Kansas State Women's Rowing History

The History of Kansas State Women's Rowing

Rowing began in Kansas in 1963 when coach Don Rose founded the Kansas State Crew. A rich tradition quickly grew, and K-State was soon competing at prestigious regattas and defeating traditional powerhouses such as Wisconsin, Purdue, Syracuse and Washington. At that time, the only rowing competition that involved women was competing for the title of Regatta Queen. It was not until the summer of 1974 that K-State women competed as rowers. The first women’s boat, a coxed four, included B.J. McCrae (co-captain), Jane Whitnee (co-captain), Masha Almond, Joann Davis and Pam Orloff.  This team of five soon grew in numbers as rowing became more popular.

During the 1980s, women’s teams steadily fielded boats but still existed in the shadows of the men’s squad. This changed in 1989 when Amanda Robinson became the first women’s coach at K-State. Robinson, who previously rowed for Boston University, revitalized the women’s rowing club at K-State. The Wildcats began to place boats in the top five in most races. K-State alumnus Mike Lockas took a novice women’s 8+ to the Women’s National Championship in 1989 as well, where the boat was competitive.      

A few years later, K-State alumnus Cliff Elliot took over both the men’s and women’s rowing clubs. Elliot continued the trend of strong finishes, including a bronze-medal performance by the Women’s Varsity Lightweight 4+ at the 1991 Midwest Championships. After Elliot left in 1992, the team was under the direction of an assortment of coaches, usually students themselves or alumni of the program.      

In January of 1995, student-athletes, alumni, parents and friends of the K-State Rowing Club presented a proposal to the athletics department to accept women’s rowing as an NCAA Division I sport in compliance with Title IX. The Athletic Department accepted and rowing became a varsity sport in the 1996-97 academic school year under head coach Jenny Hale. A former Olympic coach for England and Belgium, Patrick Sweeney became the program’s second coach in 2003. Entering his seventh year at the helm of the program, Sweeney has guided the Wildcats to unprecedented heights in his tenure.     

Kansas State became the second Big 12 Conference school to add women’s rowing as a varsity sport.  Kansas was the first in 1995 and Texas added rowing to its varsity sport list in 1998. Oklahoma became the fourth league school to add the sport when the Sooners began competition in 2008-09.