Heading into the weekend, the UW men’s crew team is ranked No. 3 in the country. But in their sport, numbers don’t matter much.
“It’s nice to be recognized. Our guys are OK — there’s no question about that,” head coach Chris Clark said. “But for us right now, it does not mean anything. … It does not give you any tangible benefit.”
Nevertheless, after a tremendous weekend at the Stanford Invitational against top-ranked Stanford and Cal — in which the Badgers dominated both teams — the latest number for the men’s rowing team is three. That is, third in the country.
Beating two teams of the caliber of No. 6 Cal and No. 9 Stanford on the road was a defining set of wins for Wisconsin. Although the victories lifted the Badgers in the polls, their focus continues to be on the upcoming weekend.
“We’re trying not to focus really on that,” junior Ross James said. “We’re trying to focus on the race at hand, rather than the big picture.”
After a high-intensity trip to the West Coast, the Badgers are headed out east this weekend to go up against two more elite teams, Dartmouth and MIT, in the Cochrane Cup. As of now, neither team is ranked, but that does not leave the Badgers in the clear this weekend.
“I think we feel a little confident, but at the same time we can’t take anything for granted,” junior George Walters said. “We are just compounding what we’ve done before. So I think we are just trying to take what we did from last two weekends ago and trying to build off that.”
Both Dartmouth and MIT competed against some of the best last weekend, which adds to their experience. Dartmouth raced No. 2 Brown, while MIT faced No. 4 Harvard and fifth-ranked Princeton. Although neither Dartmouth nor MIT were able to come away with victories, both teams raced very competitively.
Both UW opponents bring two other advantages to this weekend’s events. As East Coast schools, they have both been in the water for longer periods of time this season than the Badgers.
“We’ve been on the water for just over two weeks. And we are racing crews who have been on the water for all of March,” assistant coach Eric Mueller said. “It’s a tough trip against a tough lineup.”
Dartmouth and MIT also have the home-course advantage this weekend. Wisconsin will be flying to Hanover, N.H. for the first race against Dartmouth on Saturday and then driving to Boston for the second on Sunday, where they will compete in the Jablonic Cup.
“When you travel like this, you just want to get through it and do as well as you can, because it takes a lot of energy,” Clark said. “It’s almost like you’re going off on a campaign basically. It’s always a tough challenge. The travel part of it is by far the most difficult.”
Out of all the teams Wisconsin faces in their league, the Eastern American Rowing Conference, the Badgers are the only ones not located on a coast. This geographic disadvantage forces Wisconsin to be the last team to hit the water in the spring and the only team that is forced to fly to their races.
Despite these obstacles, the Badgers have been able to put up impressive performances wherever they race.
“[The] expectation is to get out there, row as well as we can,” Clark said.