Hawkeyes prepare for Head of the Iowa
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Recently hired University of Iowa women's rowing coach Steve Pritzker has had approximately four months to see the passion behind the Hawkeye fan base. Pritzker is hoping that the support toward anything Black and Gold carries over to his first home event this weekend: the Head of the Iowa.
The annual Head of the Iowa regatta will be held Sunday at City Park in Iowa City. Races will run from 10 a.m. to approximately 3:30 p.m. Pritzker is looking forward to growing the regatta into an all-day event, with plenty of activities for families and fans.
"This is an event that can become a festival," Pritzker says. "It can be an event that the community embraces and comes to City Park to watch. We are going to bring back masters and youth races, expanding it to an event that everyone can get behind.
"The fall is a great time for a regatta like this. In the future, we would like to get food vendors out in City Park. The Head of the Iowa is right around Halloween, so having things like cotton candy, apple cider, and other themed food and drink can create a festival-type atmosphere. The competition is important, but we want the Head of the Iowa to be an event that entire families can come out to enjoy for the day."
One addition that was made to the Head of the Iowa last year was the Scott Family Video Board, allowing fans in City Park to see more action down the river along with replays. Pritzker says the video board alone separates the Head of the Iowa from other regattas.
"Having the Scott Family Video Board also helps create a buzz in the rowing community," Pritzker says. "It gives our event a big advantage. Our fans can watch large sections of the race, instead of a smaller portion when the boats come around the bend. Fall racing in rowing is a bit like NASCAR on the water, with multiple turns and boats passing each other at high speeds. The video board allows our fans to catch all the action."
The Iowa rowing team has competed twice this fall under the new coaching staff and is showing signs of improvement from week-to-week. Pritzker knows that rebuilding the Hawkeye rowing program won't happen overnight, but the early signs are encouraging.
"The student-athletes have done a great job of buying into what we are trying to do," Pritzker says. "We are trying to maximize the talent we have in a short amount of time. Every student-athlete has set personal records; some by enormous amounts of time. That shows the attitude to work hard within the program is there."
Pritzker's first priority is to build a foundation for the program in order to work its way up the competitive Big Ten Conference. The majority of that work will be done in the winter training months, so the fall has been a unique challenge for the first-year head coach.
"The fall is an odd time in our sport, because you only have eight weeks to essentially go from zero to 60 without building a base," Pritzker says. "The winter gives us the opportunity to build that base. That's the big challenge in the fall, but the team has responded in a positive way."
Sunday's regatta will be the final fall competition for the Hawkeyes. Pritzker understands that the sport he coaches might not always be in the limelight, but is hoping that the passionate Iowa fan base will come out to support his Hawkeyes.
"It's exciting for the community to get a chance to see our sport, which is a little out of sight," Pritzker says. "We understand that we aren't football, and we won't draw 70,000 people every Saturday. But we have athletes working extremely hard to get better at what they do, and the river we race on goes right through campus. We would love to get a ton of support from the student body and community this weekend."