K-State Faces KU in 18th Annual Sunflower Showdown

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- K-State Women's Rowing faces off against in-state rival Kansas this Saturday, May 2, in the 18th annual edition of the Sunflower Showdown on Wyandotte County Lake in Kansas City, Kansas. Winning the past four meetings and nine of the last 10 overall, the Wildcats will compete against the Jayhawks in six dual races -- 1st Varsity 8, 2nd Varsity 8, 3rd Varsity 8, 1st Varsity 4, 2nd Varsity 4, and 3rd Varsity 4 -- beginning at 11 a.m.  

Head coach Patrick Sweeney said even with the Wildcats having been on the winning end the past couple years, he expects Saturday's match-up to be tightly-contested.  

"This year is going to be an interesting matchup," Sweeney said. "I don't like to make predictions, but they've shown in their results this year that they can compete. Their first 8 has shown to have some speed -- we've seen that in their races. [So we know it] should be close, and [in their other events], just looking at their results, it's unpredictable.

"I have solid confidence in where our boats are going and we're continuing to gain speed. [We] keep getting better. It's not like we have leveled out, we're getting faster. I like where we are at and if we hit it right Saturday, hopefully we can get some big results our way.

Sweeney added with this weekend's action being head-to-head rather than traditional six-lane racing, the team will need to focus on starting well and maintaining a strong pace throughout the 2,000-meter sprint.

"The thing about six-lane, championship-style, racing is you tend to be able to focus more on what your boat is doing because, naturally, there is so much going on regardless," Sweeney said. "When it's one-on-one, it's like a fight. That other boat is right there. And you can sometimes lose the focus on what you should be doing, which is easier to hone in on sometimes with six-lane racing. So it tends to be harder to focus in duals because it all comes down to you and the other boat. It's a little bit more of a challenge and they'll have to be mentally prepared for that."

With Big 12s looming following the Showdown, the team has been settling on boatings for a 3V8 and 2V4 since the conference championship will feature five races in total -- 1V8, 2V8, 3V8, 1V4 and 2V4.

"Getting ready for Big 12s, we've had to look at what we're doing in regards to going to another 4 [2V4] and a third 8," Sweeney said. "At SIRAs, we had a 3V8 and 4V8 and we've now gone through some processing and testing to come up with that 4 and 8."

Sweeney said the new boating for the 3V8 will be made entirely of novice rowers from the previous 4V8 save for one seat, while the 2V4 has taken the stern portion of the previous 3V8 to create their boating. In regards to the top-three boats, 1V8, 2V8 and 1V4, the combinations from SIRAs remain the same for this weekend.

"I think from SIRAs, we've seen those three boats are all working really well," Sweeney said. "The training that we've done, they are still progressing. I still feel the team as a whole is moving forward, we haven't stagnated. They've been working hard."

Overall, technical aspects, boatings and the conference championship aside, Sweeney attributes much of the team's success in the Showdown to the team's bevy of homegrown talent - 38 of the 42 athletes on the Wildcat roster hail from either Kansas or Missouri compared to 25 of 47 rowers on the Jayhawk roster.

"Do they get up for this race? Yes. The athletes always tend to get up for the K-State-KU rivalry because a majority of this team is from Kansas," Sweeney said. "They know the rivalry between the two schools. Their parents, family, you see the `House Divided' signs and all that, so I think it means something to them. It's not just another race. They really do want to perform well, want to prove something.

"There's pride in what they're doing. They're confident and know what they're capable of and want to show it. We normally get a nice turnout for this event -- family, friends -- and it means something. This weekend gives a chance for the athletes to actually show off in front of their families -- `this is what we're doing, this is how we do it.'"

Following Saturday's competition, K-State will next compete at Big 12s on May 16-17 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Be sure to follow @kstate_gameday on Twitter under #KStateROW for race day updates on all competition this season.