Gophers sweep home races

Kent Erdahl

Crosswinds tangled boats and prolonged the starts of Minnesota’s rowing team’s lone home races over the weekend.

But the difficult starting conditions served as the only challenge to the Gophers as they swept Kansas and Southern Methodist University at Lake Phalen on Saturday.

Minnesota’s first Varsity Eight boat trailed competitors early in its race because a quick start signal caught the team off-guard while it was aligning itself in the blustery conditions.

“We weren’t really prepared for it,” Minnesota senior captain Heidi Rose said. “But we knew where (Kansas and SMU) were at and we just walked right through them.”

The Gophers powered back to even as the boats approached the first 500 meters. And in the next 400 meters the race changed dramatically.

Minnesota synced up and cut through the wind with apparent ease as the team separated itself before crossing the halfway point.

By the finish, plenty of open water separated the teams. The Gophers finished with a time of 7:19.32, while Kansas and SMU finished in 7:30.13 and 7:37.26 respectively.

Gophers coach Wendy Davis was happy with the team’s performance against quality programs, but she said the shaky start did not faze her.

“We didn’t handle the beginning as well, but (the first Varsity Eight rowers) are not known for being blazing fast off the line,” Davis said. “Even though we were down I wasn’t terribly concerned.”

Davis had no reason to be concerned for the rest of the boats either.

The second Varsity Eight cruised to a huge lead early in their race against Kansas and finished 18 seconds ahead of the Jayhawks.

The first and second Varsity Four boats raced together against both Kansas and SMU. After two more difficult starts, the teams got back on track by the first 800 meters.

The first Varsity Four pulled away after 1000 meters and claimed first with a time of 8:27.0.

The second team finished with a time of 8:42.15, and came in third behind SMU’s first team.

Minnesota’s novice teams added to the team’s dominance by sweeping their races against Kansas.

The first Novice Eight team extended its unbeaten streak against the previously undefeated Jayhawks.

Despite the teams’ records, novice coach John Flynn said he was more concerned with the team improving its p>own performance.

The Gophers answered Flynn’s request with an 11-second victory.

“We sort of found that next gear we were looking for,” Flynn said. “We were able to out-power them into the wind. I think it’s a great next step in terms of continuing our development and getting ready for Big Tens next week.”

Not to be outshined, the second Novice Eight boat won their race against Kansas by the largest margin of the day. The Gophers blew past the Jayhawks by 23 seconds.

At the end of the day, Davis remained impressed with Minnesota’s performance from top to bottom.

“You see the difference now, and it means we’re really coming on as a program,” Davis said. “It’s just really fun to see.”