The fall season may be coming to an end, but the Michigan rowing team is hardly slowing down. Winter training has already begun for the Wolverines, as they reflect on a successful fall and look forward to the upcoming spring.
The biggest regatta Michigan attended this fall was the Head of the Charles in Boston, Mass. Racing against the top teams in the country, the Wolverines came in ninth overall and first among the Big Ten teams competing, edging out Iowa and Indiana.
“It was really exciting,” said senior Meghan Gutknecht. “It’s a really fun race, and it’s really fun to be around that many teams, because that’s the only time we really get to do that besides NCAA and Big Ten (Championships). It’s a really cool energy and it’s amazing that we were able to perform so well.”
Gutknecht, the team captain, boasts an impressive resume, including competing for Team U.S.A. at the U23 World Championships last year, being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2016 and maintaining a spot on the 1V8 boat since her freshman year. This fall, she was primarily kept at seven seat in the stern pair — the section of the boat responsible for setting the pace for the rest of the rowers. Gutknecht is used to setting the pace both on and off the water, as this is her third year as a captain of the team.
“It’s been very interesting to be a part of leadership for such a long time,” Gutknecht said. “I started my sophomore year, and it’s been really cool to see how the team has changed and really commit to our goals, especially in this past year or two. We know what we want to do, and we’ve all bought in, and it’s really great to see that everyone has stepped up.
“It’s not just a couple people leading; everyone’s really taking responsibility for themselves and the people around them. It’s a really great atmosphere to be a part of.”
The break from racing in the coming months will be a time for the team to gain strength and speed in their new facilities, which include erg rooms — the main workout of a rower in the winter — a team lounge and an indoor rowing tank.
“This is our first full year at our brand new facilities,” Gutknecht said. “Winter has been going well; it was really good to just put in time with the team. It’s really exciting to put in work and get ready for the spring season. Everyone has had a lot of energy so far, so that’s really exciting to keep building off of that.”
The Wolverines’ success in the spring will greatly depend on the time spent strength training. They will have to maintain their energy to repeat their performance last year, when they finished second in the Big Ten and seventh in the NCAA Championships.
“It’s always hard to tell how much the lineup will change, but usually it does a lot just because the winter is a huge time for people to make a lot of big changes and gains, and it’s really the make-or-break of our year,” Gutknecht said. “It’s less seat racing and more overall performance which (Michigan coach) Mark (Rothstein) likes to focus on. One seat race isn’t going to make or break us, but if you put in all of the work in winter and you’re getting better and faster, you’re going to have a good chance to make whatever boat you’re aiming for.”
Gutknecht described the team as very ambitious. She believes the team has brought its A-game this season and holds itself to a “high standard” when it comes to workouts.
There was one thing Gutknecht would like to see her team focus on for the upcoming season: focus.
“Committing to the moment and being in it 100 percent,” Gutknecht said. “It’s a really exciting environment to keep our cool and focus on all the training we’ve put in for the whole year and being able to direct it towards that one moment, I think, would be really worthwhile.”