Rowing crew constantly improving

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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In the first two meets of the spring season, the Iowa rowing team has faced some skilled competition.

For Hawkeye head coach Mandi Kowal, the emphasis is on improving from race to race.

And one team that has done that is the varsity 4 boat.

After an underwhelming performance at the season-opening Longhorn Invitational, in which the boat only won one race out of four, the varsity 4 — which consists of four rowers and a coxswain — rebounded and became Iowa’s only boat to qualify for grand finals at the prestigious San Diego Crew Classic this past weekend.

Kowal said she was impressed with the boat’s improvement.

“Texas was not that great for that boat, but it really improved,” she said. “[The crew members] are really rowing well together.”

The crew posted a time of 7:38.73 in its heat in the Karen Plumleigh Cortney Cup, the name of the varsity 4 race in the Crew Classic. The Hawkeyes’ placement qualified the boat for the grand finals, in which it took sixth. Every school in the grand final was ranked in the nation’s top 25 except for the Hawkeyes.

In the first two meets of the season, Iowa has faced six teams ranked in the national top 20, giving each Hawkeye boat a chance to test itself.

Senior Darcy DeLong said the crew members have focused on contending with the highly ranked competition the Hawkeyes face in each regatta.

“We’ve been pushing ourselves to get to the next level,” she said. “We want to keep up with those other teams and get faster as they get faster.”

Senior Haylie Miller, who rows on Iowa’s varsity 8 boat, said the team’s other members have noticed the 4 boat’s improvement in practice.

“They are definitely rowing well together,” she said. “You can’t have one person doing her own thing in the boat, you all need to be together, and you can see in practice that they are all on the same page.”

Kowal said she has continually adjusted the lineup for the varsity 4 boat to find the right mix of rowers. The Iowa coach said the team has been able to adapt to the changes well, and the crew has been focused on the fundamentals in practice, she said.

“I think they have really improved on the little things,” Kowal said. “One week, they’ll focus in on swinging their bodies strong, and they will hang onto it.”

With two meets remaining in the regular season — the April 9 Big Ten duals in Columbus, Ohio, and the April 30 East Coast Races in Ithaca, N.Y., — Kowal expects her varsity 4 boat, as well as every other boat, to continue to improve.

Kowal said qualifying for grand finals in San Diego was a testament to the work the varsity 4 rowers have put in thus far.

“They’ve been working hard, and it showed for them in making the grand final,” she said. “San Diego is a really tough regatta, and it was great feeling to go there and race respectably.”

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