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Rowing Concludes Program-Best Season
June 4, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
As he looks back at the 2014 season, K-State rowing head coach Pat Sweeney can't help but get excited for the future of his team.
A year filled with firsts, the Wildcat rowing squad finished the best season in its 40-year history with program-best finishes at both the Big 12 and Conference USA championships where the team earned silver and bronze, respectively.
"It was fun," Sweeney said about the season. "It's always nice to be going faster, and I was really pleased for the women; they really started feeling it. You could see that they were getting stronger and better as the year went a long."
From opening the year with six first-place finishes at the Longhorn Invitational to the team's fourth consecutive Sunflower Showdown victory to a stellar performance at the SIRA Championship, 2014 just continued to get better and better for K-State rowing.
"If you are methodical on how you approach training and how you prepare, you aren't too surprised," explained Sweeney on the outcome of this season. "You see what works, and what it shows is that how we've prepared from the start, it's working. It's really nice to see that. There were no real surprises, but it was gratifying to see the things we were working towards actually working."
As a team, the Wildcats racked up numerous victories and conference honors in 2014 starting with K-State's 1st Varsity 8, which saw its fair share of success as it earned two Big 12 Boat of the Week honors along with Conference USA Boat of the Week accolades on April 2. Also nabbing Boat of the Week honors was K-State's 2nd Varsity 8, which earned Big 12 Boat of the Week on March 26 for its solid finish at the Longhorn Invitational.
As for individual accolades, redshirt freshman Noelle Dykmann - the lone freshman in the 1V8 boat - earned 2014 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. The Lenexa, Kansas, native is the first Wildcat ever to receive the honor and competed in every race with the 1V8 this year.
Also receiving individual recognition was senior Allison Dorau, who was named to the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association South All-Region First Team after spending her final year competing with the Wildcats' 1V8.
"It's such a team event. You can't do it with just one person, but one person can really be significant within the team because they can help lead by their example, and that's what she did," Sweeney mentioned about Dorau. "This was her fifth year with us and she really got better every year. She really was a solid competitor, and that's what we were looking for. She comes from Kansas, had never rowed before, worked her butt off and got high erg and test scores. She's been a good leader by example and that's the type of kid we want."
It was also the first year the team trained in its brand-new, state-of-the-art Intercollegiate Rowing Center. From the rower's ability to perfect their technique in the facility's two indoor tanks to simply boosting the morale of the program, the Intercollegiate Rowing Center provided K-State rowing with an extra boost in 2014.
"It's made a huge difference," began Sweeney. "They can actually do the technique that they do in the boat. You can't beat being in a boat, that's the No. 1 thing, but the difference now is that we could keep working on the little technique parts. We got compliments throughout the season how good our technique looked. The boats were, I think, technically the best we've ever had across the board and that's because of this place."
Sweeney explained that because of this year's long, cold Kansas winter, his team was only able to practice on the water at Tuttle Creek Lake nine times this season and having the indoor facility really paid off - especially as the team prepared for the Conference USA Championships.
At K-State's final regatta of 2014, the 1st Varsity 4, despite its youth, earned K-State rowing's first gold medal finish. The team, made up of freshman coxswain Hannah Gwartney and rowers in sophomore Jessica Kuhlman and freshmen Courtney Cook, Mary Rose Eakes and Kelsey Schulz, finished with a time of 7:27.70 and finished ahead of Tulsa and Oklahoma.
Both notching third-place finishes, K-State's 1V8 and 2V8 both helped the Wildcats in securing a third place overall finish with a total of 56 points - behind just gold-winning Oklahoma with 62 and silver-winning Tennessee with 58.
"The Varsity Four, it was a young four that we put together, and they won," began Sweeney, "and then the 2V had a good race and the 1V had a good race and they both came in third. You could say if either of those boats finished one place higher we could have been going to Nationals. I'm not saying that we should have gone, but they're definitely in shooting distance, and it's always fun to be in shooting distance."
Each year, the winner of the Conference USA Championship earns a berth in the 20-team NCAA Championship - a feat K-State, which finished with a time of 6.39.75 in the 1V8 Grand Final, was only three seconds away from as Oklahoma clocked a time of 6:36.10.
The Wildcats have never made it to the NCAA Championship; however, with another solid summer and fall of training, anything could happen in 2015.
"That's the fun of it!" exclaimed Sweeney when asked about finishing just three-seconds away from making K-State history. "You could say we were two or three seconds away, that they could have been out and we would have been in, but when it's that close, the team now realizes it's not beyond their capabilities. They'll have to step up next year, but that's what makes it fun. It can be done and we can get faster, but they can't forget what got them there. They're going to get reminded of that; we've got to make sure they realize that now they have to work even harder than before."
K-State rowing celebrates after a successful finish at the Conference USA Championship in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on May 17, 2014