Minnesota prepares for challenging border battle

The Gophers have not competed in a home regatta since the 2011-12 season.

Jack Satzinger

Minnesota was supposed to race at Iowa last weekend, but that regatta was canceled due to poor weather conditions.

The Midwest was battered by rain, but head coach Wendy Davis said the wind drove the decision to cancel the race.

Now, as the weather starts to calm, the team will shift its focus to another bitter rival — No. 15 Wisconsin.

The Gophers will race against the Badgers in their first and only home regatta of the season at Lake Phalen in St. Paul on Sunday. Minnesota had the chance to see Wisconsin race in person during a regatta April 12, and that familiarity could prove helpful this weekend.

The Gophers didn’t have their best race April 12, but they know some of the tactics Wisconsin will try on the water.

“They just looked a lot more controlled and a lot more calm than we did,” coxswain Rachael Rogers said about the race in April.

Lynn Hodnett, one of the Gophers’ strongest rowers, said she felt like her team was “within grasp” of Wisconsin after seeing the Badgers race.

She said after ample practice time between then and now, she thinks her team may have caught up.

Minnesota trained on the Mississippi River last weekend after its race was canceled. The Gophers have had very sporadic outdoor practices over the last few weeks as the flooded river has made it difficult to practice outside.

Davis said she thought last weekend was good for her team.

“We were able to get back on the water for the weekend, and we had some really solid practices,” Davis said.

Minnesota’s main focus in practice over the past month has been lengthening its stroke in the water, or keeping the blade in the water longer.

“Now we get to go up against Wisconsin, who’s very good,” Davis said. “We’ll see if we can execute it.”

This Sunday’s race will be the Gophers’ first home regatta in two years — Minnesota raced against the Badgers at home in 2012.

“This is our one shot to also have family and friends come and watch what we do, and that means a great deal to us,” Davis said.

Rogers said she and the rest of her teammates are looking forward to rowing in front of friends and family. She expects a big group.

“We are all really excited for this weekend, just because everybody’s families can come out,” she said. “It’s going to be really good to have a cheering squad there.”

Minnesota will take a two-week break from competition after this week and compete at the Big Ten championships May 18.