Hawkeye rowers face tough competition at East Coast Races

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Throughout the spring season, the Iowa rowing team has faced some of the nation's best squads.

Seven of the nation's top 15 teams have competed in races against the Hawkeyes, including three of the top four.

On Saturday, the Hawkeyes will face more top-notch competition at the East Coast Races in Ithaca, N.Y. It's the team's final series of racing before the Big Ten championships on May 15.

In their preliminary heat, the Hawkeyes will race against Duke and Bucknell on a stretch of the Cayuga Lake Inlet. The Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association ranks the Bison sixth in the Mid-Atlantic region, and the Hawkeyes' varsity 4 is ranked sixth in the Central. The teams will race two varsity 4 boats and a varsity 8 boat, with the top two boats in each race advancing to championship and consolation competition in the afternoon.

Iowa head coach Mandi Kowal said she planned for the team to be facing top-notch competition all season, and she expects no less from the East Coast Races.

"You want to make a difference every time you go down the course, and we're facing one of the strongest fields I've seen in a long time," she said. "Every time, you try to win or be as close as possible."

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The other teams in the competition include No. 17 Cornell, Buffalo, Rhode Island, and Dartmouth, which is the first team listed in the also-receiving-votes section of the national poll. Dartmouth and Cornell both compete in the Ivy League, one of the nation's best rowing conferences.

Senior coxswain Emily Melvold said the time off since the Hawkeyes' last competition — April 9 at the Big Ten Duals — has given the squad a chance to put together a winning plan.

"We're always about bringing our best and trying to put together a good race plan," she said. "We've had a couple weeks off to try to put something together and bring some more power, so we're really hoping to do that and come back with a pretty good performance."

Fellow senior Haylie Miller said the team will attempt to continue making strides from race to race.

"We really work on making each race better than the last one, so we want to keep doing that and make improvements each time out," she said.

Melvold pointed out that with only two races remaining for the squad until qualifiers for the NCAAs are announced, a good performance in New York is pivotal for the team, especially facing teams from the East Coast. The region is generally regarded as the hotbed of rowing.

"It's really important [to face these ranked teams]," she said. "It gives us a chance to move up into the rankings. It's now or never."

Miller said that by facing top competition in the final races of the regular season, the Hawkeyes also have an opportunity to impress outsiders.

"We want to get as close as possible to those ranked teams," she said. "We want to make people look at us and go, 'Whoa, there's Iowa.' "

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