Rowing Continues to Improve in 2015

Racking up first-place finishes with its top three boats last weekend at the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association (SIRA) Championship Regatta in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, K-State head coach Pat Sweeney said he is pleased with the solid performance of his team.
"The thing I liked about the weekend was how well that they performed from the technical side of it," explained Sweeney yesterday afternoon, back at work only hours after returning from Tennessee. "It was great that they won, but how they rowed, the technical side of how they did everything, it was technically a very nice performance across the board. From a coach's point of view, watching how you technically do things, that was so much fun."
The Wildcats' 1st Varsity 8, 2nd Varsity 8 and 1st Varsity 4 boats all took home gold medals in their races, while the Wildcats' 3rd Varsity 8 and 1st Novice 8 boats also showed well by placing fourth and second in their races, respectively. 
"SIRAs was fun because we went into this weekend confident that we could win," explained senior Meggie Murray, who competed with the 1V8. "I don't think we've ever had that mindset before. It was really cool to have that expectation to win as opposed to just the possibility of winning."
For the 1V8, Murray and her teammates, coxswain Kara Omo and rowers Noelle Dykmann, Kayla Brock, Ashley Houser, Erin Roeser, Brittany Long, Mary Rose Eakes and Madi Haney, bested both Purdue and Jacksonville in the championship race on Sunday morning. With a finish of 6:31.544 - nearly five seconds better than second-place Purdue - they earned gold for a second-consecutive year at SIRAs.
"It was so rewarding," said Murray about the first-place finish. "In rowing, you're watching yourself beat your opponent, and every stroke we take, we watch ourselves get more distance between us. That is an exciting feeling."
Along with the 1V8, the Wildcats' 2V8 also continued success at SIRAs as it cruised to its fourth-consecutive gold medal finish at the regatta. Made up of coxswain Meaghan Kuzmich and rowers Chelsea Goble, Lacey Reifschneider, Courtney Cooke, Beth DeMars, Samantha Bendrick, Ariana Thompson, Ally Franken and Kelsey Schultz, the 2V8 defeated Jacksonville by a whopping 15 seconds in the Grand Final on Sunday morning. 
"It went really well," said Franken. "Everybody performed really well, and it was great to have everybody place because everyone's spirits were so high afterwards. Everybody was in a good mood."
Taking a big step forward at the SIRAs was the Wildcats' 1V4 crew, who also returned to Manhattan with a gold medal after finishing with a time of 7:20.283. In its best performance of the season, coxswain Hannah Gwartney and rowers Natasha VanGundy, Jessica Kuhlman, Hannah Frith and Hunter Anne Postier downed William & Mary (7:28.109) for the victory.
Kansas State's impressive performance at SIRAs only boosted their already-growing confidence as it heads into the remainder of the 2015 season. Along with SIRAs, the Wildcats scrimmaged against Oklahoma, beat up on Tulsa and stayed strong at the San Diego Crew Classic. 
"We were competitive with Oklahoma in the beginning of the season with zero water time, then we did well against Tulsa after spring break, and that was nice because they had been on the water for quite some time," explained Sweeney when asked if he is happy with where his team is at in this point of the season. "I'm never happy. I always want them to go faster, but I am happy with this team because they're a good bunch of kids. They're really working at it and it's shown."
Sweeney explained that this year's K-State roster is the deepest one he has ever coached in his 12 years with the Wildcats. With the opening of the new, state-of-the-art Intercollegiate Rowing Center in 2013, the team has become more competitive, and with that added competitiveness, it has been working harder than ever before. 
According to the team, that hard work is paying off. 
"It's crazy because in my first racing season at K-State, we didn't even dream of getting first place," explained Murray, now a senior, with a smile on her face. "So now, it's just crazy to see what a long way we've come in this short amount of time."
Though K-State rowing has made tremendous strides over the course of the last two years, the Wildcats know there is still work to be done. So this weekend, while the team won't be on the road competing, it won't be slowing down in its practices either. 
"At this point in time we're still not where we want to be at with getting the speed we know we can out of all of our boats," said Murray when asked what the team's focus is heading into the remainder of the season. "We've set a solid foundation, and I think the next couple weeks are going to be about getting as much speed out of ourselves as we can. At this point in the season, we're not getting fitter or stronger - we have the base of what we're working with - so now we're just finding ways to get every bit out of us that we can."
K-State will hit the water again on May 2, as it travels to Kansas City to take on Kansas in the Sunflower Showdown. K-State will enter next weekend's competition with four-consecutive Sunflower Showdown wins. Never losing to Kansas, this year's Wildcat seniors hope to finish out their careers with a perfect slate over the Jayhawks and make it five-in-a-row for the Cats. 
"There are a lot of Kansas kids on both sides at this race, so having the race in Kansas City is fun because you have a lot of support there," concluded Murray. "It's always lot of fun. It's always our expectation to beat them, so that's what we're going to try to do again this year."
 

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