When the Gophers rowing team saw Wisconsin three weeks ago, the Badgers were the much faster team.
But Minnesota has finally had consecutive days — even weeks — of practicing on open water, and the Gophers are hoping to narrow that gap when the two face off Sunday.
“They were so much faster than us three weeks ago, but they’ve gotten more water time and we’ve gotten more water time,” head coach Wendy Davis said. “We want to go out there and be as fast as we can possibly be on Sunday and not allow nerves or choking or any of that stuff.
“We want to say, ‘This is the best we’ve got,’ and put it on the line.”
Wisconsin and Minnesota competed against Michigan and Michigan State, but not each other, in the Big Ten Double Duals on April 9. In the morning session of the meet, Wisconsin’s first varsity eight was 12 seconds faster than Minnesota’s. The Badgers’ second varsity eight finished the course 16 seconds faster than the Gophers.
The final race of the regular season starts Sunday at 8 a.m. in Madison, Wis., just two weeks before the Big Ten championships.
Having practice time on the water allowed Davis and the Minnesota staff to tweak the lineup during practice and deduce which is the fastest. Even though Davis hasn’t decided on this weekend’s lineup, she said she could see the all-around improvement, noting that some boats have cut as much as four seconds per 500 meters.
“It’s not like the other teams are standing still, but that’s a big jump in three weeks,” Davis said.
The Gophers are also closer to full strength heading into the dual. Sophomore Becky Kinchen will row in the second varsity eight after missing the last month with an illness. Nearly 10 members of the top two boats have fallen ill at times this spring, Davis said, but she thinks “the little bug’s run its course.”
Davis suggests adding alumni to booster club
The Gophers held a 10-year anniversary party at the boathouse last Saturday, during which Davis said she promoted the idea of changing the makeup of the team’s booster club.
Parents used to run the booster club, but the inevitable turnover led to problems. Davis hopes to have some alumni to step in and run the club.
“We would like the alums to get a vibrant booster club going,” she said. “Now that we have 10 years of alums I think it’s the perfect time to get something like that going.”
About 50 former rowers attended Saturday’s event, many of whom were on the 2000-01 team when the Gophers switched from a club to a varsity sport. Highlights of the first 10 years for Davis include beating Iowa and Wisconsin in 2002 and forcing an NCAA noise ordinance in 2004 for having such loud fans.
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