Gophers’ first varsity 8 grows amid injuries

Minnesota’s top boat competed at full strength for the first time last weekend.

Dane Mizutani

This weekend at the Virginia Invitational in Charlottesville, Va., the Gophers’ first varsity eight, like Tiger Woods, need to stop thinking so much.

Minnesota’s top boat raced at full strength for the first time all season last weekend, but head coach Wendy Davis said they still overthink while in the boat.  

Davis said she has seen an improvement this week in the first varsity eight as a whole, but they still have room to grow.

“We’re still in that conscious stage … where we have to think about our technique,” Davis said. “It takes time … and eventually it will sink in, and we won’t have to think about it. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.”

They’ve practiced together for a majority of the rowing season, but injuries have kept them apart in every regatta this season.

It was a bittersweet weekend in the first competition back for the first varsity eight.

The Gophers beat Indiana in the morning session but lost to Ohio State in the afternoon.

“It’s different because the physical workload [of a regatta] is way less than practice, but the mental workload is much higher,” Davis said. “They learned a lot, and they took away a lot from last weekend, and I can just see a change in practice this week.” 

Christine Beauparlant — the stroke for the crew — said the injury-plagued season has been frustrating thus far, but she added it was rewarding to compete with a fully healthy boat last weekend.  

“We’ve had multiple injuries in the boat this season, and we haven’t actually rowed in a set lineup in the longest time,” she said. “It felt awesome to get together … and learn how it’s going to feel on an actual race day.”

Though Beauparlant is a vital cog in the Gophers’ success this season, Davis said Molly Kalmoe has taken the leadership role.

“She’s got this focus and intensity about her in the boat,” Davis said. “She’s not very vocal, but she’s so focused and driven and … it’s a good thing to emulate.  She is the emotional and mental anchor of the program.”

Davis had a clear goal of being within 10 seconds of Ohio State last weekend — the team finished 11 seconds behind — but said this weekend will just serve as a test moving forward.

“I’m very excited about this race format because it’s just a chance to see how we stack up against people that are similar to us and people that are faster than us,” Davis said.

Davis has her expectations for the team this weekend, and the rowers have theirs.

“I just want us to do what we know we can,” Beauparlant said. “I would really love it if we could focus in and row to the best of our ability because we are capable and could potentially scare a lot of teams.”