Rowers take to the Scioto River for Big Tens

The Minnesota womenâÄôs rowing team will have a chance to test the postseason waters this Saturday at the Big Ten championships in Columbus, Ohio. The Gophers will take six boats to compete at the Griggs Reservoir on the Scioto River in an attempt to pick up MinnesotaâÄôs second-ever conference championship. MinnesotaâÄôs first Big Ten title came in 2007. The championships split the conference into two separate heats during the morning session before the top two boats in each heat advance to the Grand Finals on Saturday afternoon. According to Gophers coach Wendy Davis, the Big Ten championships are rare in that only four boats advance from the morning session to the Grand Finals instead of six boats like other major conferences. âÄúItâÄôs a real problem if you happen to be in with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed because only two boats go [on to the Grand Finals],âÄù Davis said. And thatâÄôs just the situation Minnesota finds itself in going into this weekend. MinnesotaâÄôs 20th-ranked First Varsity Eight boat, one of six boats in the conference ranked by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association, will be put to the test in the morning session when it competes in the same heat as No. 3 Michigan State and No. 5 Michigan. The Spartans are the top seed in the conference while the Wolverines are the 2-seed. âÄúThatâÄôs going to be tough,âÄù Davis said of the Gophers 1V8 morning heat. Minnesota, which was plagued by bad weather and poor course conditions early in the spring season, finally managed to get some water time in the second half âÄì culminating in the team winning seven of eight races over Kansas last weekend. But the Jayhawks donâÄôt quite live up to the competition Minnesota will see this weekend. âÄúBig Tens are going to be a different kind of race,âÄù junior Monica Folker, coxswain of the Gophers First Varsity Four boat, said. âÄúThe competition is a lot stiffer. Coming into the conference championships under the radar is fairly new for most of the Gophers. Minnesota finished second at the event three years ago in Minneapolis and finished a disappointing fourth last year as defending champs. The teamâÄôs inability to compete earlier this year has given them an underdog image, according to senior Allison Fisher. âÄúNobodyâÄôs expecting anything from us because we havenâÄôt performed yet,âÄù Fisher, one of 11 seniors on the Minnesota squad, said. But the veteran from Wadsworth, Ill., said coming into Columbus with less pressure isnâÄôt necessarily a bad thing as the team prepares for the Aramark South/Central Regional Sprints in Tennessee later this month. âÄúPeople saw that we didnâÄôt perform well last year. This year, weâÄôve just been hungry to do well the entire time,âÄù she said. âÄúEvery race weâÄôve gone into, weâÄôve been the dark horse âÄì trying to prove ourselves.âÄù