Head of the Mississippi regatta a stroke in right direction

by David McCoy

It was an emotional day for Minnesota’s rowing team Saturday at the Head of the Mississippi regatta.

In addition to honoring the brother of rowers Anja and Ashford Kroll with a new trophy in his name, the Gophers were already anxious for their season’s first race after missing a trip to the NCAA Championships by mere seconds last year.

And it showed.

The team, which has the second-largest roster on campus, fielded two teams for both of the varsity events.

In the women’s open eight flight, the Gophers were in total control, taking first and second place by a hefty margin.

The Gophers “A” team finished with a time of 13:26, followed by their “B” team in 14:02.

Their closest competition was the Minneapolis Rowing Club, finishing more than a minute and a half behind.

It was impressive for the Gophers to beat the club in their first race of the year, since the club had been competing all summer long.

“The fact that we were able to get past them this early in the season is something I’m very happy about,” coach Wendy Davis said.

Although the Gophers also won the race last year, it was the first time they took both top spots.

Davis said that, through four weeks of practice, it was the best she’s seen her team row all year.

“Its amazing how a race brings it all together,” Davis said. “You train, train, train and then you finally get to put it together, and it helps a lot in (our) focus.”

Captain Andrea Pierce, who was in the “A” boat, said she was also impressed.

“There was a lot of punch,” Pierce said. “It was strong.”

She said the Gophers were nervous during their warm-ups, but as soon as the race began, they knew they were ready.

Going into the race, Minnesota knew that its toughest competition, the Minneapolis Rowing Club, would be putting its best rowers in the open four race.

But the Gophers weren’t deterred, taking first and second in that flight as well.

The first-place boat contained two freshmen rowing in their first collegiate race.

“I’m really happy,” said Christine O’Donnell, one of those freshmen.

Earlier this week, Davis said the regatta was more of a motivation for the Gophers to push themselves and start the year on the right foot.

On Saturday, she said, they were successful in that effort.

Pierce said the team now feels much more prepared for the rest of the year after being forced to row at a faster pace.

“Now we know what it’s going to feel like next week and how we need to feel the week after that,” she said.

Minnesota’s novice team took first in its flight as well, with a time of 16:19.

The Bergman Cup

The Gophers honored the Kroll twins’ brother, Bergman, who died more than a year ago.

Starting this year, the winner of the women’s open eight will have their names engraved on the Bergman Cup.