Novice coach Wendy Wisehart gave gophersports.com a brief look into the novice team's trip to San Diego this past weekend.
The team arrived Thursday afternoon. We rented boats – a Pocock 8 from Kansas State and a Hudson 8 from Sacramento State – we row Vespoli’s at home. So we were in different equipment and with different oars than we use at home.
We rigged boats Thursday afternoon and had our first practice on the water in over a week. During spring break at home on the river we only got in 6 on-the-water practices; we missed 5 days on the water due to flooding and an additional 3 days after break, before traveling to San Diego. We had 3 practices in SD before racing Saturday. Each practice the crews got more comfortable in their boats and back on the water.
The N8 had a heat in which I thought there was a chance they could advance to the Grand Final. They were in second place for over half of the race and even a crab just after the 1500-meter mark did not put them in any danger – they had open water over the third place crew and regained their composure and increased the rating from a base pace of 31-32 to 37 after the crab. They were 12.6 seconds behind USC in the heat.
The 2N8 raced at 3:40 in the afternoon. They watched the N8 advance to the Grand Finals in the morning and then had to wait all day to compete. I could tell the 2N’s was pretty nervous when we met before the race. It was windy at the start; the 2N’s oars crossed over the buoy line and the coxswain, Alicia Gruenwald, had to steer them back in; this put them in fourth place off the line. They were able to over take 3rd place soon after, and held the third position through the 1000m meter mark. It was in the third 500, where crews often lag, that the 2N started to pull into 2nd; we knew there was an opening on short that created a “wind tunnel” around the 1200-1250 meter mark and that’s where other crews fell off pace and we charged forward. The 2N moved into first around the 500m mark and put together a strong enough sprint at the end to finish 1.1 seconds ahead of the University of San Diego. To travel to the West Coast and race programs that have been on the water for at least a month and have already raced several times, and come away with a very composed victory, that’s impressive. I certainly hope we can carry that kind of approach to racing forward through the spring.
Going into the Grand Final of the Novice 8, we had a few specific things we wanted to accomplish: 1) close the 11 - 13 second gap between us and the crews that won the heats; 2) row a cleaner race and have better focus within the boat and 3) challenge for a top 3 finish but at least hold on to our 4th-fastest time from the heats. Washington State won with an impressive 7:17.2 – still 11 seconds ahead of us. But we closed the gap on the 2nd place crew to only 5.6 and it was USC that caught a boat-stopping crab in this race. We were in 3rd place for the middle of the race but Oklahoma had a better push at the end – they brought the rate up better than we did in their sprint and they passed us to take 3rd place by .6 seconds. It was a great trip and the athletes learned a lot in our first race weekend of the spring season.”