After strong first- and second-place finishes by its top two boats last weekend, Minnesota’s rowing team faces a tougher challenge Sunday at the Head of the Rock regatta in Rockford, Ill.
“Some of the top Division I schools in the country will be there,” coach Wendy Davis said. “Wisconsin, Iowa and Notre Dame all have excellent programs, and it’s a great test for us.”
Perhaps the toughest competition will come from the Badgers, who opened the season Sept. 18 at the Milwaukee River Challenge, in which six of their boats finished in the top eight. Wisconsin’s Varsity Eight boat is ranked 11th in the nation.
Notre Dame is no pushover, either. The Irish are ranked 16th, and their Varsity Eight boat finished 11th last year in the NCAA Championships – an event Minnesota narrowly missed. Notre Dame also has a strong incoming freshman, Amanda Polk, who was a member of the United States Rowing Junior National Team.
Iowa, who finished just 10 points ahead of the Gophers in last year’s regatta, won two medals in three events at the Head of the Des Moines, Iowa, regatta in its last event.
So the Gophers, who took 10th place in last year’s regatta and are currently receiving votes in the national poll, have their work cut out for them. But Davis is certainly interested in getting to go against such tough competition, she said.
“I’m really curious to see how the first varsity boats do,” Davis said. “All three came in the top 10 last year, and it’d be very nice to duplicate that.”
Junior Cheryl Wick said the team itself is confident that it will do well in its first real test of the fall season.
“We’re pretty comparable to last year’s team despite losing so many great individual rowers,” Wick said. “It’s not as much great individual talent this year as it is working well together as a team.”
The Head of the Rock regatta is approximately 2 3/4 miles long and attracted more than 1,700 rowers last years. Those rowers, from more than 60 different clubs, universities and otherwise unaffiliated teams, crammed into approximately 400 boats and raced in 34 different events, according to the organizer’s Web site.
Despite the sheer number of athletes taking part in the races, Davis said, she hopes just three things happen this weekend.
“We’d love to win, that’s for sure,” Davis said, “Other than that, we’re hoping for good weather and that the football team does well.”