Minnesota ready for rare home meet

The last time the Gophers hosted a spring event was in the 2014 season.

Coxswain Taylor Gainey coordinates and guides the boat at a rowing team practice on the Mississippi River on March 23, 2015.

Juliet Farmer, Daily File Photo

Coxswain Taylor Gainey coordinates and guides the boat at a rowing team practice on the Mississippi River on March 23, 2015.

Mike Hendrickson

The Gophers haven’t competed in the spring in Minnesota for two years, but a meet against No. 11 Wisconsin on Sunday will change that.
The team’s race against its Big Ten rival at Lake Phalen, Minn., will also serve as its final tune-up before the Big Ten Championships in Indianapolis on May 14.
Head coach Wendy Davis said the team will use the same race plans for both the meet against Wisconsin and the Big Ten Championships.
“I’m looking to see how sharp we are,” Davis said. “I also want to see how comfortable we are with that race rate.”
The Gophers meet against Wisconsin is part of a home-and-home series that alternates every year. This means Minnesota only hosts one home race every two years.
“It’s pretty great for the seniors that we get to have a home race this year,” senior captain Jessica Flakne said. “Our senior class can have one last year in our home state.”
The meet will also mark the third competition in a row the Gophers have seen Wisconsin. The two teams were at the Big Ten Double Dual in early April but did not compete against each other. Then the Badgers beat Minnesota in every race at the Big Ten/Big XII Invitational last Saturday.
“We already knew that they were really fast, and they’ve been racing against the top crews in the country,” Davis said. “They’re legit. In racing sports, it’s not like we can plan a defense. … We’re just working on being better.”
Davis said the team was able to compare its times to Wisconsin’s at the Big Ten Double Dual, since the two teams were on the same water. 
Two weeks later at the Big Ten/Big XII Invitational, Minnesota was able to close the gap.
“I think you get a little bit of a better idea of what to expect out of a crew,” Flakne said. “Once you race a crew a few times, you kind of know what their strategy is.”
The Gophers’ goal for Sunday’s match-up will be to inch closer to Wisconsin, Davis said, as they did at Saturday’s meet.
“You just chip away until suddenly you’re their speed or faster,” Davis said. 
The team’s results at the Big Ten Double Dual caused big lineup shifts, but the team won’t get a shake-up this week.
Davis said the team’s two varsity eight boats will have the same lineups on Sunday as they did last weekend.
“I looked at a combination or two [on Tuesday], and I think what we got going is our best combination,” Davis said. “They’re looking good in practice.”
Flakne, a member of the first varsity eight, said the new lineups have been performing well in practice as well and said she’s enjoyed the consistency.
“I think that the more water time, blending in these lineups and using them all the way to [the] Big Ten [championships] will be a good thing for the team,” Flakne said.