Wildcats Compete in San Diego at Crew Classic

MANHATTAN, Kan. - K-State Women's Rowing heads west this weekend to compete in the 42nd annual San Diego Crew Classic on Mission Bay from March 28-29. Sending their top three boats, the Wildcats' 1st Varsity 8, 2nd Varsity 8 and 1st Varsity 4 get their first taste of championship-style racing with heats taking place on Saturday morning and race finals following on Sunday, March 29.

Head coach Patrick Sweeney said this weekend's regatta, with its deep pool of talented programs, always provides a solid slate of competition for the women's rowers.

"It's a good regatta. The first multi-lane, championship-style racing of the season which is always good," Sweeney said. "Not only is it good experience for the younger rowers, but it's great preparation leading up to Big 12s."

Last season, K-State saw all three of its boats excel on the water with the 1V8, most notably, notching a spot in the Cal Cup Grand Final - they would go onto finish sixth. The 1V8 will kick off action for the Wildcats on Saturday, racing in "Heat B" set to run at 9:52 a.m. CT. The 1V4 and 2V8 will follow soon after with scheduled heat start times of 11:04 a.m. and 11:44 a.m. CT, respectively.

Sweeney said with the head-to-head action against Tulsa barely a week past them, the boatings for all three crews will remain the same.

"We're going to keep the boatings the same as we raced at Tulsa," Sweeney said. "They raced well and we just thought we'd take it through since we've only had a week. Once we finish in San Diego, we'll have three weeks before SIRAs and then we can take another look at the boatings in that period. We can work them again for a couple weeks and see if we can get a little more speed in different areas. But we're comfortable with where they're at currently."

He added expectations for the three crews this weekend will vary especially with both the 2V8 and 1V4 having new combinations from last year. The former has several newcomers in coxswain Meaghan Kuzmich and rowers Beth DeMars, Courtney Cooke, Ashley Houser, Samantha Bendrick, Kelsey Schultz and Ally Franken, while the 1V4 consisting of coxswain Hannah Gwartney and rowers Natasha VanGundy, Jessica Kuhlman, Hannah Frith and Hunter Anne Postier had never rowed together until this season.

"The boats did well and in that short amount of time, you don't want to change anything drastic," Sweeney said. "And the other one is just making big changes in the training, which can be difficult in this short space of time. So really it's on the athletes. It's `Ok, we saw what we didn't do right at Tulsa' - they know they got their individual technical aspects to work on. I really thought they were good in the way they raced against Tulsa, but we still lacked a little bit of rhythm at a higher pace. And it's their first race so you expect them to be a little bit rushed, so what they got to do is learn how to hold that higher pace as the season progresses."

The 1V8, meanwhile, Sweeney expects to compete once again in the Grand Cup Final on Sunday. Adding only two new rowers in Kayla Brock and Ariana Thompson, as well as coxswain Kara Omo, the top boat for the Wildcats has plenty of potential to excel this season.

"The thing with the 1V is it is basically the same boat. I would hope that they would be really pushing to be right at the front of the pack at this regatta," Sweeney said. "One would hope they would be sort of right up there with the experience they got. I'm expecting them to compete for a high spot in the final, that's what they have to be going for. And if they get a great run on the day, maybe they could top it - you never know. Their goal is to be one of the top crews there."

Fans can follow the action with live results by visiting the regatta's homepage at crewclassic.org and also by following @crewclassic on Twitter. Lastly, a live stream can be purchased on the Crew Classic's website for a fee of $15.