The Minnesota rowing team looked to tune up its game this weekend, and the Gophers did by improving in areas they needed to before the Big Ten Championships.
Minnesota worked on its sprint all week during practice, and the hard work paid off as the Gophers cruised to a sweep against Kansas on Saturday on Lake Phalen in St. Paul.
Whitecaps and strong winds pushed the starting time of the race up to 8 a.m. instead of the original 10 a.m. start. The finishing times reflected the difficult conditions all day long.
The Minnesota first varsity eight boat came in with a time of 7 minutes, 1.10 seconds, passing Kansas' boat, which finished in 7:25.50. The second varsity eight turned in a time of 7:20.30, beating the Jayhawks by 33 seconds. The first varsity four finished in 8:23.25, and the second varsity four poured in a time of 8:18.00.
"We showed improvement in the second 1,000 (meters), we kept pressing on every stroke," coach Wendy Davis said.
The Gophers decided on a game plan for Saturday's race and felt a sense of accomplishment afterward.
"It felt really good to sit down, set a plan and execute the game plan," senior Jennifer Barnes said.
With its work on the second half of the race, Minnesota has tightened up nearly all components.
"We've got our start down, and the third 500 meters is ours, but we need to focus on the second 500 meters," Barnes said.
Davis said she believes her team is ready for the road ahead.
"We're always working, but now it's not so much thinking and we've let the girls go on their own way," Davis said.
The Gophers will continue to practice hard this week as they prepare themselves for the Big Ten Championships, Central Regional Sprints and the NCAA tournament. Minnesota will set its lineup this week and work on maintaining its stamina as the three big races quickly approach.
The difficulty, with three big races spaced out over the next month, is deciding just how hard to go during practice.
"It's impossible to taper with final exams, but it will start next week with a lighter load and then we'll hit them hard again," Davis said.
With the conference championship next weekend, Minnesota is hoping to dethrone last year's champion, Ohio State. The Gophers finished second to the Buckeyes in the championships and don't want the same finish this year.
"We're going to be gunning for Ohio State," Barnes said.
Today the coaches will decide on the rankings for the tournament, where Ohio State will likely receive the No.1 seed for the first varsity eight race, Davis said.
The weather conditions on Saturday might have helped prepare the team for the conference championship in Madison, Wis., next weekend, a lake notorious for its choppy water and wind gusts.
"It was very good to deal with bad weather this weekend going into Big Tens because the lake in Madison can be very wavy with just a little wind," said junior Lauren Van Proosdy, who hails from Madison.
Minnesota has not faced many of its conference foes this spring and remains curious as to how the field will stack up.
"We haven't seen half of the teams, but we're very interested to see what kind of crew Ohio State has, and hopefully we will come out with a team title," Van Proosdy said.
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