Oct. 29, 2011
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Head coach Mandi Kowal and the University of Iowa rowing team wrap up the 2011 fall season on Sunday by hosting the annual Head of the Iowa at City Park in Iowa City. Kowal and the Hawkeyes are hoping familiar surroundings, great fan support and the chance to enter the winter training period on a high note equal a successful Sunday on the Iowa River.
Sunday's Head of the Iowa is the third and final event for the Hawkeyes this fall. Kowal believes a solid showing from her team will make preparations for the spring schedule much easier.
"This event really shows us what type of momentum we will establish heading into winter training," Kowal said. "How each boat goes after each race and how they finish it off will help define the winter."
One factor that will help the Hawkeyes build momentum is the home environment. Nearly the entire crowd at City Park in Iowa City Sunday will be dressed in black and gold.
"The fan support really helps us out a lot," said senior Erin Sodawasser from Davenport, Iowa. "When we come around the corner all you can hear is the fans. They are screaming and have noisemakers. That's a fun experience."
Kowal also thinks the home crowd can urge her Hawkeyes on to good results at the Head of the Iowa.
"We do a lot of things to make this a big event and that's just the Iowa way. Every year, we try to fine tune it and make it even better. Teams keep coming back because they love the body of water, the race course itself and the proximity to campus. Anyone competing really appreciates that."
UI head coach Mandi Kowal
"It's pretty awesome to have the community be on the shores," Kowal said. "When the boats come around the corner it gets really loud. You really can't hear a thing. It's an extra boost and the athletes really appreciate it. Fans can almost reach out and touch the boats. That makes for a really neat atmosphere."
The Iowa rowing team wants the Head of the Iowa to be more than just another regatta. One of the new features this year in City Park will be the addition of the Scott Family Video Board, which made its debut at the 2011 Big Ten Outdoor Track Championships in Iowa City. The video board is a large monitor that will allow fans to catch rowing action from other parts of the course and will also feature instant replay.
"We do a lot of things to make this a big event and that's just the Iowa way," Kowal said. "Every year, we try to fine tune it and make it even better. Teams keep coming back because they love the body of water, the race course itself and the proximity to campus. Anyone competing really appreciates that."
With the home crowd and new features at the Head of the Iowa, Sodawasser and her teammates have reason to approach the Head of the Iowa with a different mindset. But the Hawkeyes enter this race just like any other in the fall.
"I don't think we approach it differently," Sodawasser said. "It's definitely a different setting because it's our home course. We still go about it the same. We want to do well and show the rest of the Big Ten what we have."
Kowal and her squad have one last chance to showcase their skills in the fall. The Hawkeye head coach wants her athletes to enter the regatta with an intense attitude.
"I want them to have the intensity they showed in Oklahoma," Kowal said, referencing the first regatta of the fall. "They just had an attitude from start to finish. That's one of the expectations I have for the weekend. Also, this is our home course and we should be the best on it. We've been talking about that a lot."
Sodwasser and her teammates have heard that message loud and clear.
"We are hoping to make one more step toward a successful season," Sodawasser said. "This is our home course, and we know it better than anyone. This is our last chance to show the other Big Ten schools what we have to offer."