Heading west for the weekend, the UW rowing team faces strong headwinds against two of the nation’s top teams: Stanford University and the University of California, ranked No. 7 and No. 4, respectively, in the Men’s Collegiate Coaches poll. The Badgers meet these two tough West Coast teams at Stanford’s home waterfront at Redwood Shores, Calif.
After being confined for more than five months inside the Porter Boathouse, the Badgers are finally out on the water and intent upon making their presence known this weekend. While the Porter Boathouse facilities keep the Badgers going all year, it can be very taxing on a team to be inside for such a long time. Last week the Badgers finally got out onto Lake Mendota after one of Madison’s longest winters.
“Inside gets to be so harsh, dull and just painful on those rowing machines. … Even though it’s 38 [degrees] and raining, it’s still better than being inside,” head coach Chris Clark said.
The Badgers began their spring season against Minnesota last week. In a good start-up race, they swept the weaker team in three races.
“It was good for us to get those races under our belt,” senior Alex Bisset said. “It’s nice to get out on a different race course, and it was a good way to get into the racing season.”
The opponents at the Stanford Invitational will set the bar a lot higher for this Badger team. Both Stanford and California have a significant advantage over Wisconsin in that they are in the water most, if not all, of the year, while Wisconsin has only been out on the water for about one week now.
Despite having only competed in one event this season, the Badgers are highly ranked at No. 8 in the country. In the eyes of their head coach, however, “we’re overrated at this point.” Clark said. “How can we be ranked as high as we are, when we haven’t even rowed, and we just got on the water last week?”
The Badgers will have a lot to prove against Stanford and California. While Wisconsin has only faced Minnesota so far this spring, both Stanford and California have raced against the No. 1-ranked University of Washington as well as the No. 2-ranked Princeton University. While Wisconsin hones a great crop of rowers mostly from the Midwest, Stanford and California are known for their ability to recruit internationally.
“It’s going to be unpredictable,” Clark said. “Everything tells me there’s no way we can beat those teams. Between the two of them, they have over 20 guys that have rowed internationally.”
However, the Badgers are stocked with upperclassmen who add experience to Wisconsin’s skill. This weekend’s event consists of only eight-man boats, rather than six-man boats, which increases the number of players that Wisconsin is relying on.
“We have 33 rowers [in total], so there’s depth all the way down. Nine of the 16 [who will row this weekend] are juniors and have been there before, so they kind of know what they’re getting into at this particular place,” Clark added.
The Stanford Invitational will set the stage for a demanding spring season for Wisconsin. Throughout the season, UW will face a number of top teams besides Stanford and California, including Boston University and the U.S. Naval Academy. These races will prepare the Badgers for the ultimate test in June at the IRA Championships, where, regardless of this weekend’s outcome, Wisconsin is sure to meet up with Stanford and California again.
“This [weekend] gives us a good idea about where we’re at in terms of speed compared to other top crews in the country,” junior Anthony Hoell said. “But it gives us a point of where we are and where we need to go for the rest of the season.”