Davis changes boating lineup

The move made by rowing coach Wendy Davis was in hopes of being more in sync.

Kent Erdahl

Try breathing and blinking in unison with someone without looking at their face. Seem impossible? Now try syncing up with six more people while rowing a boat.

Minnesota rowing coach Wendy Davis said the Gophers First Varsity Eight team isn’t quite there yet. But the team needs that type of unity to finish strong at the Big Ten Championships this weekend.

Despite being named the Big Ten boat of the week heading into Saturday’s championships in Iowa City, Iowa, Davis changed the order of the boat’s lineup in hopes of making the team just a few blinks better.

“You have to move as a unit,” Davis said. “We wanted to see if they could match just a little bit closer.”

Changing the lineup of the team’s premier boat might seem a little extreme. But the Gophers have the potential to finish in the top of the conference because the rest of the Minnesota boats make up a strong supporting cast.

The first and second varsity eight boats are both seeded fifth for their races, but the second team’s seed was unexpected.

“I expected the first team to be about fifth,” Davis said. “But the second team had a great season. I was surprised they fell that far.”

Because of its seed, Davis thought the second team could finish better than several of the other teams and finish in the top three.

The rest of the Gophers’ boats are in uncharted waters. Minnesota’s first and second varsity four boats and first and second novice eight boats are all seeded first.

“It’s a position we’ve never been in before,” Varsity Four coach Libby Sharrow said. “It will be interesting to see how the athletes adjust.”

The varsity fours will be tested by an Ohio State team that was missing two of their rowers in the first meeting. But the Gophers have had to deal with their own share of injuries as well this season.

“The whole team has had to adjust,” sophomore rower Meghan Johnson said. “But I think we’re really close to coming back and stepping it up more than ever.”

Although the varsity fours need to step it up, Davis said the novice teams simply have to keep winning.

Both boats have dominated throughout the fall and spring seasons even though they are still learning their sport.

“Every week is an adventure with them,” Davis said. “I’m anxious to see them perform with really fast crews all around them.”

Although the Gophers will be counting on the young rowers to score, Davis said it is the first varsity eight boat that will ultimately decide the team’s fate.

The Gophers coach wouldn’t want it any other way.

“If any group can handle that responsibility it is the First Varsity Eights,” Davis said.