By ANDREW BREITFELDER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa rowing team has faced challenges all season, but the biggest is yet to come.
The Hawkeyes face the ultimate test in the conference this Sunday at the Big Ten Championships.
“Last year we had medal performances from both of our 1V8 and 2V8,” head coach Andrew Carter said. “We had good depth a year ago and now our focus is developing top-end speed in three critical events. We follow up on last year’s success by focusing on upping our placement in those three events.”
The Hawkeyes have faced fierce weather, flooding on the Iowa River, and many ranked matchups to provide a strong base for experienced and inexperienced rowers on the roster.
“The past couple years, our racing schedule has been as challenging as anybody in the country,” Carter said. “We have raced a good handful of top-ranked programs in the country. They are battled hardened.”
Arguably the deepest conference this year is the Big Ten. Iowa has seen competitions against Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Indiana, but have yet to race Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, or Rutgers prior to the upcoming championships.
“There are several top-ranked programs in the Big Ten,” Carter said. “We need to understand what kind of speed is necessary to compete with these teams. This is born through hard racing in the regular season.”
Despite the challenges ahead, the Hawkeyes remain poised and continue on their current path. Their training has not changed in preparation for the championships.
“At the moment, the focus is on blade work and perfecting form to maximize potential speed,” junior Eve Stewart said. “More than anything we’re tying everything together and getting zoned in.”
“At this stage, we are working on getting things into auto-pilot,” Carter said. “Everything was a bit delayed with the unique weather the Midwest had this year. Our window to get into our performing stage has been compressed.”
A large part of postseason success is a strong mentality. The Hawkeyes are no stranger to the post-season under Coach Carter, having placed their highest ever Big Ten ranking last season at fourth overall. A cohesive team atmosphere is essential to taking the podium this year.
“More than anything, the atmosphere around the team is fun. Around big races like this people start to act different,” Stewart commented. “You see the nerves and excitement starting to building during the closing stages of the season.”
The Dutch U23 National Team member is very comfortable in high stakes, and so is her crew.
“I speak for my boat when I say that we’re ready,” Stewart added. “You can feel the sense of anticipation every day both in the locker room and in the boat at practice. I can’t wait to see what we bring home this week.”
The Hawkeyes will travel to Devil’s Lake, Wisc., to take part in the Big Ten Championships on Sunday. Live results links are available on the team’s schedule page at hawkeyesports.com.