Fifth place an accomplishment at hotly contested Big Tens

The Gophers had aimed for a top-four finish, but they were happy enough with how close they came.

Emily Wickstrom

Although Minnesota’s rowing team continued its trend of finishing fifth at the Big Ten Championships, the Gophers came home with a sense of accomplishment.

The 15th-ranked Gophers raced closely with some of the best teams in the country and left with the feeling they can compete with anybody.

Michigan State won with 130 points for its first-ever conference championship Saturday in Bloomington, Ind.

The Spartans were followed by Ohio State with 129 points, and Minnesota had 73 points.

The First Varsity Eight finished third in its heat and failed to qualify for the Grand Final, but the boat pushed third-ranked Michigan for the entire race.

Minnesota led for the first half of the race, but Michigan was able to pull into first place, barely beating the Gophers and Wisconsin.

“It was sweet that we were able to stay with them, and we definitely had the potential to win,” senior Lida Storch said. “Our sprint really wasn’t there. I think that mostly we’re just looking forward to racing them again.”

Michigan finished with a time of 6:29.77, and the Badgers and Gophers finished in 6:30.17 and 6:30.93, respectively.

“We were in second going into the last quarter of the race,” Minnesota coach

Wendy Davis said. “That’s with the No. 3 program in the country. Who wouldn’t be pleased with that?

“We have this motto: If someone beats us, they should have to pass out to do it. That’s essentially what we did to Michigan and Wisconsin.”

After a tough morning race, the First Varsity Eight was able to win the Petite Final, finishing in a time of 6:31.30. Indiana and Iowa followed with times of 6:36.10 and 6:40.72, respectively.

The Second Varsity Eight finished third out of four in its morning heat in a time of 6:50.10. Wisconsin won with a time of 6:36.30 and was followed by Michigan in a time of 6:42.49.

“(The Second Varsity Eight) improved a lot,” Davis said. “They felt better about their racing this weekend and are coming together as a team. We get another whack at it at (regionals), and I’m expecting good things there.”

The First Varsity Four boat placed second in its morning heat to qualify for the Grand Final, where Minnesota placed fourth overall.

The First Novice boat came into the Big Ten races seeded second but won the Grand Final for its second first-place finish in as many years.

After the races, junior Vilma Stragyte was named first-team All-Big Ten, and senior Beth Ratterman was named to the second team.

Davis said her team can be happy with its overall performance – especially with how tough the Big Ten is.

“If the No. 3 program in the country came in fourth overall at this event, that tells us something,” she said. “This is one intense league. The four teams to beat us are some of the best in the country.”

And Minnesota rowers said they feel this year’s Big Tens helped their program finally start to get national recognition.

“I think a lot of schools and a lot of coaches were like, ‘Whoa, they really are for real,’ ” junior Berit Tomten said.