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Gopher women's crew.

U rowers set to make a splash

Head of the Mississippi regatta opens fall season

Published on September 27, 2005

Grace and power come together on Saturday as rowing teams from around the state and region compete in the Head of the Mississippi regatta. If you've never seen a crew in action, come watch as the Gopher women show off their skill and teamwork. Both the varsity team and the novice team, which is made up of "walk-ons"--any women who want to row, no matter what their skill level--, will be racing 8+ and 4+ person boats. (The + means there's a coxswain in each boat, the member of a rowing crew who sits in the stern facing forward, steers the boat, and coaches the rowers.)

Head rowing coach Wendy Davis came to the University in 2000 after coaching at Stanford and Yale. Rowing was only a club sport at the U then; the first competitive season as a varsity sport was 2000-2001. Those first women rowers "did a great job of setting the work ethic," says Davis. For the next season, she began building a team with some athletes recruited especially for their proven rowing skill and walk-ons.

"This is one incredibly athletic campus," Davis says. "It's a goldmine of young women who come from small towns and just don't get the quality coaching to become Division I athletes, but they're great athletes. It's because of our walk-on talent that we're in the top 15 in the country right now [out of more than 80 schools with women's rowing programs]. Last year in our varsity 8, only three of the rowers had high school experience."

The October 1 race starts at the East River Flats behind Coffman Union and ends on the west side of the river at Bohemian Flats, below Andersen Library. Novice races begin at 11:20, and the varsity events begin at 1:00.

"The fun thing about this regatta is that it's the first competition for the new rowers, the walk-ons," says Davis. "It's so exciting to see potential Olympians coming down the course for the very first time."

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