In fall rowing, scores and rankings aren’t officially measured — that part doesn’t come until the spring. But despite a more casual setup, two weekend scrimmages at Ohio State provided more value for the Michigan rowing team than what shows up on a scorecard.
Last year, the Buckeyes finished first to the Wolverines’ second in the Big Ten and fifth to Michigan’s seventh at the NCAA Championships. Racing against the top team in the conference right off the bat gave the Wolverines a benchmark with which they could measure their own performance before the spring season.
On Sunday, Michigan raced small boats, with eight pairs and four fours. On Tuesday, the fours raced again while the pairs combined into two boats of eight. Though the meet had no official placings, the races were tight — providing good experience for both teams.
“Ohio State got the better of us in pairs and we were able to go a bit faster in the eights,” said Michigan coach Mark Rothstein. “ … But it was close racing, lot of really good competitive racing, so I think both teams learned a lot.
“I think that we raced better the second day than the first day. … Getting a measuring stick of where we are relative to another good program is very useful.”
In between races in Columbus, the Wolverines took time to study and bond. They did team-building exercises at a fruit farm and hung out together off campus, giving the freshmen a chance to acclimate to the team — something that’s especially important in a sport so dependent on the whole team being in sync.
And with the team’s only previous meet an exhibition scrimmage against Eastern Michigan in September, the weekend’s races proved the first chance for the freshmen to get experience against a top team — the sort of team Michigan will face once the spring season rolls around.
“(I’ve) been pleased with our freshmen and their attitudes and the work ethic and they’re developing quickly,” Rothstein said. “So it’s good to see.”
It wasn’t your traditional race with winners and losers, rankings and records. But the Wolverines still returned from their weekend getaway having achieved their pre-meet goals: Gaining experience against a top team and experience rowing with each other. And with that experience under its belt, Michigan can turn its focus toward further improvement.
“Really it’s just about developing every day,” Rothstein said. “ … Improving our rowing technique (and) just continuing to train, getting faster on the ergometers and get stronger.”