K-State Rowing's 1st Varsity 8 compete in the Sunflower Showdown on March 29, 2014 (Photo by: Scott Weaver/K-State Athletics)
April 30, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Rower Noelle Dykmann didn't quite know what she was getting herself into.
Two years ago the 5-foot-11 redshirt freshman was a senior at St. James Academy High School in Lenexa, Kan., excelling in both basketball and volleyball. Tall and muscular, she was a natural athlete, and from a young age, always loved being on a team.
She loved being a part of a group working and fighting for a common goal, and she loved having a group of girls she could call her closest friends.
Though she had never rowed before, her athleticism was enough to earn her a nod from the K-State rowing program, and when she arrived in Manhattan and stepped foot into a boat with her new teammates for the first time, her 'team' mentality grew to an entirely new level.
"I really wanted to be a part of a team, I had never gone through a time in my life when I wasn't a part of a team," she explained as she sat in the Intercollegiate Rowing Center's main lobby. "It's different than any other friendship. Being a teammate, you go through a lot together."
Now a member of the K-State rowing squad, Dykmann explained that never before has she competed in a sport where teammates need to have such close chemistry. Never before had she trained like she does every day with her fellow Wildcat rowers.
"We travel together on the bus, we die together out there on the ergs and we're all pushing for each other," She said, her blue eyes grew wide. "Rowing, specifically, we're all in the boat together. We're all pushing for each other. So sometimes I'm killing myself and I want to stop, but I know the people in front of me and behind me are killing themselves too, and that's really cool."
When she entered the world of rowing, everything was new for Dykmann.
"I had no clue of anything!" she laughed. "Oh my gosh, I didn't even know if there were shoes in the boat - and there are, in case you're wondering."
But you'd never guess that watching her race today.
Today, Dykmann has played a crucial role in the success of K-State's 1st Varsity 8. The solo freshman competing with the varsity squad, Dykmann has helped her boat see numerous wins this season, as well as earn Big 12 Boat of the Week honors three times and once more from Conference USA.
"It's been very cool within the past three or four months to see her improve so quickly and so vastly and to see her take the next step racing with varsity boats," explained 1V8 teammate Meggie Murray. "It's inspiring to see how hard she works and how much she gives to everyone in the boat; it keeps everyone else improving."
Reflecting back on her first race with the team - a win over the No. 19 Oklahoma on March 23 in the Longhorn Invitational - Dykmann said, "I was a little scared at first; I was really, really nervous, but the people in my boat are great they really welcomed me and made me feel like I belonged. We have really great boat chemistry and I think that really helped a lot."
Good boat chemistry will be important as Dykmann and the Wildcats travel to the Chesapeake Boathouse in Oklahoma City, Okla., to compete in the Big 12 Rowing Championship on May 3.
"We must be one of the ones going for it," said K-State head coach Pat Sweeney, who is confident in this year's team. "I think it's between Oklahoma and ourselves. I mean, Texas can always be a spoiler but I think really, Oklahoma and ourselves are probably the one and two."
So far this season, K-State has seen wins over both Oklahoma and Kansas, and now looks to continue its success against Texas and West Virginia this weekend.
"I think there will be a lot of really close races," said Dykmann, excited to compete in her first Big 12 Championship race. "It'll be really intense but I'm excited for it. I think we should do well."
After this weekend's Big 12 Championship races, the K-State rowing team will compete in the Conference USA Championship in Oak Ridge, Tenn., on May 17.
This year, Dykmann looks forward to the Big 12 Championship through the eyes of an experienced rower - the path getting here may not have been easy, but it's been worth it, she said.
And the one thing she wants the world to know about rowing?
"Rowing doesn't look that hard, but let me tell you, it is the hardest thing I've ever done. Hands down," she said. "Every single girl that's out here sticking with it, I have so much respect for everyone because it is so hard. To get up every morning and go to practice, then weights later on and come to practice again later on - I just have a lot of respect for my fellow rowers."
To check out more about the K-State rowing team, click here.