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IU rowing struggles in Big Ten checkup, falls short in Michigan


Then-sophomore Sophia Wickersham, now a junior, and then-junior Caroline Taylor, now a senior, move their boat after competition during the 2017 season. IU traveled north to Michigan this weekend, and lost to Michigan State.  Yulin Yu Buy Photos

IU’s rowing team fought in some unfamiliar waters on Saturday. A week after dominating as the the second highest ranked team at the Doc Hosea Invitational, the Hoosiers saw themselves in an entirely different position.

IU traveled north to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where a few Big Ten teams faced off in head-to-head duals. While this may sound routine, that’s the last thing it was. 

The four teams that competed were all recently ranked inside the top 20 of the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association/US Rowing Coaches poll.

IU and Michigan State ranked No. 16 and 18, respectively, while Iowa sat at No. 11. It was the weekend’s home team, Michigan, that rounded out the four teams, as they are currently the sixth ranked program in the country. 

The day began with early bouts at 10 a.m. A brief intermission separated the morning session and the afternoon session, which started at 1:30 p.m. The weather conditions were not ideal for any team, but the rowers made do with the sub-40 degree temperatures. 

The morning started for IU with the novice boats. From the get-go, the Hoosiers were no match for Michigan. The first novice eight lost to Michigan by 23 seconds while the second novice eight trailed the Wolverines by 35 seconds. 

IU’s 2V8 and 2V4 boats also had difficulty with Michigan in the morning as they lost by 16 and 24 seconds, respectively. The 3V4 boat for the Hoosiers went up against two maize and blue boats and sandwiched in between them for a second place finish.

Up next for IU was the 1V4, one of the more experienced groups for the Hoosiers. Going up against a top boat of a top team in the country, they tried to at least keep things close with Michigan. The result wasn’t exactly what they wanted, but the Hoosiers came away with positives only.

“I think that the Michigan race was a huge confidence boost, only being 2 seconds off of them,” junior MC Webb said. “That was something we’ve been training for this entire season and it really showed at the end of the race when we were sticking with them.”

The last time Michigan and IU squared off was last year at the Big Ten Championships. That particular weekend, Michigan wreaked havoc on Indiana’s 1V4 with a 17-second victory. This time around, the Hoosiers cut the gap down by 15 seconds between the two boats. 

The final race of the morning was between the 1V8 boats. While the Hoosiers got off to a slow start, they muscled back and gave Michigan a scare down the stretch, but the Wolverines prevailed and won by less than two seconds.

“We found out we were quite far behind, and then halfway through it we got into a rhythm and ended up walking back on Michigan,” graduate student Abigail Armstrong said. “That definitely put a fire in our bellies and that got us really excited for the rest of the Big Ten season.”

The results in the afternoon did not favor IU much more than they did in the morning. 

The 2N8 improved their time by one second, but ultimately lost to Michigan State by 16 seconds while the 1N8 lost by 31 seconds. The Spartans’ 3V4 stayed hot the whole way and beat the Hoosiers by 14 seconds. 

In the afternoon, the 2V4 and 2V8 boats improved their times by five-plus seconds each, but both fell at the hands of Michigan State. Their times were better in New Jersey, so they hope to shoot back to that level next time on the water. 

The 1V8 and 1V4 were the bright spots for the team against Michigan State. The 1V8 had the tightest finish of the afternoon and ultimately lost by under two seconds. For the 1V4, they rallied from their close loss to Michigan to beat Michigan State by 16 seconds, the sole win for IU on the day.

“We had a little bit of fatigue just because the first race was the one we really wanted to go after to see where we stood up against the sixth ranked team in the country,” Webb said. “We needed to refocus and tell ourselves what we needed to do to get out and beat Michigan State, and we succeeded on that.”

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