Rowers ready for spring season

BY RYAN MURPHY | MARCH 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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Nearly five months after the Head of the Iowa competition closed the fall season on Halloween, the Iowa rowing team is back in competition.

After competing in three events in September and October, the Hawkeye rowing team began the regular season on March 18 with the Longhorn Invitational in Austin, Texas.

In the three-day event, which also included defending Big Ten champion No. 10 Wisconsin, Iowa claimed varsity 8 — an eight-person boat — victories against Kansas State, Oklahoma, and San Diego, as well as a win in the varsity 4 against the Wildcats, who were swept in four races by the Hawkeyes. The only team that swept the Hawkeyes, who are currently just outside the national top 20 poll, was host and No. 20 Texas, which went 19-2 at the event.

Head coach Mandi Kowal, in her 17th year as Hawkeye head rowing coach, said she saw a lot of room for improvement in Austin.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we are getting closer to where we need to be,” she said.

The novice 8 team captured victories over San Diego and Kansas State, which impressed assistant coach Scott Ramsey.

“For a lot of them, it was their first time racing,” he said. “They learned a lot, and their speed improved markedly.”

For the varsity teams, assistant coach Carrie Callen said the quick succession of races in Austin allowed for on-the-fly adjustments and was a good first meet for the season.

“That regatta gives us a lot of experience,” Callen said. “We race so many times, we are able to apply adjustments right away as opposed to waiting for the next week, and that helps us in the long run.”

The Hawkeyes will participate in four more competitions before the Big Ten Championships in Indianapolis May 14. The Hawkeye schedule includes competitions in San Diego, Calif., Ithaca, N.Y., and Columbus, Ohio.

The only home competition for Iowa will come on Saturday when it faces Minnesota on Lake Macbride. The event is the only head-to-head meet of the season for the Hawkeyes, with one triangular contest and two larger, multi-team events making up the schedule.

The Hawkeyes are not unfamiliar with the Golden Gophers; Minnesota competed at the Head of the Iowa meet during the fall season.

One of Iowa’s top rowers is senior Jessica Novack, who was named a second-team All-American in 2010. Along with captains Allison Lofthouse and Haylie Miller, and the other 10 seniors on the Iowa roster, the Hawkeyes look to improve on 2010’s sixth-place finish in the Big Ten. For the spring season, Kowal has a simple goal for her squad.

“We just need to figure out how to go fast,” she said. “It sounds really simple, but we need to make sure we put together the right teams to do that.”

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