Mississippi River hosts Gophers’ home event on Saturday

Minnesota is the only Division I team in the Head of the Mississippi regatta.

Zach Eisendrath

For the past two seasons, Minnesota’s rowing team has been on the bubble come NCAA tournament selection time.

And for two consecutive years, the committee has denied the Gophers acceptance.

Minnesota is determined not to repeat their recent history and make it to the NCAAs.

But senior Katie Engel said it will take the team more than one specific adjustment to make the tournament.

“We need to continue to work well together,” Engel said. “Everything we do now, all of the hard work and effort we put in will help us in the future. It’s not just the spring; it’s not one race, but everything we do now.”

Their journey begins Saturday when the Gophers host the Head of the Mississippi. The race starts at the East River Flats behind Coffman Union and finishes on the west side of the river at Bohemian Flats.

Last season, Minnesota accomplished more than in any other season in program history. Minnesota finished the season ranked No. 15 in the nation.

After the first few weeks of practice, senior captain Cheryl Wick said she is encouraged by the team’s production.

“It has been going really well,” Wick said. We seem to be a lot further along than a year ago at this time.”

A majority of the team – more than 20 of the 36 rowers – competed on club teams during the offseason.

Coach Wendy Davis credits her team’s fast start to how hard they trained this summer.

“Instead of focusing on fitness the first couple weeks, we have been able to work on technique,” Davis said. “They are walking in here much fitter than ever before.”

Wick said she believes this year’s team can be better than last year’s record-setting squad.

“One thing we are trying to do this year is finish in the top ten (nationally),” she said. “Maybe even top six.”

The Gophers will be the only Division I school taking part in this weekend’s regatta. Davis mentioned the Minnesota Rowing and Boat Clubs as the team’s toughest competition.

Davis said she expects impressive results.

“Nothing’s ever assured,” Davis said. “But with all the people returning, on paper we should be a better team.”