Indiana rowing traveled to Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida, for the Big Ten Invitational and won four races over the weekend. The meet featured all eight Big Ten teams and eight other teams from around the country, which competed in three sessions across Friday and Saturday.
Of the sixteen teams at the invitational, 10 entered the weekend ranked, including five in the top 10. Indiana came into the weekend ranked No. 20 and competed in at least one race against every team other than No. 8 Ohio State and No. 19 Washington State University.
In Friday’s morning session, the Hoosiers saw success early with two wins and all four varsity boats finishing first or second in their races. The wins came in the First Varsity Four and Second Varsity Four races, in which Indiana beat Dartmouth College, Michigan State and the No. 18 University of Tennessee. In both Varsity Eight races — featuring the same three opponents — Indiana came second to Tennessee, finishing only 1.2 seconds behind in the First Varsity Eight heat.
The Hoosiers could not keep up the hot start after the break and struggled in the invitational’s second session Friday afternoon. After finishing in the top half of each of Friday morning’s varsity races, all four Hoosier varsity boats finished third or fourth in the afternoon session.
The afternoon session featured Indiana’s only fourth place varsity finish of the weekend, when it finished behind No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Brown University and the University of Notre Dame in the Second Varsity Four race. In the three other varsity races on Friday afternoon — each against the same three opponents — Indiana finished in third place ahead of Notre Dame.
The lone positive from the session for the Hoosiers came from the performance of its First Varsity Four boat which, despite finishing third, improved its time from the first session by over six seconds. The other Hoosier varsity boats all posted slower times in the afternoon session than in the morning.
After struggling against highly-ranked competition Friday afternoon, Indiana bounced back on Saturday morning. In the meet’s final session, the Hoosiers’ four varsity boats recorded one win, two second-place finishes and one third-place finish. Despite the worse results compared to those on Friday morning, all four Hoosier boats posted their fastest times of the weekend Saturday morning.
The Hoosiers recorded their final win of the meet when their First Varsity Eight boat — which earned Big Ten Boat of the Week honors after the OSU Regatta — defeated No. 10 Duke University, Tennessee and Minnesota in a close race that saw all four boats finish within 7 seconds of each other.
“Winning this last race was a solidifying moment to know that we are capable of whatever we set our minds to,” senior Ella Cunningham said. “The night before we said we are winning or we will die trying, which may seem extreme, but that's how bad we wanted it, and you have to want it more than the other crews.”
Cunningham said Indiana started well with a good jump off the line, but Duke made a move late to make the race close. At the end, however, Indiana pulled away for the win by less than 2 seconds.
“Prior to the race we really emphasized having full trust in [coxswain Katherine Nelson], and she had an amazing race,” senior Catherine Ryan said. “Ultimately, the trust we have in each other gave us the ability to win.”
Indiana’s Novice Eight boats also competed in the invitational, and its First Novice Eight boat was the only one to consistently improve its results across the three sessions. In Friday morning’s session, the boat finished third in a three-boat race before earning a second-place finish in Friday afternoon’s session. On Saturday afternoon, the boat broke through and won, edging out Iowa by just over one second.
Indiana has a two-week break before its next meet, the Dale England Cup, on April 30. The meet will be the Hoosiers’ only home meet of the season and will also feature Clemson University, Notre Dame, and Michigan State competing on Lake Lemon.
“From our win today, we should not be overlooked,” Cunningham said. “We just need to keep grinding it out and trust the process.”