From the observation deck of Porter Boathouse, we could see the starting line for last Saturday's rowing race between Wisconsin and Michigan, just south of Picnic Point. Our plan was to follow the boats down the Lakeshore Path to the finish, near the Memorial Union Terrace.
Instead, we watched the two boats stop just a few hundred meters into the race, turn and slowly make their way back to shore. The crews climbed out, lifted their shells from the lake and flipped them upside down, dumping gallons of frigid lake water on their heads. The wind and waves had made racing impossible.
Wisconsin's varsity eight boat won the national championship last spring and is now ranked number two in the country. This is all the more remarkable given the conditions the athletes must endure just to practice, and the method head coach Chris Clark and his staff still use to "recruit" - asking tall guys at freshman orientation if they'd like to try rowing.
The Badgers ended up beating Michigan in all six races on a second course set up later in the day near Tenney Park. There are some lesser races against Minnesota this Saturday (see uwbadgers.com for schedule and results), but that's it for collegiate rowing in Madison this year.
That means fans of Badger rowing must cheer from afar. The team's top two eights are in northern California this weekend for the Stanford Invitational; the national championships will be held near Sacramento on the first weekend of June.