May 8, 2012
This feature appeared in Tuesday's edition of the K-State Sports Extra.
By Mark Janssen
Nicole Burdiek was into volleyball, basketball, plus a little track as a standout at Emporia High School.
“I knew nothing about it. My first thought when I got a newsletter in the mail was a little canoe boat,” said Burdiek, now a senior on the Wildcat rowing team that competes on Saturday and Sunday at the Conference USA Championships. “When I got here I just decided to check it out, and here I am four years later. So many of us came in at the same time knowing nothing about rowing, so we were all learning together and we developed wonderful friendships.”
Burdiek’s path to a seat in K-State’s No. 1 Varsity 8 boat this year has hit a wave, or two, for sure.
It was in her sophomore year that Burdiek learned that she was expecting a child with a hefty Logan James Sparks being born on July 29, 2009.
“I really didn’t think I was going to have the option to continue rowing. The coaches said they would hold a position for me, but would make no special considerations,” said Burdiek.
Burdiek didn’t need any special treatment as Logan created a needed calming to her lifestyle.
“My grades as a freshman weren’t as expected, but since he was born it’s been pretty much straight A’s,” said Burdiek, who has been on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll each semester since becoming a single-parent mommy. “Before Logan, I lived more in the moment. I would go out, do what I wanted… party. I didn’t care as much about the future. After he was born it seemed like an instinct to be more mature. I became more responsible, cared more about the future and finding a job to financially support him.”
Now almost 3, Logan hasn’t made it into a boat, himself, but he does know what his mother is doing as a student-athlete at K-State.
Last month in San Diego, Logan stayed with his grandparents in Emporia and watched the event over the internet.
“He watched and shouted, ‘Go mommy go!’,” laughed Burdiek, who was K-State’s Most Inspirational Athlete for the 2010-11 academic year.
“She’s been an inspiration for a lot of girls who came in about the same time,” said K-State head coach Patrick Sweeney. “Others can’t have too many excuses when they see everything she’s accomplishing to stay on the team. I wasn’t sure if she would be able to handle it, but she’s done great.”
Burdiek’s day starts before six in the morning to have Logan to his daycare by 6:30 a.m., so she can get to practice that starts at 7 a.m. Workouts run until 8:45 a.m., which is followed by a full day of classes as she completes her major in family studies and psychology.
Oh, and on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons she also has weight conditioning, and then picking up Logan, providing dinner and doing homework.
Laughing, Burdiek, who will attend Washburn next year to work on a Master’s in social work, said, “Honestly, it’s not that bad. It’s just a routine you get into. I’ve had a great support system and finding a babysitter is never a problem when I have so many teammates.”
While a degree of a free spirit, Burdiek now points to Logan, and before that, rowing as improving her lifestyle.
Of rowing, Burdiek said, “It’s taught me discipline and what it means to work for something. It’s very rewarding to have grown within the program with a bunch of girls giving it everything they had, and learning how to be with a group where you have to rely on each other.”