Rowers returning to San Diego for tough Crew Classic event

Sam Campanaro

Minnesota’s rowing team went to San Diego in December to train for the spring season. The Gophers return this weekend to see just how far they’ve come.

Winter training propelled Minnesota to a 2-0 spring season. The Gophers defeated Louisville and Tennessee in March regattas.

This weekend Minnesota will compete in the San Diego Crew Classic premier event for the first time.

Established rowing teams like Princeton and Yale – Gophers coach Wendy Davis’ former team – will be the measure for Minnesota this weekend.

Winter training gave the team a chance to hone its technique and drill more of the basic maneuvers the third year team is still mastering.

“It gave us seven days without school and no distractions,” Davis said. “The athletes really became a sponge and became more proficient in how to move the boat.”

The extra training will help Minnesota athletes come into their own, like the three Gophers who have already made names for themselves.

Amber Riopel, Beth Hornby and Melissa Roche have earned the accolades that are helping establish the Minnesota rowing team as an elite program.

Riopel was second team All-Big Ten in the 2000-2001 season.

Hornby was Canada’s sculler of the year in the 2001-2002 season, and was an All-Big Ten first team selection in 2000-2001.

Roche was second team All-American, first team All-Big Ten and first team All-region in 2001-2002.

These three are committed to promoting the team and achieving its ultimate goal of getting an NCAA bid this spring season.

“(As a team) our power is there and we have a lot of heart,” Hornby said.

With three years under their belts, the Gophers are building a base of knowledge and capability their sport requires to compete with big programs.

Three recruits with previous rowing experience chose Minnesota in December as their collegiate rowing program, showcasing the program’s growing reputation.

Clearly stating their goal as an NCAA bid and knowing the proper steps to get there are also assets to the Gophers.

“It’s going to take confidence with every stroke and really honking on it,” Roche said.

In order to get an NCAA bid, the Gophers will have to continue “honking on it” as they compete against Iowa and Wisconsin on April 19. Beating these two schools is essential for NCAA qualification.

“Last year we beat them for the first time and of course the coaches were devastated, but they’ve improved and we’ve improved this season,” Davis said.

Minnesota’s showing in San Diego this weekend will show how much the team has learned and how well the Gophers can expect to perform.

Sam Campanaro welcomes comments at [email protected]