Double dual brings success

Kent Erdahl

As Minnesota’s rowing team entered an important Big Ten double dual over the weekend, the team looked to benefit from the talent and depth provided by its mix of experienced junior and senior walk-ons and its first group of recruited sophomores and freshmen in program history.

But coach Wendy Davis said she knew it would take more than talent to compete in a conference with “boatloads” of recruited rowers in every class.

“We knew if we wanted to be competitive we had to out-think and out-heart the more established teams,” Davis said.

Such intangibles might be impossible to measure in a sport decided by seconds, but the Gophers translated their mentality to Ohio State and Indiana on Saturday by winning 10 of 12 events in Bloomington, Ind.

The first Varsity Eight boat led the way by competing closely with No. 1 Ohio State in their first race of the day. Although they lost, the Gophers stayed close throughout and fell by only 5.5 seconds, the second-best finish against the Buckeyes.

“We’re really pleased with how we did,” Davis said. “We were one of the closest in the country as far as margins.”

The team built on its performance in the second dual against Indiana. The first Varsity Eight defeated the Hoosiers 6:55.9 to 7:01.26 in the afternoon.

The second Varsity Eight team had similar results, losing to a strong Ohio State boat 6:47.3 to 6:52.7 and defeating Indiana 6:57.2 to 7:35.59.

In the remaining races, Minnesota displayed its depth by sweeping the remaining first and second Varsity Four and Novice Eight races.

The first Varsity Four shredded Ohio State by more than a minute and finished their sweep by beating Indiana 7:48.6 to 8:15.03.

The second team followed with a narrow six-second victory over the Buckeyes 7:05.6 to 7:21.9 and a win over the Hoosiers in a time of 8:06.2 to 8:40.12.

Not to be outshined, the first and second Novice Eight teams continued an impressive unbeaten streak that stretches back to last fall.

The first team won its races against Ohio State and Indiana by more than 15 seconds each. The second team also earned impressive wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin.

The continued dominance by the novice teams is one of the biggest testaments to the Gophers’ improvement as a program, novice coach John Flynn said.

“We’re all excited because we’re building a foundation that is going to be here for years to come,” Flynn said. “You really have to do that from the bottom up.”

Davis agreed that the novice’s performance is important, especially when the team looks to score in the Big Ten Championships.

But Davis added that the quality of all the performances Saturday serve as a boon to the entire program.

“It legitimizes the whole team,” Davis said. “The winning boats know that they are for real, and because the losing boats were so close, they know that they can compete with anyone.”