Sooners accomplish more than expected over last five years
GO AND DO
Participating in program’s first NCAA Championship
When: All Day Friday through Sunday
How Qualified: Won both Big 12 Championship and Conference USA Championship
It’s been a journey for the Oklahoma rowing team. Since its inaugural season five years ago, the team has made enormous strides, capping this year off with its first two conference titles and bid to the NCAA championship.
While Oklahoma is not the fastest team to have this kind of success, the rate at which it came is astonishing.
Five years ago, Oklahoma rowing was an unknown sport, but now Oklahoma is a force to be reckoned with, senior co-captain Nicole Furmanek said.
“It’s kind of mindboggling to think how we’ve done so much,” she said. “I don’t think we realize it. We always have our head down and are so focused on what’s next, and I think that once we finally step away from it and look back, we’re just going to be in awe of everything we’ve done.”
However, coach Leeanne Crain always expected success to come quickly at a school like Oklahoma.
“When I came to [OU], I knew the tradition of excellence here both academically and in the athletic realm,” said Crain, the program’s first coach. “So I knew we could build the program, we just needed to get the right staff in place and the right athletes.
“Knowing the athletes that are on this team, they set the bar really high for themselves, so that alone has been what set the determination of working toward this goal.”
The team’s base starts with its seniors, as it does with any team. Leadership comes from those with the most experience.
But when a program first starts out, there isn’t that senior leadership to rely on and the freshmen must learn to lead themselves.
“It’s kind of neat because you walk on as freshman and have to assume this role of a senior athlete,” Furmanek said. “You have to take on that leadership position from the get-go and not be afraid to set that foundation and raise the bar even higher. No one expects anything out of you, and you want to come in and prove everybody wrong.”
The team made it though its first season in 2008, and that experience proved to be invaluable as the seasons progressed. As more athletes came into the program, the original group’s leadership shone through.
Even more so, Crain attributes the team’s achievement to the amount of time spent together and the bonds the athletes have formed. Practicing every morning, taking the bus together to the Oklahoma City boathouse and seeing one another’s best and worst sides are what keeps this team close and successful, she said.
The Sooners will draw on that relationship as they go into the championship. Seeded No. 17, they are not expected to make a huge splash this year.
However, the team wants to turn a few heads. It hopes to beat a few teams nobody expects them to beat, co-captain senior Rebecca Staff said.
“I want us to do well, beat some teams we’re not supposed to beat,” she said. “The goal was really to get there, and now we’ve accomplished that goal. So now we’re just working hard to prove ourselves even more.”
Furmanek thinks the team is in the perfect spot to do well, she said. Oklahoma always has been an underdog in this sport, so the team plans to go into the postseason with a chip on its shoulder.
“We’ve never let any success go to our heads because we know we’re always kind of the underdog,” Furmanek said. “We have to keep working for the next thing; we can’t lose sight of the end goal."