Oct. 28, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- You've heard of home-field and home-court advantage; on Sunday the University of Iowa rowing team will feed off a home-river advantage during the Head of the Iowa by City Park in Iowa City.
"It's on our river right in front of the (P. Sue Beckwith Boathouse)," UI head coach Mandi Kowal said. "It gives the athletes a chance to showcase the work they've been doing."
Action begins at 10 a.m. with the men's varsity 8+ competition, followed by the women's varsity 8+ at 10:30. The final race begins at 2:30 p.m.
The Head of the Iowa marks the third and final regatta for the Hawkeyes during the fall season. They have also competed at the Head of the Oklahoma (Oct. 1-2 at Oklahoma City) and the Head of the Rock (Oct. 9 in Rockford, Ill.).
"The team is doing pretty well. We have a lot of people who are newcomers to the varsity program so we're learning a lot," Kowal said. "We have a lot to learn, we have a lot of reps to get in, but they are very coachable. There is a feeling I have with this team; they have a good work ethic, they have good energy and they know as a group how to commit to something."
High river conditions forced the cancellation of the event on the Iowa River in 2007 and 2008. Kowal said that fact produced a void for many members of the university and Iowa City communities.
"The community has embraced it completely and we have embraced it even more because of that. It's very festive; they will see a lot of bright colors and a lot of intense crews. The Hawkeyes want to show well in front of their fans."
UI head rowing coach
"It was amazing to me how many people were wondering when the race was coming back," Kowal said. "Even though it may not have seemed like a big deal (to cancel the races), it was a bigger deal than I realized."
The weather should cooperate Sunday. Reports call for mostly cloudy sky with a high temperature in the upper 50s and a 30 percent chance of showers. Although the exact number of participating boats is not known, early commits have been received from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Drake, Creighton, Colorado and Iowa State.
"It's going to be a good showing," Kowal said.
It's safe to assume that there will be a good showing of Hawkeye supporters as well. That's as much an annual tradition as the regatta itself. There are few events where the fans are a stone's throw from the athletes, which is the case at the Head of the Iowa.
"The community has embraced it completely and we have embraced it even more because of that," Kowal said. "It's very festive; they will see a lot of bright colors and a lot of intense crews. The Hawkeyes want to show well in front of their fans."
In order to show well, the Hawkeyes will need to hear well. That tends to be a (good) problem during past Head of the Iowa events.
"It sounds a little corny, but they feel the love; they feel the support," Kowal said of the hundreds of Hawkeye fans who annually line the river bank. "It's amazing when they come around the corner how loud it gets; they can't even hear the coxswain, so we actually have to plan for that because there are so many parents and community cheering."
Kowal is looking for an intense effort from the Hawkeyes and they will gauge their performance against her alma mater, Wisconsin. The Badgers are coming off a fifth-place performance at the Head of the Charles and they defeated the Hawkeye's top Varsity 8+ boat by 42.7 seconds at the Head of the Rock.
"Making a better showing against them is our big thing," Kowal said. "How much closer can we get to them? That's really important for our group."
In Sunday's regatta, rowers will race down a 2 ½-mile stretch of the Iowa River. The Hawkeyes will compete in the women's varsity 8, women's varsity 4 and women's pairs.
Follow this link for more information on the Head of the Iowa.