Wildcats Row into Regional

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State rowing team is set for another weekend of exciting action on the water at the Aramark South/Central Regional Championship and Conference USA Championship. Preliminary heats are scheduled for Saturday on Melton Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn., with finals on Sunday. The regional and C-USA Championship will be held in conjunction at the regatta.

K-State coach Patrick Sweeney said this weekend will serve as a chance for his Wildcats to close the season on a positive note.

"I think it's been a frustrating season with the weather we've had, but this will be a chance for the continuation of the progress that has gone on all season long for us," Sweeney said. "I would like to see our girls finish with their best performances of the season and continue the progress they've made so they can continue to grow and see they can compete with some of the best crews in the country."

Sweeney said the South/Central Regional has grown so much in the last few years it has turned into more of a mini-national championship with teams from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, C-USA and SEC competing. Having so many boats competing can make for an exciting regatta, he said.

"Quite a few of the top crews will be there, and it will be good for the girls to race against them," Sweeney said. "Multi-lane racing is always fun. When you get that much depth, every race is a fun race and every race is a good race. I think they prefer it to the one-on-one racing because you're pitting yourself against all different levels."

K-State will race in four events overall at the regional, and C-USA will crown champions in Varsity 8, 2nd Varsity 8 and Varsity 4 races. C-USA announced in April that the Wildcats will be joining C-USA as an affiliate in rowing along with the three other Big 12 schools competing in rowing - Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Two schools from the Southeastern Conference - Alabama and Tennessee - will be joining C-USA as well to create a nine-team conference in rowing with Central Florida, SMU and Tulsa.

The 2011 C-USA Championship will be held among just the nine member institutions and beginning in 2013 winners will earn an automatic qualification to the NCAA Championship. K-State coach Patrick Sweeney said the merger of the Big 12 and SEC with C-USA will be good for all teams involved and help the sport of rowing.

"Going to a larger conference is going to make it a better experience and the girls will be able to focus on good racing rather than racing 25 different schools," Sweeney said. "Twenty-five is a huge number of competitors. The conference is going to be a good conference and allow them to focus and be very specific in their racing."

The quality of the teams that will be in C-USA with the merger will make the conference one of the top conferences in Sweeney's eyes as well. Tennessee is currently ranked No. 16 in the latest USRowing/CRCA Collegiate Rowing Poll. Alabama and Oklahoma are two teams Sweeney said are "up and coming" and Central Florida has seen time in the Top 20 poll as well.

A conference must have at least six members and hold at least two conference championships before the NCAA will consider its champion for automatic qualifying to the NCAA Championship. Rowing currently does not have automatic qualifying, and the NCAA will not institute automatic qualifying until at least 2013. Sweeney said he believes the quality of the depth of C-USA rowing should make it a competitor on the national scene and the C-USA champion could receive a bid even before the 2013 season.

"With the teams we've got in there, we've got teams that have been going to nationals, so I don't see them not looking at our conference as a conference that deserves a bid," Sweeney said.

- k-statesports.com -