EAST LANSING — Just as the Michigan women’s rowing team lined up for the start of the Varsity Eight — the final race of the afternoon — the sun emerged from behind the dense black clouds that had been hanging over the meet since the early morning.

The Michigan parents called it a sign of good fortune as they huddled together for warmth on the shoreline in their maize and blue blankets, watching for their daughters in the distance.

Michigan lost that race to No. 10 Wisconsin by three seconds. In the second Varsity Eight, the Wolverines lost by only 1.12 seconds.

The points from the final race would have been enough to put the Wolverines ahead of the Badgers. It would have been a perfect ending to a very successful weekend for Michigan after shutting out Minnesota in all six of its races just a few hours earlier, giving the Wolverines their first victory of the season.

While Michigan came out strong, winning most of its early races by open water, the real turning point came in the Varsity Four race, in which Michigan finished ahead of the Golden Gophers by 23.85 seconds — the largest margin of the tournament.

“The Minnesota win was a good step for us,” Michigan coach Mark Rothstein said. “We’ve come up on the short end of the stick a couple of times this season, so it was great to be able to come out and win all of our races. We need to take (the Wisconsin) race and learn from it … We rowed okay, but not as well as we can, and not as well as we will need to down the road.”

Like most teams early in the season, Michigan is a work in progress. Aside from the normal hassles of technical development and building team chemistry, the Wolverines have only been able to practice on the water for the last three weeks due to the inclement weather.

“The great thing about this team is that we have a lot of heart,” senior Nellie Ruedig said. “Coach has been telling us that we have a lot of fight, which we will need to use in order to compete at the top level. But, we really need to build technically. We just need some more time with each other out on the water because training indoors is not quite like training outdoors.”

With the Big Ten Championships just five weeks away, the Wolverines are hoping they can pull all the pieces together in time. In the meantime, these dual meets serve as a valuable chance for the Wolverines to size themselves up to their Big Ten competition.

“This is a team that is unlikely to be deterred by much of anything,” Rothstein said. “They’re hard workers, they are a great group and they’re tough, so I’m not worried about them. I know they are going to be hungry to come back and win.”

Next Saturday, Michigan will host Oklahoma, Grand Valley State and Buffalo in its only home meet of the season.

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