IOWA CITY, Iowa — Head racing, scrimmages, and novice exhibitions. These are a few of rowing’s favorite things.
At least in the fall, anyway. The real prize for the University of Iowa rowing team is in May 2017, when the Big Ten Championships are contested in Indianapolis. A lot has to be done between now and then, starting this weekend in Bloomington, Indiana, where the Hawkeyes scrimmage conference opponents Indiana and Wisconsin.
“This weekend is something the coaches believe fits the needs of all three programs,” said UI head rowing coach Andrew Carter. “What you find is a lot of programs, like Iowa, have largely taken their fall segments and customized their training to lean away from formal racing.
“It’s an attempt to keep our focus on the prize in May and doing what’s necessary to prepare us for the championship season.”
This is the fourth year Iowa and Indiana have joined forces in the fall. They’ve exchanged hosting privileges since 2013, when the Hoosiers first visited the Iowa River for a workout. This is Wisconsin’s first year in the mix.
“The collective training gives us a measuring post, an internal idea of where we stack up at this stage relative to where some of our peer institutions stack up at this stage,” Carter said. “It’s also a nice opportunity to get outside of our regular training routine and get the kids excited about the championship season.”
Iowa’s novice crew got on the water Sept. 24 in a training exhibition against North Park University, but this weekend marks the debut for varsity boats. Five Hawkeye crews will train on Lake Lemon, including three Varsity 8+ and two Novice 8+ crews.
“This format allows us to make changes between our crews to get a different look at what affect the different pieces have on our performance,” Carter said. “Not only internally, but how they fair against Indiana and Wisconsin, which will ultimately help me iron out our future travel rosters.”
Following this weekend, the Hawkeyes wrap the fall schedule at the Jayhawk Jamboree in Lawrence, Kansas, on Oct. 23, and the Head of the Charles Regatta on Oct. 23-23 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Established in 1965, the Head of the Charles is one of the most historical rowing events in the country, hosting more than 11,000 athletes and 100 crews over the two-day event.
The Hawkeyes will race one Varsity 8+ crew and one Varsity 4+ crew on the Charles River.
“The Head of the Charles is sort of the American Granddaddy of them all,” Carter said. “It was the first one of any significance to be created, and it has grown into this monster. It is an international competition. We’ll be racing Dutch and British crews, the U.S. National team, Canadians; we’re racing everybody in these events.”
Iowa’s V8 placed ninth in 2015, and the V4 placed fourth among collegiate entries. The competition in Bloomington this weekend will help determine who represents the Hawkeyes later this month.
“A very select group will go to Boston because it’s a very public event and we have to put our best foot forward, which we did last year,” Carter said. “It is tradition, it’s something we can look forward to, and it’s part of the process as we keep our eye on the spring championships season.”