Practicing in worst-case weather conditions is a must for athletes. Baseball players know the struggle of playing through rain until lightning is spotted. Football teams put up with negative temperatures and thick snowstorms.
For rowing, it’s the wind. The strong gusts of air create tidal waves that wreak havoc on boats. While rowing is hard enough already, imagine having to thrust your oars into the water in unison with your teammates while a set of waves rock your boat back and forth uncontrollably.
Those conditions were very much in play Saturday at Lake Lemon. The IU rowing team hosted Duke, Notre Dame and Penn for the tenth annual Dale England Cup. A dozen races were scheduled for Saturday, but the heavy winds limited that number to just four races.
“The conditions were really difficult,” IU Coach Steve Peterson said. “We’ll practice on days when the winds are this strong, but the difference is we’ll go to a part of the lake that’s really sheltered.”
Each team at the event has received votes for the national rankings at some point this year, but only the Hoosiers, Blue Devils and Fighting Irish garnered top-20 status this week.
Pitted up against Duke and Penn, two schools it faced earlier this season, the Hoosiers were excited to see how the team has improved throughout the year ahead of the postseason.
In the first varsity four, wind forced the teams to row into the start of the race. This confusing variant led to unwarranted head starts for Penn and Notre Dame. The Hoosiers made a serious comeback despite the snafu and wound up winning the race by 11 seconds.
The 1V8 boats rowed next, and they were able to carry out the race in its entirety. IU started out slow but had a nice second-half push to make it an interesting finish. Penn came out on top, but the three other teams were all within seven seconds of the Quakers. The Hoosiers placed second, two seconds off Penn.
Up next was the 2V8, a heat raced in similar fashion to the 1V8. Not only did both have regular lengths of 2,000 meters, but both had intense conclusions, including a photo finish between Notre Dame and IU. Video evidence conjured a tie for first between the schools. Penn came in third and was just three-tenths seconds off the pace, while Duke lost by 10 seconds.
The last race of the day was the 2V4. Strong winds came back to haunt the lake, so the boats had to row into the start again. No times were recorded, but the Hoosiers came in first ahead of Penn, Duke and Notre Dame, in that order.
In addition to seeing their individual boat times go up during the season, IU has seen improvement throughout the team in terms of outlasting the competition. The Hoosiers’ 1V4 widened its gap against Penn and Duke by more than 10 seconds each.
While the team can only find that encouraging, Peterson was most proud of the way his squad made technical adjustments Saturday.
“There were so many things that can easily derail an athlete and I was really proud in how our team handled those,” Peterson said. “There was so much chaos because the schedule changed around, and the conditions were bad. We handled all the adversity well.”
With 60 team points, IU clinched its second straight Dale England Cup despite the event’s shortened schedule. Sitting at No. 14 in the country, the Hoosiers are destined to see their national ranking move before the Big Ten Championships on May 13 in Indianapolis.
“Anytime you can win, it’s good,” Peterson said. “It’s good to have this emotional momentum heading into the Big Ten Championship, but we still have work to do. The Big Ten is blazing fast this year, and it’s going to be a barnburner in Indianapolis in two weeks.”
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