Gopher Rowing will set out for its first action of the spring season as the team takes on San Diego State in a scrimmage on Saturday morning at Mission Bay in San Diego.
The exhibition event will see a series of short, four-minute pieces with more focus on technique than results as scores will not be registered. The team will be making a return trip to San Diego after spending time there last month for training. Head coach Wendy Davis was happy with the team’s effort on the trip, including several Gophers who were returning to practice after injuries during the fall season.
“We had a lot of rib injuries that hit us in mid-October when the current came up fast. When your rib goes, that’s six weeks that you can’t do anything,” said Davis. “Coming off the winter break, the question was, ‘are they going to be healthy or not?’ and ‘how much work can we do with them?’”
Davis admitted that the injuries may have set them back physically to a degree, but in terms of preparedness, the team is at its best in years. “[When it comes to] our knowledge of how to race, our technique is miles ahead of where we were last year or the year before. That was apparent in San Diego in January. They made big accomplishments during the week.”
The Aztecs boast an experienced roster with 15 upperclassmen in 2017-18 and will serve as a tough early challenge for Minnesota. “San Diego State has a great venue to train,” said Davis. “They are on the water all year versus us” having to be inside due to the elements. For the Gophers, the outing will be more about what they can do in their boats than what the opponent is doing. “They’re a very competitive team for us right now. Let us see what we can do and how quickly we can adjust. How much better can [the team] get on the third piece than on the first piece?”
Looking forward at the remainder of the season, Minnesota faces stiff competition at next month’s Louisville Invitational on March 17-18, the Doc Hosea Invitational on April 1 and the Clemson Invitational on April 14-15. The Gophers will do battle with Big Ten rival Wisconsin in a dual on April 7, all in preparation for the Big Ten Championships on May 13 and a possible bid to the NCAA Championships. “It’s not unreasonable to think we can qualify for the NCAAs this year,” said Davis. “That means things have to go normal. I’m not saying everything has to go perfect, just normal. Some years, crazy things happen. This team is really fun to work with. They’re dynamic. They’re hard-working. They listen. They respond. So, we’ll see what they can do.”
The Gophers and Aztecs will put their oars in the water early Saturday morning with the event set to begin around 7 a.m. PT in San Diego.
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