BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | MARCH 24, 2009 7:30 AM
The Iowa women’s rowing team got its spring season off to a fast start last weekend, competing in the Longhorn Invitational in Austin, Texas.
The Hawkeyes’ varsity and novice squads both finished with strong performances winning 16 of their 24 races, with the first varsity 8 boat winning all four of its competitions.
“I felt really good about it,” Iowa head coach Mandi Kowal said. “Our varsity did well going undefeated over the weekend.”
While the first varsity 8 boat had a clean sweep, the rest of the Hawkeyes hit a few bumps dropping races against Central Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma.
The Hawkeyes were overmatched in some races, making the losses a little easier to swallow.
Iowa’s second varsity 4 boat lost to Oklahoma’s first varsity 4 in the first race of the weekend, and the Iowa second novice 4 boat lost to Wisconsin’s first novice team.
“Some of the losses make sense against who we were competing,” Kowal said.
The meet was the team’s first since Nov. 16, when the Hawkeyes participated at the Rivanna Romp in Charlottesville, Va.
“I thought we did really well and have made a lot of improvements from last year,” senior rower Laura Kanaris said. “I felt like we made a statement.”
After going to Austin on March 14 for a scrimmage with No. 14 Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes headed right back down to the Lone Star State the following week.
The constant racing, along with the chance to compete with some of the best competition in the country, are two things Kowal sees as advantages for her team as it delves further into its schedule.
“The most pleasing thing was having races back-to-back,” she said. “You can really improve drastically from race to race.”
Southern teams don’t have winter to deal with, which allows them to practice year-round, something Kowal would love to have but admits is not a huge advantage.
“In the beginning of the season, they are faster, but by the end of the season, it should be equal,” she said.
The Hawkeyes supplement not being able to get in the water with plenty of indoor practice, much of that spent on rowing machines. Of the seven schools in the Big Ten with women’s rowing teams, five of them are ranked nationally in the top 20.
With that kind of competition right in their backyard, the Hawkeyes looks forward to some good races.
“It is always beneficial for us to row against higher-ranked teams,” Kanaris said.
Iowa’s schedule from here does not get any easier. Next week, the Hawkeyes return home for competition against Minnesota and Creighton on Lake Macbride. The Golden Gophers are ranked 19th nationally.
“Minnesota is strong, and I expect it to compete well,” Kowal said.
After its lone home competition of the spring, the team will head to San Diego for the San Diego Crew Classic, where it will do battle with some of the best crews from across the country.
Kowal isn’t worried about the pedigrees of the other teams, though.
“Some teams rise to the occasion and have some of their best performances against better competition,” she said.
The Hawkeyes look to continue working toward becoming the team that rises to the occasion.