Iowa rowers use practice time to refocus for final weeks

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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With three races in four weeks, the Iowa rowing team had gotten into the rhythm of competition.

The challenge for head coach Mandi Kowal is keeping her team sharp during its current layoff.

The Hawkeyes last competed on April 9 at the Big Ten Duals in Columbus, Ohio, and they won't compete again until April 30 at the East Coast Races in Ithaca, N.Y.

Kowal said the squad knows what it needs to accomplish in practice.

"We have goals in the practice that we work on," she said. "We had a big meeting after our last series of races to make sure we use the last five weeks and that we pay attention and are not getting stale."

In a span of four weeks, the Hawkeyes competed in the Longhorn Invitational, the San Diego Crew Classic, and the Big Ten Duals. The team was also scheduled to face Minnesota on Lake Macbride, but the races were canceled because of unsafe weather conditions.

After the East Coast Races, the Hawkeyes will compete at the Big Ten championships in Indianapolis on May 15, the team's biggest event of the season.

The Hawkeyes have spent a lot of time working on the indoor rowing machines, also known as ergs. Kowal said she has used small goals for each boat to motivate the squad indoors.

Senior Jessica Novack said the most important thing for the Hawkeyes is keeping each other where they need to be in practice.

"It's about keeping each other accountable while at practice," the senior said. "Yeah, we'd love to be racing more than being in here on the ergs, because that's no fun, but we keep each other accountable both outside and inside of practice."

Senior coxswain Emily Melvold said that while the team had gotten used to competing every week, practices have kept them sharp.

"You get into a rhythm when you race every week," she said. "We try to simulate some things for competition in practice to stay fresh."

After crisscrossing the country, competing in Texas, California, and Ohio, one benefit of the break is in the classroom.

Melvold said it helps to spend an extended period of time at home.

"We have more time to do our studying on campus, and we get more things done at home than when we're away," Melvold said.

The Hawkeyes had used the time off well, Kowal said, but a recent dip during practice has caused her to monitor her rowers more closely to ensure maximum performance.

"I think the athletes have done a pretty good job, but the last couple days, we've run into a bit of a snag, and they've been a little fatigued," the coach said. "I know what to do to get them back, so I may not be the most popular right now, but I'm trying to get them to a certain level."

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