Rowers rev up for their only home regatta

by David McCoy

If you see Minnesota women’s rowing coach Wendy Davis wearing spurs and wielding a horse crop at this weekend’s Head of the Mississippi regatta, don’t look too surprised.

With the Gophers going into only their fourth week of practice, Davis described her team as a pony in need of some prodding.

“It’s very much like a thoroughbred when you have to kind of start easing your spurs a little bit or start lightly tapping them,” Davis said. “This is our version of saying its time to go.”

Minnesota’s conditioning and training still must improve.

Davis said a team’s stroke rate, which is normally at 30 to 32 strokes per minute, determines how hard it is going.

But with their first race of the year not until Saturday, the Gophers have not been at more than 26 strokes per minute.

That’s why, Davis said, the Gophers need this weekend’s race.

“If we just said, ‘OK, we’re hitting the 28 this week,’ they wouldn’t be as motivated if we didn’t have this race this weekend.”

Captain Andrea Pierce is not worried about a lack of motivation.

This is Minnesota’s first race since barely missing the NCAA Championships last year. “Everyone on the team is excited to see what it is capable of doing,” Pierce said.

She said the minute last semester was over, the team began focusing on this year.

“We have a mentality of ‘no more almost there,’ ” she said.

Pierce said she wants the team to finish the race knowing that its boat “flew across the water, with a powerful punch.”

Davis said the Minnesota Rowing Club, a group from the Twin Cities area, will be the Gophers’ toughest competition this weekend.

The club, whose season begins in late spring, has been rowing through the summer. Davis said the club is currently in top rowing shape, however, the Gophers are not.

But Minnesota teammembers said they’re not too worried about entering this race, which it won last year.

“We’re not feeling too much pressure,” senior Lida Storch said. “It’s not like we’re racing Virginia, or Wisconsin or Ohio State.”

After losing their top two rowers, Pierce said, it has been “amazing” to see how other people have risen up this year.

“We lost some powerful and talented girls, but we gained some back too,” Pierce said.

Junior Vilma Stragyte said she is optimistic.

“We have high expectations, and I think it will be fun, a lot of fun,” Stragyte said. “Let’s see what happens.”