While students across campus wake up disheveled on their
friend’s floor, or frantically calling different cab
companies for a ride back to North Campus, a special group of girls
are waking up at the crack of dawn to begin work. Though it is
still very early — their competitive season starts in the
spring — the Michigan women’s rowing team wakes up
before sunrise everyday to head off to practice.

“Nothing gets people more united then waking up at five in
the morning and working out while the sun rises,” senior
Crystal Culp said.

Not that the Wolverines have had a problem with cohesiveness.
Last year, Michigan finished first in the Big Ten Championships,
third in the Lexus Central/South Region Sprints and third in the
NCAA Championships.

But the fall is no time to reminisce about last season.

“We’re staring to build up the mileage and starting
on a good physiological page so we can move ahead to the winter and
the spring with training, as well as developing technical skills in
the water,” coach Mark Rothstein said.

And nothing is more important than technical skills in the sport
of rowing. During the fall, a team is more concerned with how it
races and not whom it races. In events such as the Head of Charles
or the Head of the Elk, Michigan and as many as 40 other schools
race against the clock more than against each other. Featuring more
time trials than actual regattas, these events allow the team to
work on the technical aspects of racing, yet still have the
experience of going against another team. The Wolverines have
multiple varsity teams racing, giving the coaches a chance to
tinker with different line-ups and see who works well with whom.
Despite Michigan’s success in regattas, events where multiple
schools participate, last spring, the team went just 1-3 in dual
meets, including two losses to perennial rivals Michigan State and
Ohio State. But the girls didn’t let that bother them.

“We peaked when we wanted to last year … and I
think those losses taught our team how to be tough and come back
from behind,” senior coxswain Tara Medina said.

The team has a chance to show Ohio State how much it has
improved from last season during its exhibition with the Buckeyes
this Saturday on Belleville Lake. This will not be a race, though,
as both teams are just using it as an opportunity to match up
against a top opponent and see where they stand.

“We’re trying to stay within the structure of our
plan — in the preparation within that plan,” Rothstein
said. “We want to row hard and row our best on that given day
… we want to perform our absolute best.”

While students sleep away their Saturday morning after a long
Friday night, it will be just another day for the women’s
rowing team. Another day to improve — another day closer to
the start of the 2004-05 season.

When asked if there is the same intensity during an exhibition
against Ohio State as there is during the regular season,
Culp’s answer seems to sum up how hard the team works during
the fall.

“There always is and there always will be,” she
said.

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