January 26, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
While Pat Sweeney has seen his share of changes in his now 10 years as the head coach of K-State women's rowing, this season he has been happily celebrating the program's biggest change of all.
With the opening of the brand new, state-of-the-art intercollegiate rowing center located just east of Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the rowing program now has a place to call home.
"It's just regenerating," Sweeney said with a smile as he sat in his new office. "It's like starting anew in a way. We needed to change. It's been a regeneration of this whole program and it's been very fun. It's like starting a new job in some ways."
The team moved into the new facility this past November and has since had the opportunity to really take advantage of all it has to offer.
"It's awesome because when I was like a sophomore they'd talk about it, but I didn't think it would happen this soon," senior rower Allison Dorau said. "I'm lucky I get a semester using it and I'm really excited to see how it will change our program."
Among the upgrades, the most exciting and useful part of the facility are the two 2,800-gallon indoor rowing takes which allow up to 16 rowers to practice at one time.
The indoor tanks simulate what it's like rowing on the water, and by training on them while Tuttle Creek Lake is frozen over, the team has been able to stay consistent in practicing technique.
Each rower spends either an hour or, depending on whether or not they had weight training beforehand, 30 minutes training on the indoor rowing tanks every day.
Like they do every year, the rowing team spent two weeks over Christmas break in Austin, Texas, where the weather is warmer and the winter waters are smoother to row on.
Sweeney said it was a pleasant surprise when he got his team on the water and its technique in the boats was not rusty.
"At the end of the camp I would say that the crews looked better than they had ever before in the years we have done this," Sweeney said. "They technically looked better than anything that we've ever finished up with before. So now, hopefully when we get back on the water again this season, the same should be true."
Because of the indoor tank, over the winter the team won't lose the muscle memory it takes to perfect the technique of rowing. While Sweeney said nothing quite beats being on the water, the tank is the next best thing.
"It has really helped because the ergs are a straight up and down (motion), and in the boat you kind of do a reach over motion," explained redshirt sophomore Ashley Houser. "So it helps you when you jump back into the boat after winter, you still have that memory like rowing in the water."
The rowing tanks are in a room of their own complete with mirrors on each wall so, while training, the rowers can correct any mistake in their form that they might make.
"You can really see your technique and what you need to work on while you're in the tank," senior Lindsay Smith said. "All the little things (Sweeney) points out to you, you have all those mirrors to use to your advantage."
Now back in Manhattan after its successful two weeks of training in Austin, the team is prepared to take on the upcoming rowing season.
The Intercollegiate Rowing Center has brought a whole new persona to the K-State rowing program, and the team is now more serious than ever and ready to compete.
"With this new building, practice has been a lot more intense," Smith said. "Everything has just felt a lot more serious. I think we're definitely improving as a team."
Along with the rowing tanks, the facility has a room especially for the team's ergs and rowing performance machines. With more than 15 new erg machines, the team now can spend more time training together in a more spacious area.
The facility has brand new locker rooms for the team, offices for the coaches and room for the team to spend time together in a place it loves and now calls home.
"I think that it does make practices more serious, more intense," Sweeny said. "It's pushed the intensity up and makes everybody just a little bit more serious about what they're doing. It means I can turn the crank up on practices and they're working a little harder than they were before."