Patrick Sweeney & KSU Women's Rowing

By Helen Tompkins | August 7, 2014

Last season Kansas State was about a boat length away from their first NCAA berth, finishing 3 seconds behind Oklahoma at the Conference USA Championships in the V8+. Their 3th place showing left them just shy of qualifying. The Wildcats also took gold in the V4+ and 3rd in the 2V8+.

The varsity team boated seven freshmen, of which only one had touched an oar before college. The Varsity 4 sat three freshman rowers and a freshman coxswain. Coach Patrick Sweeney explained the unusual number of frosh rowers in varsity boats was because all seats were open to all classes and they had graduated a number of women the year before.

The entire team is primarily ex-volleyball and basketball players and 85% are from the state of Kansas. Coach Sweeney actively recruits in-state and looks for tall, athletic women. When many top rowers go to the Ivy Leagues, he instead focuses on recruiting good athletes who can become boat movers.

Last year the new K-State athletic director approved a new rowing training facility adjacent to the football stadium. The on-campus facility is 9,000 square-feet and includes two state-of-the-art rowing tanks, 50 ergs, 6 stationary bikes, a locker-room, and coaching staff offices. The boathouse is a separate facility only 10 minutes from campus on Turtle Creek Lake.

“The investment in the new training facility really got the rowers excited,” stated Sweeney. The on-campus rowing tanks allow the team to work on technique throughout the winter. With the tanks, Sweeney found he did not have to re-teach the athletes in the spring because they held onto boat moving skills.

"It usually takes three or four weeks to get out of erg pounding mode,” says Sweeney. The Wildcats were able to build on technique rather than starting from scratch. While programs across the country suffered technically from less time on the water, the Wildcats rowed their best ever.

Sweeney said, “Each boat will aim to medal at the Big 12 Championships.” That result will be the qualifier for NCAA's this year. “We need to keep building, as the team becomes more experienced we should become more competitive.”