Gophers look to take advantage of Lake Phalen

Minnesota will host April’s Big Ten Championships at Lake Phalen.

Matt Perkins

The cold chill of Lake Phalen gets the best of Minnesota’s rowing team in March.

In April, the Gophers hope the waters thaw enough to allow them to prepare properly for the Big Ten Championships at the end of the month.

But this year Minnesota could benefit from friendly, just-above-freezing temperatures.

The 19th-ranked Gophers host this year’s Big Ten Championships for the first time ever, and they said they are excited about the chance to improve upon last year’s fifth-place finish at the event.

Especially at Lake Phalen.

“We definitely look to improve from fifth last year,” coach Wendy Davis said.

“Being able to host the event and be familiar with the water and the cold will help us out, too.”

Minnesota will try to maintain their speedy pace this weekend, as they begin their Big Ten season in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday.

“We were able to get our legs back these past weeks and now we have some momentum,” sophomore Tina Cho said. “It’s big to have that momentum going up against a team like Iowa. We hope to just keep rolling.”

Early spring success

The Gophers’ first varsity eight looked great in their first race of the season against Louisville.

But they looked even better in a scrimmage against No. 12 Tennessee and Notre Dame two weeks ago.

First boat team of coxswain Megan Flannery and rowers Cheryl Wick, Berit Tomten, Laura Jatautaite, Jennifer Barnes, Jillian Casey, Vilma Stragyte, Erika Bartkute and Katie Biese clocked times of 4:50.35, 4:49.66 and 4:46.69 to win all three rounds.

Six of eight return to top boat

Much of the success from the first varsity eight this season can be attributed to returning almost all of last year’s boat.

“We only graduated two from our eight last year and we were at least ranked 15th last season,” Davis said. “We are showing a lot of speed from the fall and things are looking good early.”

Davis said Minnesota’s experience and maturity will benefit the team.

“You hit the nail on the head when you talk about maturity,” Davis said. “This team has the depth and experience, and we’re only getting better.”

Finally, somewhere to call home

It’s hard to stretch your legs when you can barely feel your fingers.

And luckily for Minnesota, frostbite no longer will be an issue during warm-up as the University begins construction of the team’s new boat house April 18.

“Night and day doesn’t even describe it,” Davis said about the difference between the old and new facilities. “We will be able to have heat, talk to athletes after a meet, take showers and those are just the small things.”

Davis said the greatest benefit of the new boathouse, which is expected to be finished by November, is that it helps in the recruiting process.

“It’s kind of like getting an orange if you’ve never eaten an orange before,” Davis said. “You don’t know what you’re missing.”