May 2, 2014
MADISON, Wis. -– When the No. 15 Wisconsin travels to Lake Phalen in St. Paul, Minnesota, for Sunday’s race against border-rival Minnesota, it will take part in its final racing until the 2014 Big Ten Championships two weeks from now.
It will also take to the water with thoughts of recapturing the Burnin’ Blade trophy, which goes to the winner of the annual varsity eight race between the two schools. The Badgers won the first two trophy races in 2011 and 2012, but Minnesota upset the higher-ranked Badgers last year in Madison to grab hold of the trophy for the first time.
The novice eight winner between the two schools also serves as a trophy race, with the winner taking home “The Hammer.” The Badgers are a perfect three-for-three in that race since it began in 2011.
“It is the border battle, so we always want to win,” head coach Bebe Bryans said. “Minnesota is always tough. We are taking this extremely seriously. We want to race at our best because they are very formidable opponents. It is also a dress rehearsal for Big Tens – one and done -- so we need to go and do it.”
This year’s dual will feature all seven boats that compete for the Big Ten title, including the varsity eight, second varsity eight, varsity four, second varsity four, third varsity four, novice eight and second novice eight. The teams will also complete a novice four race.
“We’ve had a couple of weeks on the water now, so we are hoping to be able to put together everything we’ve been working on and have some really solid racing experiences,” Bryans added. “No excuses.
“Our lineups are a little more solidified. We’ve made one switch in each of the top-three varsity boats. We may have moved people around, but as far as personnel goes, I think there was maybe one seat change in each of those boats.”
The Badgers are coming off racing at the Clemson Invite two weeks ago. UW’s varsity eight, its top boat, started the event slowly, but appeared to find its form in the final race of the weekend. Wisconsin defeated varsity eights from schools like Indiana, Harvard and Syracuse in the last race after dropping races earlier in the weekend to those crews.
That result encouraged Bryans and now with some consistent time on the water, the Badgers are ready to continue their progress.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of what we wanted to see during practice,” analyzed Bryans. “There is some stuff we haven’t seen yet that we need to see and this is the time to see it. I think this is a big weekend for both programs. They are a little like us in that they never get an opportunity to race at home. We want to do everything we can to go up there and spoil their day.”