|Minnesota at Oklahoma Invite
||March 9-10, 2013
||8:00 a.m. - Saturday vs. Kansas State
||4:20 p.m. - Saturday at Oklahoma
||9:00 a.m. - Sunday vs. Tulsa
||Oklahoma City, Okla. / Oklahoma River
|OU Invite Central
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March 7, 2013
The University of Minnesota women's rowing team is set to open its 2013 season this weekend at the Oklahoma Invite in Oklahoma City, Okla. The Gophers begin action bright and early Saturday morning against Kansas State, with the first boats set to shove off at 8:00 a.m., before ending the day by taking on host Oklahoma beginning at 4:20 p.m. The event comes to a close for the Maroon and Gold Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. against Tulsa.
Live results and a live video stream of each event will be available on soonersports.com, as well as on twitter.com/SoonerRowing.
In advance of Minnesota's opening event, Gophersports.com sat down with Gopher rowing head coach Wendy Davis to get her thoughts on the upcoming season and how the OU Invite will prepare her squad for the rest of the year.
After placing fifth at the Big Ten Championships last season, what are your expectations for the team in 2013?
"We placed fifth, but we were only four points out of fourth place, so if one of our boats had finished just one position higher, than we would have been fourth. So, we are right there. We only graduated one rower, Molly Kalmoe, out of our top Eight, so everyone else is returning, which is huge for us. It is huge for any team, but our sport is so walk-on intensive, that extra year is just tremendous. So, we are very excited about this spring."
How do the strengths of this year's team differ from last year's both on the water and off?
"We are similar in that both teams have a great work ethic, but this year we have a lot more racing experience. There is such a difference between the pressures that the Second Varsity Eight feels versus the First Varsity Eight. Almost everybody last year that was a member of the First Varsity Eight were in their first year on the squad, I think we had maybe three rowers that had been in the boat before, and it's just a learning experience. So, this year I am confident that we are going to be walking in knowing what to do, which will translate to better racing and to more pressure being put onto our opponents instead of all of the pressure being on us."
Talk a little bit about how you have been preparing for the 2013 season
"We did a week-long winter training trip in San Diego before the semester started and that was really successful. Then, we did a scrimmage and a race with the University of San Diego at the end of January, which was really good for us. We have also been able to get on the water for practice seven days so far, so we are looking forward to things falling into place for us to be a legitimate contender for the Big Ten Championships, as well as the NCAA Championships."
Who do you think has improved the most from the end of last season to this point?
"Rebecca Braak. She was essentially in her first year of rowing, period, last season, and she made it into the First Varsity Eight based on her strength and what she could do on the erg. Too be honest, she was pretty lost last year in the First Varsity Eight. In the fall this year she didn't make it into the First Eight, which also shows how much better we are this year. And she was like, "Wait a second...," and really decided to make the changes that were necessary to make and she is legit now. I would say that our entire team has improved tremendously, but she is the one that has really made a wonderful leap."
How have the captain, Ali Haws and Emilie Sabourin, embraced their roles leading up to this weekend?
"This is the first year that we have had two captains and I think that it has worked out really well. Emily has been a little bit more involved in the nuts and bolts that have to happen, and Ali is the one that is coming up with fun things to do for the team bonding-wise. I think that they have done a nice job of keeping everyone engaged. I also think that every one of our seniors is a leader in their own way. We say that a lot around here, but it is really true this year. All of them have stepped up in every way and they are really doing a great job."
What has your new coaching staff of Peter Morgan, Teresa Logemann and Tracy Merth brought to the table?
"They are wonderful and we are honestly having a blast, and I know that the athletes can feel it. The atmosphere is so fun and so positive. Teresa was a captain for us two years ago, so she knows the dynamic of the team. She embraced it as a student-athlete for four year, embraced it as a graduate assistant and now as an assistant coach, so she knows what to do. Peter has been in the rowing community for a very long time. He grew up in the Twin Cities area and spent a lot of time as a coach in the area, so he also gets what the U of M is doing and he really, really wanted to be part of it. Tracy Merth was also a four-year rower here and to have her as a graduate assistant just shows how much we are all bought into the program."
How has the winter that we have been having here in Minnesota effected your on-the-water training?
"It really hasn't, because it is all about the Mississippi River and whether it opens up or not. Even though it's been cold, we've had enough days that were sunny and over 30 degrees that the ice has melted enough for us to get on the water. Like I said, for an entire week. It's only the beginning of March, so that means that we can go into Spring Break with some water under our belts and then you can really accomplish things during that time.
"We are excited to go down to Oklahoma City, because we are opening the season completely the opposite way from what we did last year. Last year we went to Arizona, and it was heavy on training and light on racing, and this is the complete opposite. This year we are going light on training and will have three races in two days with just seven days of water.
"The trick is going to be to not get ramped up too quickly. Schools that have had more water time than us may have a higher stroke rating than ours, but we are going to need to be powerful and be where we need to be and not react to where those other teams are. That's going to be the challenge for us, especially against Oklahoma, to make sure who we are supposed to be on March 8."
What are you looking to take away from your season-opening event in Oklahoma City?
"The nice thing about these types of races early in the season is that you never race well. We are going to make mistakes, but we will be able to identify and correct those mistakes, and five hours later we get to race again against Oklahoma. We will probably make different mistakes in that race, but we'll correct those and get to race again on Sunday morning against Tulsa. So, in that way, I think this is going to be a great weekend for us."