Rowing’s fall season starts Saturday
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Both Jacksonville University rowing teams will have a pair of goals as the fall season gets under way Saturday with the First Coast Head Race.

“We want to both win and get ready for the spring,’’ head coach Jim Mitchell said. “It’s all about the preparation; it’s a year-long preparation for the spring.’’

Mitchell said Saturday’s race will involve only his team (up to 10 boats) and UCF on the men’s collegiate level and the JU women also will be on the water. About 15 area high school teams also will participate.

“There’s not a lot of competition for us this year, but it’s an opportunity to get some racing in at least against ourselves. It’s a good opportunity to showcase our speed,’’ Mitchell said. UCF is a club program on the men’s side.

The Head races, according to Mitchell, essentially are time trial races and the course is 5-kilometers (3.1 miles) long as opposed to the spring schedule which are 2,000-meter sprint races against other crews.

The First Coast Head Race starts north of Mathews Bridge near Arlington Marina, under the Mathews Bridge turn into the Arlington River and race under the University Bridge, under the Cesery Bridge and finish just before Atlantic Boulevard.

The race will be the first step in the team’s quest to get national acclaim next year at the biggest race, the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia where more than 120 schools compete and the national championship the IRA (International Rowing Association) Regatta where the top 18 t o20 schools participate.

“We measure our success on our goals for the year and they change. Our expectations are always high and are always to win the big race,’’ Mitchell said. “The easiest goal to say is to win the men’s varsity 8 at the Dad Vail because we’ve never done it. It a goal that can be reached, but it’s challenging.’’

The JU women also will be participating with a pair of Championship 8 boats on the water.

“It’s good to participate in a Jacksonville event,’’ coach Kris Muhl said. “It’s will be a good tune-up for the Head of the Hooch race in early November when several Division I schools will be there.’’

Muhl noted that while the team has been diligent in practice, race day brings its own aura.

“It’s good to get out there against the clock,’’ he said. “On race day it’s undeniable that something is different.’’

Racing will begin about 8:15 a.m. and continue throughout the day.