The Michigan rowing team faced no bigger challenge than when it squared off against No. 1 Washington and No. 3 Texas on Saturday.
Before the meet, the team had met just four ranked opponents — No. 9 Virginia, No. 11 Iowa, No. 16 Indiana and No. 18 Michigan State — who it took care of with commanding wins.
This time, though, the Wolverines finished last in the meet. Even so, they took away moderate success with the second varsity eight boat that had a team-high second place finish.
The 2V8 boat finished with a time of 6:15.77, separating itself from the Longhorns’ second varsity eight by a slim 1.62 seconds. However, Michigan’s efforts weren’t enough to top the Huskies’ 2V8 boat, which had created an open-water lead.
Michigan coach Mark Rothstein mentioned how he felt the second varsity eight boat performed well, even if it wasn’t enough to top the best team in the nation
In the other two races, though, the Wolverines couldn’t find similar success.
Finishing last in the first varsity eight boat, Michigan, which again found itself behind Washington by an open-water gap, trailed Texas as well. In the final 500-meters, the 1V8 limited the gap between it and the Longhorns’ first varsity eight to just four seats.
Despite finishing last, the 1v8 boat finished with major improvements from the weekend prior. The crew recorded a time of 6:10.11, more than 16 seconds faster than it had in its dominant performance against Indiana.
Similarly, the first varsity four failed to impress in its showing against top-level competition. However, development in its skills showed as the 1V4 boat posted a time of 7:00.27, close to nine-second improvement against the Hoosiers and 18 second improvement against Iowa from its previous weekend’s performances.
It wasn’t that the Wolverines couldn’t find a groove. It was simply that the competition was better.
While the meet didn’t end as Rothstein hoped, it offered a glimpse at the level the Wolverines would need to row to keep up with their competition in the nearing NCAA Tournament. For him, it was never about winning against these top-tier teams. It was about improving in time for the postseason.