Minnesota wins Big Ten Championship

It took coach Wendy Davis’ team just seven seasons to win a conference title.

by Nick Gerhardt

After seven years, the Minnesota Rowing team can celebrate its first Big Ten Championship in school history.

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South/Central Region Sprints
when: TBA Sunday, May 13
where: Oak Ridge, Tenn.

The Gophers won four out of six events and reached the grand finals in every race Saturday on Lake Wingra in Madison, Wis. to win the conference tournament. No other team had all of its boats reach the grand finals.

“It’s a dream come true, there was intrigue and excitement to every race,” coach Wendy Davis said.

The second varsity eight won first place with a time of 6 minutes and 9.11 seconds, along with the first varsity four at 7:00.3, second varsity four in 7:00.3 and first novice eight at 6:49.24. The first varsity eight finished in second place behind Michigan.

Five boats raced in the first varsity eight grand final and Minnesota needed only a fourth-place finish to win the team title.

The speaker system in the 1V8 broke shortly before the race, and the boat had no idea where they stood in the race, but somehow they responded to finish in second place and win the team title.

“They didn’t know they were in fifth place, and they picked it up. With 400 meters to go (senior) Jenna Buskohl finally said ‘enough’ and they went from fifth to second,” Davis said.

The Gophers set a Big Ten record by earning 150 team points in the competition.

“It was so wonderful, and we’re all on cloud nine. We don’t have any superstars on the team. We’re just a hardworking team and it showed,” Davis said.

The biggest surprise of the day came from the first novice eight, which won its event.

“None of the novices rowed before in their lives in the fall. Just a couple of weeks ago they lost to Wisconsin, but whatever they did worked because we heard them screaming at the end of their race,” junior Mary Ann Weinzierl said.

The award ceremony produced even more excitement as everyone ran to receive the team trophy, Weinzierl said.

“I’ve never seen (coach Davis) happier during my entire rowing career. She was beaming,” Weinzierl said.

Others on the team agreed.

“It was a totally different feeling going up there and grabbing the trophy as a team, it was pretty surreal,” junior Lauren Van Proosdy said.

Minnesota fought off difficult weather conditions in Madison in addition to the competition. One boat capsized during the regatta and another ran into milfoil. All the while the Gophers dealt with high winds and whitecaps on the water.

“We get great experience practicing on the choppy water of the Mississippi, and that helped for this race,” Weinzierl said.

Jenny Barnes and Cheryl Wick were named to the All-Big Ten first team while Sally Olson and Erika Bartkute earned second-team All-Big Ten honors.

“We’ve been getting a lot of firsts this year and it says a lot about the coaching and the girls,” Van Proosdy said.

The Gophers have two weeks to prepare for the Central Regional in Tennessee, and then the NCAA tournament on May 25-27, also in Tennessee.

“This performance said that we are a deep team nationwide. Now we need to make sure we are at our fastest for the regional and NCAA,” Van Proosdy said.

With finals week approaching, Minnesota needs to establish a balance between the two.

“The biggest thing now is to get our academics in a row before centrals because it seems every year we have a subpar performance because of exams,” Davis said.