Badgers take 5 of 6 races

The Gophers’ top varsity crew had Minnesota’s only victory Sunday.

Nate Gotlieb

The Gophers women’s rowing team captured the Burning Blade on Sunday at Lake Mendota in Madison, Wis., beating No. 14 Wisconsin’s first varsity eight crew.

But the rest of the three-team regatta belonged to the Badgers.

Wisconsin won five of six races Sunday, proving why it’s the third-ranked team in the Big Ten.

“Right now, Wisconsin would score higher than us at [the Big Ten championships],” Gophers head coach Wendy Davis said. “We’re going to need to work on finding some speed in some of our other boats.”

The Burning Blade award goes to the winner of the first varsity eight race between Wisconsin and Minnesota. The trophy had stayed with Wisconsin for all of its three-year history, but Minnesota beat Wisconsin’s top-varsity eight crew Sunday for the first time since 2007.

The Gophers led for the majority of the first varsity eight race, junior rower and first varsity eight crew member Sarah Sobek said.

Sobek, a Madison native, said Wisconsin’s first varsity eight crew made a late push, but Minnesota held on while Michigan State finished third.

“We’d had a rough couple of days because we hadn’t been able to row on the river, so we were a little bit nervous,” Sobek said. “We were all just shocked, but we were so happy.”

The first varsity eight win was Minnesota’s only victory of the day.

The Gophers’ second varsity eight crew finished 4.4 seconds behind Wisconsin. Both of Minnesota’s varsity four boats lost by more considerable margins.

The first varsity four crew finished more than 25 seconds behind Wisconsin. The second varsity four boat finished more than 18 seconds behind the Badgers and posted a faster time than Minnesota’s first varsity four crew.

“The first varsity four should look at that and go ‘uh-oh,’” Davis said.

Davis said the varsity four crews have struggled with injuries and illness, which she said is common in that event.

“It’s not an excuse,” she said. “It’s something we’re going to need to be more active in overcoming.”

Both Wisconsin and Michigan State made the 16-team NCAA championships last year after finishing third and fourth, respectively, at the Big Ten championships. The Gophers finished fifth at the Big Ten meet but did not participate in the NCAA meet.

Davis said a strong showing at this year’s Big Ten championships could help the Gophers earn their first NCAA championship berth since 2007.

“We have to get through finals, and we have to get everyone healthy,” Davis said, “and then we’ll see again in two weeks what we can do.”