March 28, 2014MANHATTAN, Kan. – K-State Women’s Rowing is set to battle in-state rival Kansas this Saturday in the Sunflower Showdown on Wyandotte County Lake. The Wildcats enter this weekend’s dual unbeaten in the past three meetings between the two schools and will look to make it four-straight in the 17th edition of the Showdown.
The dual between K-State and KU will start at 11 a.m., with the 4th Varsity 8 and conclude with 1st Varsity 8s facing off at 12:15 p.m. Action will continue for all schools into the afternoon with SMU and Drake joining in several exhibition races.
Coming off a strong showing at the Longhorn Invitational, which included three wins over the No. 19-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, head coach Patrick Sweeney said he expects formidable competition from the Jayhawks.
“I never like predicting races because anything can happen, but I felt like the past two years their team has been getting stronger,” said Sweeney, crediting Kansas’ recruiting efforts to add athletes outside of the state with rowing experience as a main reason for its improvement.
In regards to K-State’s recent success against the Jayhawks though, Sweeney said the Wildcats’ bevy of homegrown talent -- a total of 41 rowers hail from the Sunflower State -- plays a major factor.
“I think with our kids, we get these Kansas kids and it means more to them,” Sweeney said. “It’s Kansas State against Kansas, if you’re from New Jersey or Washington to them it’s just another race, but to our kids it means something. Their parents went to K-State, they got friends at KU and they want to beat them.
“On the fan side, last year, the past few years, you see a lot of purple,” Sweeney said. “It’s like a home event. [KU] has a lot of people there, but we’re not outnumbered there, we normally get big support there and the team feeds off that.”
In regards to what Sweeney and his staff will be looking for in the team’s performance, the major focus on the basics remains the same. With the athletes yet to get any substantial time on the water, aside from the spring break week’s training stint in Austin, Texas, Sweeney said he is keeping expectations realistic.
“Until we get a clear run on the water, we can’t refine some of the things we want to,” Sweeney said. “We don’t have a sprint at the finish we need to get. That will come, but you need to practice it and we haven’t been able to.”
Sweeney explained that the 2,000 meter races are normally broken into a time of seven minutes with the initial minute being referred to as the start, the middle five minutes is the bulk, or pace, and the final minute being the sprint. For the Wildcats, the bulk portion of the race has been a strength.
“We’ve really had a good base pace in the middle of the race,” Sweeney said. “If you don’t have that, you’re not going to win too many races. We got that pace really good at the moment and that’s something we can build off of. The start is not bad and it’s something we can work on.”
With K-State’s conditioning at an impressive level to date, according to Sweeney, the team will only continue to get faster as the season progresses.
“I’m really pleased with the kids, they’ve done a really good job of building a solid part of the program,” Sweeney said. “Hopefully, if all goes well, once we get on the water, we’ll be able to step up the speed a little.”
After this weekend’s event, the Wildcats make a West Coast trip to San Diego, Calif., for the always competitive San Diego Crew Classic. Scheduled to run from April 5-6, the annual regatta draws crews from the college, juniors and masters ranks. For more information on this week’s action, as well as upcoming competition for the Wildcats, visit www.k-statesports.com.