Gophers eager to gain recognition in Big Ten Conference

Minnesota’s rowing team is only in its fourth year as a varsity sport.

Kent Erdahl

Minnesota’s rowing team is used to being overlooked.

In the fall and spring the Gophers glide beneath the Washington Avenue Bridge almost daily without much notice.

“People probably see us,” senior Melissa Roche said. “But they don’t realize the physical effort and technical aspects it takes for us to compete.”

In only their fourth year of varsity status, the Gophers haven’t exactly been viewed seriously by their competition either, coach Wendy Davis said.

“We’ve never really been on the radar,” she said. “But this year we should be one of the teams everyone else worries about.”

Davis knows what a prediction like that might sound like coming from such a young team, especially in a strong rowing conference.

But the Gophers have already begun turning heads early in this spring season.

Minnesota won five of six events against No. 13 Tennessee last Saturday.

“Based on that and the quality of our fall season, we’re really in the hunt for the top 20,” Davis said. “We just need to stay on track and we’ll be there.”

The continued success of this year’s team hinges on the leadership and performance of the team’s first four-year varsity class of seniors.

“When they walked on campus they were the best on the team,” Davis said. “And it’s a problem when your freshmen are the best.”

Despite the strength of the senior class, Minnesota is also a much stronger team throughout.

“We have our first real recruiting class and two great transfer students,” Davis said. “We also have a deep class of sophomores.”

With increased talent, there has been more competition within the team.

“That’s what has made us better,” Roche said. “We’re racing within the boat, not to mention other Big Ten teams.”

With the increased competition the seniors have to start looking over their shoulders.

“Last year I didn’t have to work as hard to get into a higher boat,” senior Mariel Gartner said. “Now there’s just so much depth, and it’s much more exciting.”

The increased intensity has definitely stirred things up. But senior Jill Peters said the seniors want to be the ones to lead the team to its first NCAA Tournament.

“We were the first to come to the team,” Peters said. “And now we’re here to finish it off with a spot in the tournament.”