Minnesota wins four of five contests in meet at Lake Phalen

Matt Perkins

Minnesota’s rowing team coach Wendy Davis said there’s something she wants everyone to know.

“We’re the only Big Ten school competing this weekend,” Davis said. “That’s something I would love the world to know. As everyone else is busy tapering we beat Boston University by five seconds.”

The Gophers also bested Kansas in the friendly waters of Lake Phalen, and won four of five races on Saturday.

That success, coupled with the fact that the team hosts the Big Ten Championships at Lake Phalen next weekend, has the Gophers more confident than they’ve ever been.

“I can’t think of a time where we’ve gone into the Big Ten Championships with the kind of confidence we have this year,” first varsity eight member Jillian Casey said. “I think I speak for everyone when I say next weekend is going to be exciting.”

Minnesota’s varsity races Saturday were only exciting for the first 500 meters of Lake Phalen’s 1,940-meter course.

After that, the Gophers pulled away.

The first varsity eight for the Gophers cruised to the finish line with a boat-length lead, clocking a time of six minutes, 11.77 seconds to beat Boston University’s time of 6:16.87 and Kansas’ 6:25.02.

After the race Davis said she couldn’t express to her team how important it was to beat a team like Boston by five seconds.

“I’m just not sure we realize how well we raced today,” Davis said. “While other Big Ten schools are resting before next weekend, we came out here and beat two quality programs in Boston and Kansas.”

Minnesota’s second varsity eight epitomized the team’s dominating performance.

The boat of coxswain Leah Gross and rowers Megan Stuhlfaut, Rachel Hotkowski, Mary Ann Weinzierl, Catherine Casey, Sally Olson, Maggie Armstrong, Heidi Bechtel and Tina Cho beat the Terriers and Jayhawks off the line, in the middle 1,000 meters and down the stretch, clocking in at 6:24.6 for the win.

And in the varsity four race, the Gophers were competing against themselves.

Minnesota placed three boats in the race and finished 1-2-3, overwhelming Kansas’ one boat.

The Gophers’ first varsity four team of Kaja Tally, Tracey Tallman, Katie Engel, Christine O’Donnell and Alissa Almquist won the race with a time of 7:12.4.

“We did not try to alter our plan at all and raced our race,” Engel said. “Our start was good, but it wasn’t just that; everything was working for us this weekend.”

Minnesota can only hope for the same results next weekend, as five very tough conference opponents come to Lake Phalen on a Big Ten Title quest.

And although Ohio State is the odds-on favorite, Davis said you can’t single any one team out in what she calls “one of the top two leagues in the country.”

“I would have to agree that this is the most confident, or at least comfortable, we’ve been,” Davis said. “Next weekend is going to be beautiful, hosting the Big Ten Championships. It’s going to be a great day of racing.”