Minnesota set for final event before Big Ten Championships

Nick Gerhardt

This weekend marks the last home event for Minnesota’s rowing team before it heads off to the Big Ten Championships on April 28 in Madison, Wis.

The Gophers will face Kansas, a team that has not seen much time on the water this year, Saturday at Lake Phalen in St. Paul. Minnesota will use the dual as a tune-up race going into the rigorous conference championships.

“We’re treating this weekend as more of an opportunity to pound away at technique. We’re working on our sprint, reinforcing our stroke and trying to set a faster, more consistent race formula,” senior Jenny Barnes said.

The Gophers rank second in the conference and want to maintain their new position of prominence.

“We’re comfortably faster than Kansas, so the trick is going to be staying ranked as high as we are now. We are ranked the highest ever in school history right now,” coach Wendy Davis said.

Minnesota looks to improve upon last weekend’s showing against Wisconsin in order to perform well in the coming weeks. The team has practiced bettering their sprint portion of the race all week.

“The first varsity eight was disappointing in the second half against Wisconsin, and we’ve worked almost exclusively on the sprint this week,” Davis said.

The first varsity eight struggled in the third 500 meters of their race against the Badgers last weekend and wants to improve in that area as well.

“The third 500 is normally where we take control of the race, but we let Wisconsin back in it,” Barnes said.

The warmer weather has allowed Minnesota to work in the water more this week, and that practice time should pay off, according to Davis.

“This week we had the most water time since October. Everyone has made improvements this week,” Davis said.

Davis has especially enjoyed watching the group this week as they have matured into a serious national contender.

“This week has been fun watching them. It feels like going to a good concert and admiring the music,” she said.

The rest of the country has listened to the sweet music the Gophers have created on the water as they climbed to No. 8 in the U.S. Rowing/Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association poll. Earlier in the week, the first varsity eight boat received Big Ten boat of the week honors for its performance against the Badgers last weekend.

Minnesota appears to have an insatiable desire to take last year’s performance to the next level this year.

“Compared to last year, everything is totally different. Everyone is almost at the same level. Being part of the second varsity eight is nearly as big of an accomplishment as being on the first varsity eight,” junior Mary Ann Weinzierl said.

The NCAA appearance of a year ago gave a young team confidence and vital experience needed to compete in Division I rowing.

“Five of our top eight rowers are at least in their third year of rowing together. Last year we learned that we can compete with the best, and we gained a lot of confidence,” Davis said.

From here to the Big Ten Championships the Gophers hope to rest up in order to make a deep run at the conference meet.

“All of those hours on the machines and staring out at the frozen river this winter will hopefully pay off, and we’ll win the Big Ten this year,” Weinzierl said.