This season is about to be a season like never before for K-State rowing.
With the opening of its new, state-of-the-art Collegiate Rowing Facility, being forced to miss practices due to inclement weather is now a thing of the past.
The new training center, located east of Bill Snyder Family Stadium, is over 9,000 square feet and will contain two indoor practice tanks making on-the-water training possible year round for the first time in K-State rowing history.
"You can never beat being on the water itself, but it's the next best thing," head coach Pat Sweeney explained. "The rowing machines, they're just machines, so you sit on them and work, but you can't really work technique. In the tank, we can work technique even when we're frozen off the water."
Last spring, on March 22, the team kicked off its season at the Oklahoma City Invitational. While it came home with five victories in that race, after last year's long Kansas winter, the Wildcats had only had two practices on the water going into its season opener.
"Instead of trying to win those races, we go down and just try and make it through them," senior Aly Bronder said about the spring seasons' opening races each year. "We have to spend a week or two just getting back into technique. The (rowing) machines, whereas it's close, it doesn't transfer completely, so it's going to be really nice getting to work on technique all winter in the tanks and getting on the boat and killing it immediately."
While having access to indoor rowing tanks will be one of the most beneficial areas of the new facility, the Intercollegiate Rowing Center will offer the team much more.
It will be a place for the team to call home. From first-class locker rooms to administrative suites for coaching and support staff, the building gives a new face to K-State rowing that will help build the program for years to come.
"It's going to grow the program so much," junior Meggie Murray said about the Intercollegiate Rowing Center. "We're going to be more competitive for recruits, and hopefully if we have more success in the program with it, it will balance out with getting those recruits and having even more success getting where we want to be."
This Saturday, K-State rowing will travel to Oklahoma City, Okla., for the Head Of Oklahoma races. Competing in two fall races (the Head of Oklahoma this weekend and against University of Kansas in Lawrence on Oct. 20) gives the team the opportunity to break up its fall/winter training and give the team a glimpse at what it needs to improve on throughout the winter.
"Our season is in the spring, so these are just part of the preparation," Sweeney said about the upcoming races. "We want to do well, but it really just breaks up the winter training more than everything else and it reminds them why they're doing it. It kind of gives them a break, otherwise they're just sitting there for three or four months pounding away and training."
Luckily for the 2013-14 rowing team, the new aspect of training in the rowing facility's tanks will help them on the road of achieving their goals as they look forward to a new season.
"I just want to go out and be more competitive," Murray said. "I want to be more competitive against all the teams in the Big 12 specifically, and then further on in our season, in the spring, I want to be able to get back into the season faster and have success towards the beginning of the season."
Competing well against Big 12, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas in specific, was also a goal of Bronder's.
"Last year competing against OU and Texas wasn't anything horrible and we were able to hold our own, but this year my goal is to actually be able to stay up with them, make it a competitive race, and show that our tank has been worth while and that we're using it to our advantage," Bronder explained.
After 10 seasons coaching K-State Rowing, Sweeney is looking forward to see what this season brings. It's new to him, as it is to his team, and looking ahead with the training playing fields almost leveled, the possibilities seem almost endless now for the Wildcats.
From the new Basketball training facility to the West Stadium Center, student-athletes at K-State now have the opportunity to compete in a truly world-class student-athlete atmosphere, and Athletics Director John Currie didn't just stop there. Along with the Intercollegiate Rowing Center, K-State Tennis opened the Mike Goss Tennis Stadium this month.
With the facilities to get the job done, student-athletes on all platforms are now able to set their goals high and reach even higher levels during their collegiate careers.
"I think what John (Currie) has done is really made it a complete department," Sweeney said as he sat behind his desk in Ahearn surrounded by brown boxes about to be moved to his new office at the new rowing center.
"I think for the Olympic sports, it has given new life to all of them and there's more enthusiasm with (women's tennis head coach) Steve Bietau and myself. It's just given more life to what we're doing rather than being limited on how far we can go. Now it's opened up those doors."
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