Sept. 27, 2012
MANHATTAN, Kan. - K-State rowing opens its fall season this weekend at the OCU Head of the Oklahoma, and the Wildcats have a number of spots to fill in the Varsity boats. Action begins for the Wildcats on Saturday when K-Stat will send a total of 10 boats to the competition and look to start the season off strong.
After graduating five rowers plus the coxswain from last year's 1st Varsity 8 boat, Head Coach Patrick Sweeney and his staff know there is a challenge ahead of the Wildcats, but he believes this year's squad is ready to step up thanks to the experience gained last year by the younger rowers and the large recruiting classes the program has seen recently.
"This will be a big test for us. Basically, it's like having your entire starting lineup graduate and the next class is moving up into their spot," Sweeney said. "I like where we're at in terms of recruiting and who is moving up, and that's good because it means the program is continuing to grow. I'm quite excited to start off with a new class that's going to be around for a while."
The Wildcats signed 18 student-athletes to the recruiting class this spring and each year those new rowers are expected to learn an entirely new sport to them and make the adjustment to competing in an area other than basketball, volleyball or track and field.
Sweeney said he and his staff like to see the program continue to grow and believes K-State rowing is headed in the right direction.
"Each year our recruiting class has been greater and greater and now better athletes are being recruited so we have great depth in our program, which we haven't had," Sweeney said. "Years back if we had had nine to 10 of our top kids graduate, we would have been decimated. I feel very positive about where we're at in terms of growing the program, and that's the way it should be. Our program looks quite healthy. K-State rowing has definitely not plateaued. We are still on the growth side of things."
This weekend at the Head of the Oklahoma, it will be the first chance for some the new rowers to show home much they have learned and for the veterans to step up and earn a spot in one of the top boats.
The Wildcats will field two Varsity 8 boats and then use those rowers to field a total of four Varsity 4's to test a number of different lineups and see which athletes work best together. The Novice group will put out two 8's and two Novice 4's at the only regatta of the fall for the Wildcats this year.
While the goal is to always perform well and compete to win, Sweeney said he will be looking at the bigger picture in terms of results.
"Our position is not of interest to me this weekend. I'm interested to see where we are at this point of time," he said. "Have they retained what we've been working on in the water? Can they hold it technically together? It's not so much where we finish as it is more of how they execute."
And with so many spots in all the Varsity boats up for grabs, in addition to execution Sweeney wants to see his Wildcats grind it out on the water and see who wants it the most.
"I want to see who steps up. Which ones are making a difference in the boat, because you can see that when they go by," Sweeney said. "Which ones are becoming leaders in the boat? They're the ones who have figured it out and are the difference between being average and being pretty good."
The OCU Head of the Oklahoma is part of the Oklahoma Regatta Festival, a four-day celebration of rowing, kayaking and dragon boating on the Oklahoma River. More than 40 collegiate and club rowing teams are anticipated to compete. Some of the head races on Saturday will serve as qualifiers for the exciting OG&E NightSprints under the lights. K-State is not scheduled to participate in any races on Sunday's slate.
Results will be posted on the Oklahoma Regatta Festivals' facebook page as well as Twitter. Fans can follow the handle @OklaRegatta or the hashtag #HOTO for live results.
Parking is available in the Boathouse District at Regatta Park located at 725 S. Lincoln Blvd in Oklahoma City. It is approximately 1.5 miles south of the intersection of Lincoln and Reno. Fans attending are asked to be aware Lincoln Boulevard was formerly Byers Avenue and may not be updated in various online mapping services or GPS directions.