The Minnesota rowing team looks to glide past Big Ten opponents this weekend when the Gophers host their first event on Lake Phalen in St. Paul.
Minnesota, ranked No. 10 in the nation, will face off against Iowa, Drake and No. 15 Wisconsin on Saturday.
The Gophers have not faced the Badgers this spring, so this weekend will serve as a barometer to see where they stand against top Big Ten schools.
“Wisconsin looked really good in the fall, and they are very hungry to prove themselves,” coach Wendy Davis said.
The Badgers second varsity eight boat was once ranked as high as No. 3 last season, Davis said.
Wisconsin presents the challenge of facing the unknown for the Gophers because weather issues forced the Badgers to cancel events and prevented them from practicing on open water.
Still, Minnesota knows that Wisconsin will come prepared to compete.
The Badgers were a strong team through October and they are notoriously fast, Davis said.
The Gophers swept Iowa two weeks ago at Iowa, but don’t want to underestimate any opponents.
“We have a good idea of where Iowa stands, but we have to treat everyone as a fast crew,” junior Lauren Van Proosdy said.
The Big Ten Championships are two weeks away and Minnesota wants to prepare itself as much as possible as the date approaches.
“This weekend will be a dress rehearsal for the Big Ten. We have to do what we know how to do,” junior Mary Ann Weinzierl said.
This weekend’s event is organized similarly to the conference championship with races in the morning and afternoon, which should help the team maintain its focus all day, Van Proosdy said.
Minnesota hopes to use last weekend’s success on the East Coast as inspiration heading into the final stretch of the season. The Gophers took two out of three events from perennial powerhouses Yale, Dartmouth and Boston University.
“It was great for us as a young program because there’s not much respect for us out there. It proved we’re a team to compete with,” Van Proosdy said.
The Gophers have sought respect all year from the upper echelon teams and last weekend helped boost their confidence.
“People were yelling ‘Go Yale’ from a bridge as we pulled away and we were thinking, we’ve got this,” Weinzierl said.
Despite the success in Boston, the team performed poorly in the second half of the race, Davis said. Some boats have started slow out of the gates this season as well, Weinzierl added.
Minnesota will need to improve in those areas this weekend to compete against Wisconsin, which has reached the NCCA tournament three years in a row.
But the team is coming together nicely and the boats are finally feeling the flow and working well, according to Van Proosdy.
“We have to row with heart and row as a team,” Weinzierl said.