Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JIL PRICE
IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the University of Iowa women’s rowing team, opportunity knocks this weekend at the 2016 Big Ten Championships.
The Hawkeyes, who have challenged themselves against an elite schedule and gained confidence through their racing experiences this season, have a chance to race their way to the program’s first NCAA Championships appearance in 15 years.
The opportunity lies at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, the site where eight conference members will duke it out for the conference title. Last year, the Big Ten saw four programs advance to the NCAA Championships, including three-time defending national champion Ohio State. Iowa placed sixth, recording its second-highest championship point total (79) in program history.
“The Big Ten itself is such a strong conference and if you can be competitive in the Big Ten that’s a good sign you’ll be competitive nationally,” senior Beth Baustian of the 1V8+ crew said. “As far as the Big Ten Championships are concerned, if you do well at that event, it is a marker for how you’re going to move forward at NCAAs.
“For us this year, it’s exciting because we’ve made so much progress and it’s shown this year. We’re hoping for some good results.”
Iowa has made only one NCAA appearance in the program’s history, earning a coveted spot in 2001. The Big Ten Championships is the last opportunity for the Hawkeyes to their resume for the NCAA selection committee, which will announce the NCAA field May 17 at 4 p.m. (CT) on ncaa.com.
“For the women on the team it would be a terrific validation of the unbelievable work they’ve put in and the advancement they’ve seen,” third-year head coach Andrew Carter said. “It’s been zero to 60. In a three-year span, going from where they were in the scheme of the national landscape, if they can get over that hump it would mean a lot to them.
“We’ve been getting rowing recognition from the recruiting talent pool, our colleagues, and programs around the country. The profile of Iowa’s rowing program is rising and a bid to the NCAA Championship would push that even further.”
The Hawkeyes, who enter the Big Ten Championships as the No. 5 seed, are on average 2-3 seconds behind fourth-seeded Indiana, a team that has placed 11th at the last two NCAA Championships.
Carter says outracing the seed would be a strong statement to the NCAA committee.
“Whether we’re racing Indiana directly or racing someone they raced, it seems to come back to 2-3 seconds,” Carter said. “If we can find that extra speed Sunday, it’s going to happen.
“There is a lot of excitement, and there is a lot of anticipation of what’s possible. The key is to manage that so they don’t grip it too tight.”
The thought of a potential NCAA bid has been a driving force for the Hawkeyes. Especially for the senior class, who say it has been one of their goals.
“Over the past three years, if I’ve been training by myself that has been in the back of my head,” Baustian said. “It has always been the goal and I think that’s true for everyone on the team. Everyone has been so hard-working and positive. That, more than anything, is the motivating factor; everyone wants it so badly and has been working hard for it.
“Going to the NCAA Championships would be the best possible scenario I could have imagined for myself and this team. The coaching staff and this group of girls deserve to go after a 15 year absence.”
The 2016 Big Ten Championship is tape delayed and will air on the Big Ten Network on Saturday, May 21 at 7 p.m. Hawkeye fans can follow along with the action live this weekend on Twitter @IowaRowing and on BTN Plus at btn2go.com.