Wildcats Prep for Spring Season in OKC

MANHATTAN, Kan. - K-State Women's Rowing travels to Oklahoma City this Saturday, March 7, to square off against Oklahoma in preseason competition. Held on the Oklahoma River, the Wildcats and Sooners will partake in a team practice during the morning before squaring off in scrimmage races in the afternoon.

Head coach Patrick Sweeney said this weekend's meet-up between last year's first- (OU) and second-place (K-State) finishers in the Big 12 Championship provides a unique opportunity for the Wildcats to get ready for the their spring slate of competition.

"What we're going to do is more of a scrimmage," Sweeney said. "Saturday morning, we'll be doing shorter training pieces on the water at varying rates. It'll be more like a hard workout together. Then in the afternoon, we'll be racing in the traditional 2K format.

"This is a good opportunity to go down there with a good team and a good, working relationship between our staff and their coaching staff," Sweeney said. "We are looking upon this as a big plus for us to go and actually get a good, hard workout. We're getting together to help each other out as we get ready for the season."

The Wildcats are coming off their most successful season in program history, which saw them take program-best finishes at both Big 12s (second) and Conference USAs (third). Even with the departures of All-Big 12 seniors Allison Dorau and Lisa Angell, K-State returns considerable talent from its top two boats including All-Big 12 second teamers Madi Haney and Meggie Murray, as well as conference Newcomer of the Year, Noelle Dykmann.

"The team has probably worked harder this year than it ever has done before," Sweeney said. "The first reason for that is the [Intercollegiate Rowing Center] - it's the first time we've trained for a whole year in here. The second one is we haven't been on the water too often because of the weather. When you get on the water it's a different type of training. This training, right now, is grinding. Once you're in the boat, you're working on technique, making the boat flow - it becomes more technical when you get on the water.

"[In the IRC], it is just a physical grind. We've worked them harder physically than any other year and they're in pretty good physical shape because of it."

Sweeney added that this weekend's friendly competition with the Sooners, as well as K-State's annual Spring Camp in Tulsa leading up to its season-opener against the Golden Hurricane on March 21-22, will provide a healthy barometer on where the team stands in regards to both depth and talent.

"Whether we got the same depth [as last year] in the overall team remains to be seen," Sweeney said. "The top-end rowers we have, on both 8s, are both doing well and are in really good shape. Now if we can then translate that once we do get on the water - our big one is when we go to the Spring Camp - when we can get a lot of mileage in. That's going to be interesting for us on how we progress there."

Much of the program's rapid progress in the past year can be attributed to Wildcats' training center, which opened in the Fall of 2013. According to Sweeney, the IRC's benefits of getting to consistently train year-round have provided the rowers, especially the novice rowers, with an opportunity for continued and positive growth.

"[The IRC] changes the whole concept of the program really, and how we run it," Sweeney said. "We can keep track of the athletes and get consistent training to make sure they're accomplishing what needs to be accomplished. What I tell the athletes now is they don't have any excuses. They have this building to train in 24 hours-a-day - they got everything they need, as good as any training in the country.

"For the coaching staff, this means we can say this is what you need to do and you can do it here and they're responding to it. You can see the difference in how we compete, train on a day-to-day basis. You can see who is putting in the work to succeed."

One major change to the upcoming season will be the Conference USA and Big 12 merging into solely the Big 12 for conference competition. Sweeney said the conference shift will provide clearer goals for the team as a whole.

"[The switch] simplifies our focus in conference competition," Sweeney said. "Instead of competing in Big 12s then having to get up and compete at Conference USA two weeks later, we can really simplify the focus of the team on one conference championship at the end of the season."

Regardless of the changes in store for this season, Sweeney said the main goal for the team remains the same.

"All you can do is do what you're capable of doing," Sweeney said. "I can't stop the other schools from doing what they're doing. Until you compete, you can't place any expectations. What we do is everything we can to be in the best shape we can to win. So the expectation is for all the rowers to perform to their best. What we've set as a goal is every boat has to win a medal at Big 12s. If we do that, then we're in the hunt, in a good place. That's the goal."

After this weekend's scrimmage action and Spring Camp, competition for the Wildcats gets started off quick with the aforementioned season-opener at Tulsa on March 21-22 and the San Diego Crew Classic the following weekend. For more information on K-State's upcoming slate, visit www.k-statesports.com.