Young team overmatched at Big Ten championships

Minnesota didn’t have the experience of years past and struggled in Ann Arbor.

For Minnesota women’s rowing coach Wendy Davis, the effort her team gave this weekend at the Big Ten championships was pleasing, even if the results were not.

The Gophers were unable to repeat as conference champions in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday – settling for a fourth place finish with 104 total points.

“Are you ever happy if you don’t win?… I’m satisfied,” Davis said. “We were one of only two schools (along with Michigan State) that made the grand finals in every event.”

Minnesota did continue to establish itself as one of the conference’s top programs – bringing all six of its competing boats to the Grand Finals for the third straight year.

“I don’t consider this year (a rebuilding year) at all. I just think we’re moving forward from where we left off (last season),” senior Jennifer Barnes said. “Maybe not with the same people but definitely with the same attitude.”

The Gophers pulled in a pair of second place finishes in the First Varsity Four and the First Novice Eight but weren’t able to clinch an individual win in the team’s six events on Saturday.

And while Minnesota wasn’t able to pick up its second Big Ten championship in school history, Michigan State did accomplish the feat by garnering 150 points in the competition.

“They were strong in (every event) and they’re on a real tear right now,” Davis said.

The Spartans took first in three individual events including the First Varsity Eight race – the event with the most influence on total score and one that Michigan State is ranked sixth nationally in.

Minnesota will hit the water again in two weeks when the team takes part in the Aramark South/Central Regional Sprints in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Spartans will also compete at the regionals, but senior coxswain Megan Flannery believes Minnesota has the ability and drive to overcome the conference champs.

“I think with these rowers, it’s the kind of commitment that I haven’t seen in this boat in the full four years,” Flannery said.

“People actually respond to the coaches, respond to me and they make the changes. I think that with any other inexperience team, we wouldn’t be doing as well. They are making some incredible changes.”

Two rowers earn All-Big 10

Two Minnesota seniors on the 1V8 boat were honored after their final Big Ten championships when Barnes and Flannery were named to All-Big Ten teams.

Flannery, who has served as the coxswain on the 1V8 boat since she was a freshman, was named first-team All-Big Ten for the first time in her four year career at Minnesota.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for that because I am trying my best,” Flannery said. “As a coxswain, you know we’re not driving the boat or pushing the boat. I’m just trying to make sure my rowers are. I really respect every one of them and love everyone them, and it’s really nice for someone to see that.”

Barnes, Minnesota’s only two-time first-team All-American, was named second-team All-Big Ten.

The pair along with senior Laura Jatautaite brought the only varsity experience to this year’s 1V8 boat.

“(Megan) has been my only coxswain here at Minnesota,” Barnes said. “Basically, what ever Megan says, I do.”