Rowers’ best finish in 5 years

BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | MAY 04, 2009 7:28 AM

The Iowa women’s rowing team improved on its past finishes at the Big Ten championships, and left the Griggs Reservoir in Columbus, Ohio, with one of the most successful seasons in the team’s history.

Iowa took fifth at the championships with 60 points, the highest total for a Hawkeye crew in five years.

The Hawkeyes qualified all six of its boats for the petite finals on Saturday morning. The first varsity 8 boat took third in the first heat, narrowly missing a chance to take the second spot away from No. 3 Michigan State, losing by less than a second. Ohio State took first in the heat, beating Wisconsin by 0.1 seconds.

Iowa head coach Mandi Kowal was optimistic about the team’s performance.

“We were disappointed we didn’t make the finals, but we were right there,” she said.

In the petite final, the first varsity 8 boat did well, taking first by almost a full second over Minnesota and a full boat length over Indiana.

Also winning its petite races were the second varsity 8 boat, which also defeated Minnesota and Indiana. The first varsity 4 boat then took second behind Michigan State.

The novice boats then took to the water. The novice 8 boat took second to Minnesota, while the first novice 4 boat also managed to pull out a second-place finish, also behind the Golden Gophers. The second novice 8 team took third in its heat, following Ohio State and Minnesota.

“Placing fifth was a good improvement,” Iowa assistant coach Melissa Schomer said. “After placing sixth and seventh the past few years, this was a big step.”

The No. 17 ranked Iowa crew came into the meet confident after spending weeks preparing for the meet following its competition with Michigan State, No. 5 Michigan and No. 18 Louisville in Belleville, Mich.

The Hawkeyes focused hard on finishing their races, using the time off to improve their technique in that area.

“We were trying to perfect our sprints at the end of the race,” sophomore rower Haylie Miller said. “We hit our ratings and the improvement showed.”

The first varsity 8 boat, which is responsible for the ranking the team earns, can feel the pressure at big meets.

Kowal stressed to the team to worry about themselves and not put added pressure on the rowers.

While some teams game plan based on what other teams do well, Kowal would rather her rowers play their own game with obvious success.

“She just told us to focus on what we can control and not what we can’t,” Miller said.

Michigan State took the Big Ten title, scoring 137 points, followed by rival Michigan. Iowa finished just ahead of No. 20 Minnesota and Indiana.

The meet from this weekend will be broadcast in an hour-long program May 17 on the Big Ten Network.

The Hawkeyes will return to action May 16-17 in Oakridge, Tenn., for the Central Regionals, a chance to qualify for the NCAA national meet.

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