On open water, Minnesota struggles

The Gophers won just one of 12 races in Michigan.

Josh Katzenstein

A weekend trip to East Lansing, Mich. for the Minnesota rowing team was filled with ups and downs.

Unfortunately for the Gophers, though, most of the ups came Friday when the team practiced fully on water for the first time since March 19 and not during the double dual against No. 8 Michigan State and 14th-ranked Michigan on Saturday.

âÄúIt was about what I expected,âÄù coach Wendy Davis said Sunday, a day after her team won just one of 12 races. âÄúThose are all really good schools. A lot of the races were not close.âÄù

The GophersâÄô top boat, the first varsity eight, lost its race to the Wolverines by seven seconds in the morning and finished nine seconds behind the Spartans in the afternoon.

âÄúWe werenâÄôt able to be at the rates other teams were because we havenâÄôt had as much water time,âÄù senior Tracy Merth, a member of the boat, said. âÄúIt was a tough weekend for us.âÄù

MinnesotaâÄôs second varsity eight lost by 13 seconds to Michigan State and seven seconds to Michigan. The first varsity four crossed the finish more than 23 seconds behind the Wolverines and about nine seconds after the Spartans.

The second varsity four didnâÄôt fare any better with a 16-second loss to Michigan State. The same boat lost to Michigan by more than 30 seconds in the morning leg.

Only the first novice eight boat came away with a victory, edging out Michigan State by 1.77 seconds in the afternoon session.

A strong showing from the younger group still helped raise the teamâÄôs spirits after a difficult racing weekend.

âÄúI think itâÄôs great that they were able to rise to the competition,âÄù Merth said.

For the past week, Minnesota practiced on only a 300-meter stretch of the Mississippi River. With storms in the forecast, the Gophers are hoping local lakes will thaw so they can avoid another lackluster performance at the Charles River Challenge in Boston next weekend.

âÄúEverybody guessed that we were in highly unusual situations. It would be the same thing if a satellite came and ruined someoneâÄôs boathouse and all of their shells,âÄù Davis said, adding that sheâÄôs hopeful of a soon return to lakes for practice. âÄúHot weather and a big old torrential downpour would do a number on them.âÄù

Even with a disappointing season, Davis sees no reason why, with enough future water time, the Gophers canâÄôt hang with Big Ten competition. Wisconsin also participated at the meet, winning eight of 12 races against the two Michigan schools.

âÄúWeâÄôre being over-stroked. EverybodyâÄôs at a higher cadence than we are,âÄù Davis said. âÄúSome of the schools have been on water since early March.âÄù

Merth added, âÄúWeâÄôre starting at a pretty good pace, and weâÄôll just keep improving.âÄù