrow.
While the team might soon have the funding, it is still without a coach. A new coach will be named soon out of 33 applicants. Since a coach hasn’t been named, recruiting for next year’s team might be affected by the delay.
But with the Mississippi River in their backyard, Minnesota has a rare natural advantage for practices. There is also a possibility that the Gophers will host some dual meets.
Try-outs will be held next fall in the first weeks of the semester. Since there aren’t any high school programs for rowers, most of the recruiting will be from the student body and junior rowing programs in the area.
While many of the veteran rowers are planning on trying out for the team next year, the time commitment might keep them from the sport.
“There is a mixed response. Some people are going to work on school and their majors instead,” said club president Megan Harvey.
Six schools in the Big Ten Conference have women’s rowing teams, including Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, and Minnesota will be added as the seventh.
The Big Ten is a leader in women’s rowing. The conference sent Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State to the 10-team NCAA meet last spring.
For any team the step up to varsity from club status is a hard one. With varsity competition still months away, the club team is looking forward to the change of pace.
“With a bigger team everything will be more intense,” Sharrow said. “We think it will be a positive change for the team.”