Two miles, eight teams, all competing for one U.P.-themed trophy. The sixth annual Iron Oars Regatta kicked off early Sunday morning at Teal Lake in Negaunee, also kicking off the start of the U.P. crew season.
Among the contenders: Northern Michigan University and Michigan Tech. But the collegiate rivals said the race was not about competition, it was about evaluation.
"The first race is just about gauging what you need to work on and what you can improve over the season so it doesn't set the tone for the whole season; it sets the tone for what you do during practice," said MI Tech rower, Breanna Cornell.
"We've gotten some new rowers," added Doug Straka, NMU Crew assistant coach. "It's nice to be able to come out and get an assessment of where your team is at."
Windy, wavy conditions on Teal Lake may have made for a bumpy start to the rowing season, but the team at NMU says they were prepared.
"We do have some rough water today with the wind and especially picking up, and for the later races, maybe we'll have some rougher water, but the team does train on Lake Superior in Lower Harbor, and it's rare that we have the opportunity to practice on flat water," said Straka.
Community rowers didn't seem to be bothered by the breeze either. After nearly three months of preparation, the Upper Peninsula Community Rowing Club was eager to get their feet wet. Much of the community crew team was made up of novices.
"A few of us rowed in college," said UPCRC member, Beth Wallace, "but 90 percent of us are ordinary community members who tried it for the first time in our club."
Four hours of racing later, NMU took the top spot and this year's trophy.