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Hawkeye rowers welcome two new assistant coaches

BY CONRAD SWANSON | AUGUST 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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The fall semester is about to begin, and for the time being, Beckwith Boathouse remains silent. The doors are locked, and the boats sit quietly — but not for long.

The Iowa rowing team has undergone some significant changes recently, beginning with two new assistant coaches who were hired during the summer. Beth Redfearn and Courtney Valerious will now have to help replace the 12 seniors lost from last year's roster, so there's lots of work to be done.

Mandi Kowal, the team's 18-year head coach, has high expectations for both her two new assistant coaches and for the team. She said she's optimistic about the Black and Gold as she gauges the team and evaluates both what needs to be worked on and where the team's strengths lie.

"The first indication happens the first day of practice," Kowal said. "[The season goals include] reaching their potential physically and making sure we're accountable with the choices we make as a team, on and off the water."

Perhaps the most important goal, though, is finding leaders on a team that has not yet fully taken shape. Valerious couldn't be reached for comment because she was busy recruiting, and the rest of the coaching staff has been busy contacting interested students and looking for talent at the dorms and around campus.

For this reason, Kowal said it will be especially important for her returning rowers to step into leadership roles.

"Finding leaders [on the team] who can be respected and for people to respond to them [will be a focus]," she said.

The search for both leaders and recruits will be bolstered by Redfearn and Valerious, who both rowed in the Big Ten — Redfearn at Wisconsin and Valerious at Indiana.

Redfearn's most recent coaching stint was at Division-III Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, but she said she is ready to experience the rigors of a major conference again. She said she knows how competitive the Big Ten can be, even though rowing is less common in the Midwest than it is on the East coast.

"Athletes in Iowa are all about working hard and team pride," Redfearn said. "They're down-to-earth kids who are grateful for everything. They come in, and they work hard."

Bebe Bryans, the women's rowing head coach at Wisconsin, coached Redfearn from 2004-05. She called her former captain a "student of the sport" and said she provided the Badgers with a calm, strong influence.

"She was really steady, solid, and knowledgeable," Bryans said. "She wasn't a drama producer; [she was] just a good athlete that was trying to make her boat go faster."

Redfearn said she looks forward to several things during her first season at Iowa, including meeting all the new athletes and getting them ready for the Head of the Oklahoma, a race held in Oklahoma City at the beginning of October.

And because she has been aware of Kowal's presence as a coach since her days at Wisconsin, Redfearn is also optimistic about working with her new colleagues and competing in a high-profile atmosphere.

"You just can't beat the Big Ten for school spirit," she said.


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