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Published April 19, 2024

With used boats, Varsity Eight edged by UCLA

Minnesota’s rowing team flew its Varsity Eight and Novice Eight rowers to the dual against UCLA over the weekend. But the biggest factor in the races was a part of the team that could not make the trip.

The Gophers left their boats in Minnesota because of the long drive to Marina Del Ray, Calif., to face the Bruins. Instead, the team borrowed equipment from UCLA.

The Gophers never adjusted.

Although it split the two races with the Bruins, Minnesota lost the important Varsity Eight competition, which the improving team had counted on winning.

The Gophers finished with a time of 6:39.8, while the Bruins notched a 6:36.7.

“I think we came in overconfident,” Minnesota coach Wendy Davis said. “If you’re going to be really good you have to be able to adjust (to the boat).”

Although Davis said she was disappointed that the team could not overcome the equipment, she admitted that the boats were tough for the rowers.

“We had to change the way we rode quite dramatically,” Davis said. “We were way too big for (the boat).”

According to Davis, the Varsity Eight boat was a size smaller than the one normally used by the Gophers. The height for the oars had to be raised because they would have struck the legs of Minnesota’s rowers while competing.

Minnesota’s Novice Eight team also used borrowed equipment, but the team dominated with a time of 6:43.3, compared to UCLA’s best time of 6:52.6.

The novice team started slow in the first 300 meters, but it recovered quickly and separated from the two UCLA boats.

“They did a great job,” Davis said. “They stayed composed and showed they can really step it up.”

The Varsity Eight race went quite differently. Minnesota surged ahead in the first 100 meters, but in the next two minutes UCLA caught up and passed the Gophers.

About half way through the race, Minnesota began to gain ground again.

“I kept thinking, ‘now it’s time, now it’s time,’ ” Davis said.

But the Gophers’ charge planed off, and the team could not recover.

Davis said she was impressed with the quality of UCLA’s competition, a school that restarted its rowing program only three years ago.

The Gophers coach was also impressed by the way her team handled the defeat.

“They were all looking inside themselves and asking, ‘what could I have done better,’ ” Davis said. “That kind of mindset is encouraging.”

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