Rowers run aground by spring floods

The Mississippi River’s refreezing and flooding are keeping Gophers rowers off the water.

Rowers run aground by spring floods

Josh Katzenstein

While families and businesses around the Twin Cities brace for the upcoming spring floods, the University of Minnesota campus is expected to avoid any significant damage âÄî apart from having a rowing team thatâÄôs less prepared for the Big Ten season.
Located smack dab in the middle of campus, the Mississippi River is an ideal place for the team to practice and host meets. Things become slightly more difficult for the Gophers, however, when the river freezes, stays frozen until March, thaws, freezes again due to this weekâÄôs snowstorm and finally floods for an unpredictable amount of time.
âÄúItâÄôs all part of rowing at Minnesota,âÄù senior captain Teresa Logemann said.
Although the teamâÄôs boathouse is the building nearest to the river on the UniversityâÄôs Minneapolis campus, coach Wendy Davis said sheâÄôs âÄúnot at all concernedâÄù about potential destruction. The boathouse opened in 2007, and potential floods were taken into consideration before its construction. Davis said the worst-case scenario would result in an inch of the building being submerged.
Flooding predictions aside, this has already been a trying year for the GophersâÄô practice routine. Monday was the first time the team rowed the Mississippi in 2011. It was too windy on Tuesday, and by Wednesday there was a new blanket of ice. By the time the ice melts again, the river will likely be flooded, meaning two things.
First, the current will be much too strong for the team to safely practice. Second, the women will wait until lakes thaw to practice on water, which Davis predicts is still two weeks away. In 2009, the team didnâÄôt begin using the Mississippi until April 27 and finished sixth out of seven teams in the Big Ten championship.
Even when the lakes open up âÄî the team normally uses Medicine Lake in Plymouth or Lake Phalen in St. Paul âÄî the travel time cuts practice down to 45 minutes, compared to 100 minutes on the river.
The Gophers, meanwhile, open the Big Ten spring season in Iowa City, Iowa this Saturday against the Hawkeyes.
âÄúWeâÄôre going to show up, weâÄôre going to put our boats in the water, weâÄôre going to sit in our boats and weâÄôre going to pull our brains out and see what happens,âÄù Davis said.
Over spring break the Minnesota squad traveled to Tennessee and took advantage of the weather by spending eight days on the water. After two scrimmages (Notre Dame and Alabama) and a week of practice, the Gophers were pleased to win three of five legs against No. 16 Tennessee.
The lack of water time mostly affects the rowersâÄô technique, Davis said. The rowing machines, ergometers, can help with timing and precision, but itâÄôs not the same as actually being on the water and working in teams of eight or four.
To overcome whatâÄôs lost technically, the Gophers are hoping to be physically stronger than their opponents.
âÄúWeâÄôre just going to be tough as nails,âÄù Davis said. âÄúOur saying this year is âÄòheartbeat for heartbeat no oneâÄôs going to be tougher than us.âÄôâÄù
The Gophers practice six days a week, including two-a-days multiple times per week. And if they canâÄôt go out on the water, they spend more time either running or in the weight room.
Last weekend against Tennessee, the team was strong but struggled a bit with stroke rate, Logemann said. The first varsity eight, the teamâÄôs top boat, lost to the Volunteers by 2.6 seconds.
Now having to face a conference foe, the Gophers are hoping to overcome the hindrances brought on by Mother Nature.
âÄúYou canâÄôt control the weather,âÄù Logemann said, âÄúso itâÄôs not worth worrying about.âÄù