March 14, 2014
First appeared in Varsity Magazine
MADISON, Wis. -- After one practice this Saturday in Tennessee, Wisconsin’s women’s openweight and lightweight rowing programs will race for real for the first time in the 2014 season.
Those races count when NCAA selections are made in May.
“What other people see as a disadvantage, we see as a secret weapon,” said head coach Bebe Bryans about UW’s lack of on-the-water training. “Yes we get cranky, but it gets us meaner. When we finally get out there, we are going to eat our young.”
The Badgers will look to make the NCAAs for the 10th time in 11 seasons and will also look to finish among the top three lightweight crews for the 15th consecutive season. To do that, both women’s programs must make the most of their time on liquid water during next week’s spring break.
“It is a critical week because, first of all, it may be the only week on the water for a long time, but also we are testing what we’ve been doing,” Bryans said. “We put a lot of emphasis on our indoor training, partly because we have to. We are going to test all the work we’ve done.“
For lightweight coach Lisa Schlenker, spring break means even more work. “We can be on the high intensity training program,” she said. “We can do a couple of steady-state rows and lots of seat racing. My objective coming out of spring break is to have a lightweight varsity eight and a lightweight second varsity eight heading to the Pac-12 Challenge to visit defending lightweight champion Stanford.”
These challenges for the Badgers seem to be overcome annually. Most schools don’t have frozen water limitations like Wisconsin, but the Badgers are always right there at the end of the season.
“There is something about the attitude that we have, what we do with our time and what our expectations are that allows us to do things that maybe we shouldn’t be able to,” Bryans explained. "There is something about us that enables us to take a bunch of walk-ons who have never done this before, and get to the NCAA championships every year. We shouldn’t be able to do that. We shouldn’t be able to go to spring break and compete not having rowed for three months, but we do.”
Despite the lack of practice, hope springs eternal, even if spring hasn’t quite yet. Just ask Schlenker.
“Look out for Wisconsin. We have a very young team. We are ambitious and you never know what we can bring,” she said. “I am looking forward to being surprised at their performance. I have great faith with this team.”