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Rowers like their improving stock

BY AARON COOPER | JUNE 09, 2009 7:26 AM

The Iowa rowing team narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA championships with their fifth-place finish out of 13 teams in the Central Regional. In the May 16-17 event in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the finish left them one spot short. The Hawkeyes’ point total of 241 was its highest of the past five years but was 79 points behind fourth-place finisher Michigan State. Michigan won the regional meet with 348 points.

Iowa was paced by the two Varsity 8 boats. The first Hawkeye boat scored 126 points with a victory in the first Varsity 8 petite final with a time of 6:11.7, and second recorded 78 points with a second-place finish in the second Varsity 8 petite final with a time of 6:28.4.

Although the fifth-place finish led to disappointment in not qualifying for the NCAA championships, the season as a whole was one of great improvement for the program, said head coach Mandi Kowal.

“We finished much better than in the past. We ended up 17th in the country … but we still want to be in a better place,” she said. “It’s great to see progress, and now we are moving onto the next phase. We are moving on to prepare for next season.”

The Hawkeyes also garnered two individual awards at the Central Regional — sophomore Jessica Novack was named to the Central Region first team and senior Kristin Kelly was named to the Central Region second team.

Along with more success in the water, the team produced 22 student-athletes who were named All-Academic Big Ten, the most of any Iowa spring sport. The Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association also named nine Hawkeyes as National Scholar Athlete recipients. Kowal said improvements athletically and academically go hand-in-hand.

“We talk a lot about academics and this year we had the highest grades, in terms of GPA, as a squad, in 15 years,” she said. “We always tell them what you do academically matches what you do in the water. We had the fastest varsity since I’ve been here along with the best grades. It shows the work ethic.

“Not everyone will have a 4.0 GPA, but many of them improved their grades from the fall semester, and that is what we talk about — individual improvement.”

The team wants to carry its momentum into next season, and a big part of that comes during the off-season, where returning team members such as Haylie Miller know the importance of training.

“The off-season is just as important, if not more so [than the actual season],” the Iowa sophomore said. “We try to get ahead of the competition. We want to be physically ready to race so that we don’t have to work on cardio during the season and can work on other things.”

In addition, the Hawkeyes will greet a new batch of recruits and freshman walk-ons in order to replace departing seniors and provide a further boost to the program. The new members will have an effect on both the varsity and novice squads, said recruiting coordinator and novice coach Chuck Rodosky.

“We have several girls who will be able to put a lot of effort in and help varsity immediately and produce speed,” he said. “A lot of the others will go to the novice team and be good leaders in helping teach the walk-ons. The freshman and novice [rowers] are the foundation of any team.”

The momentum gained during the 2008-09 rowing season, the benefits of a grueling off-season, and the potential impact of new recruits and walk-ons leaves Kowal with one goal in mind for next season.

“Our mission is to qualify for the NCAAs next year,” she said.


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