Gophers shake lineup, seek results

by Jack Satzinger

The last time Minnesota raced, the first varsity eight fared uncharacteristically poor. The Gophers’ top boat finished sixth out of seven teams in both of its Saturday races and was fifth on Sunday at the Clemson Invite. 
After the regatta, Wendy Davis said the first varsity eight’s performance left a bad taste in her mouth. So, in preparation for the Gophers’ dual at Wisconsin on Saturday, the head coach shook up her lineups. 
“We pretty much reshuffled the entire boat,” senior Lynn Hodnett said. “It’s really helped us to refocus, I think, on making the boat really glide and be very smooth.” 
Hodnett and Rebecca Braak are the only rowers from the first varsity eight who are still in the same seats of the boat they occupied in Clemson. Kylie Andersen and
Jessica Flakne are now the crew’s stern pair, while Kersten Schwanz and Tabitha Andelin moved up to bow pair. 
Andelin and Schwanz were part of Minnesota’s second varsity eight in the Gophers’ most recent race, but they moved to the top line while Madison Koch and Brianna Boileau slid down. 
So far, the changes have yielded positive results. 
With a week off from formal racing, the Gophers had two 2,000-meter races in practice Saturday and came away happy with their performance. 
“The changes were positive,” first varsity eight coxswain Taylor Gainey said. “Right now we have a really good thing going.” 
All season long, Davis and members of the team have credited Minnesota’s steady improvement to a more rigorous offseason conditioning program than normal.
While the Gophers have rowed strongly, there’s no substitute for time on the water that allows teams to lock down their technique. 
Aside from lineup changes, that’s what Minnesota focused on during its off week. 
“[The off week] really allowed us to experiment,” Hodnett said. “To see what was feeling better for the boat.” 
Saturday’s races should show just how far the Gophers have come. Last year, the team had a down year because of a long winter that didn’t allow much water time.
As a result, Wisconsin swept Minnesota handily when they met at Lake Phalen in St. Paul. 
“I remember going into [last year’s race] not feeling super confident just because we hadn’t been rowing, and we knew that they had. That was something that was just definitely really hard to deal with, but this year, we’ve had tons of water time,” Gainey said. “We’re definitely more confident this year than we were last year.” 
Hodnett said Wisconsin is a team that has been competitive in recent years because it is aggressive right from the start of the race. 
But after a year of improvement and some recent adjustments, the Gophers are feeling good about their chances this weekend. 
“We’ve just really been focusing on technical improvements, since that’s where we feel like we’ve lost ground on other teams,” Hodnett said. “Our lineup changes will make us faster and more competitive.”