With several athletes competing at the international level, the Oklahoma City University rowing and kayaking teams are confident for a good showing in the Head of the Oklahoma Regatta beginning Oct. 1.
The Stars rowers are looking to improve over an impressive regatta last year when they took first and second in the men’s collegiate single and second in the collegiate four sprint race.
One major advantage for this year’s team over a year ago is the use of the Devon Boathouse, Home of OCU Rowing and Canoe/Kayak. The facility boasts several amenities like a dynamic rowing tank, a hypoxic room for altitude training and an indoor propulsion tank to make it one of the most comprehensive and innovative facilities ever built specifically for the sports of rowing and canoe/kayak.
The OCU teams hope the new facility, along with their dedication to the sport through an intense training regiment, will translate into success on the water.
“There’s no better place to train for a regatta,” said coach Melanie Borger. “But it’s also important to remember that facilities don’t win races. Our rowers are working hard for victory. The Devon Boathouse looks great as it is, and it would look even better with some first-place medals in the trophy case.”
Rowing practice starts at 5:30 a.m. six days a week. The rowers lift weights two afternoons per week and train on rowing machines on the other afternoons. Their first official team practice came Monday of last week, the first day of school.
Leading the Stars this year are three rowers who competed internationally this year — Kathryn Schiro and Jane Imfeld, who represented the U.S. in the lightweight women's quad at the U23 World Championships in Amsterdam earlier this summer, and Edgars Boitmanis, who competed in the same world championships for his home country of Latvia.
Schiro, a junior from Huntsville, Ala., won the women’s single sculls event at the Dad Vail Collegiate Championship in May. She also upset senior U.S. national team members at the 2011 USRowing National Championships to capture a silver medal. Schiro is the defending champion in the Head of the Oklahoma’s women’s single 500 meter OGE NightSprint event.
Imfeld, a junior majoring in French, is from Switzerland via Grapevine, Texas. She recently earned her U.S. citizenship while working her way up into the international competition level. Most recently, Imfeld earned a bronze medal at USRowing Elite Nationals in the women’s lightweight double. She capped off her 2011 collegiate season with a third-place finish in the single at the Dad Vail Collegiate Championship.
Schiro and Imfeld were boatmates in a silver-medal win at the Head of the Hooch regatta before going to the U23 World Championships in July, where their lightweight women’s quad finished sixth in the grand final.
Boitmanis, a sophomore from Jurmala, Latvia, is currently competing in the 2011 FISA World Rowing Championships with hopes of qualifying his country for the 2012 Olympic Games in London and making the Latvian Olympic team. He returns to train with his collegiate team Sept. 7. In May, he won gold in the men’s single at the Dad Vail Collegiate Championships. He is the returning champion at the Head of the Oklahoma Regatta in the men’s double 500 meter OGE NightSprint event and the men’s collegiate single. He has several first-place finishes over the course of the last two seasons.
Coach Mike Knopp, who has been with OCU for 11 seasons, is anxious to see how his eight new recruits on the men’s team will do in this season-opening event. The season continues through May with regattas all over the country including the Head of the Charles in Boston and ending with the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia.
Borger, who has coached the rowing teams at OCU for four years, says there are major advantages to hosting the first regatta of the season.
“It’s great when the first national regatta of the season is at home. The rowers tend to put a little extra effort into their workouts when the home crowd is watching,” Borger said.
Canoe/Kayak Team Uses Regatta as Experience for National Qualifying
OCU still has the only varsity canoe/kayak program in the country, so competing at the Head of the Oklahoma Regatta has more to do with preparing for national team qualifying racing and spreading awareness about the sport than winning medals, coach Shaun Caven said, especially for his elite paddlers like Cedric Bond, Kaitlyn McElroy and Jen Burke.
Burke and McElroy made the A final in the 1,000 meter K2 event at the ICF World Canoe Sprint Championships in Hungary this summer, while Bond made the B final in the 500 meter K2 and semi final 200 meter K1 events at the competition.
The team is supported by some younger proven talent including Mia Overton and Katie Hill, who came to OCU in 2010 after competing in the Junior World Championships.
Along with improving their times, Coach Caven is hoping to grow interest in the sport.
“We lose a lot of good kids after high school because there isn’t enough incentive to keep kayaking,” he said. “With a scholarship, there’s no excuse not to perform.”
Caven expects the canoe/kayak aspect of the regatta to continue to grow. So far, individuals from New York, San Diego, Kansas and Texas have signed up to compete, and a club team from Minnesota plans to make the trip. Competitive events will include 200 and 4,000 meter kayak racing.
Oklahoma City University Rosters
Kyle Adair, Haddonfield, N.J.
Jackson Anderson, Mission Hills, Kan.
Riley Behms, Norman, Okla.
Edgars Boitmanis, Jurmala, Latvia
Conor Borak, Cape May, N.J.
Ryan Carroll, Broken Arrow, Okla.
Ryan Claussen, Manhattan, Kan.
Chase Cowart, Columbia, S.C.
Jacob Fox, Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
Stephen George, Indianapolis
Hadzo Habibovic, Chicago
Patrick Hylton, Norman, Okla.
Jake Lamb, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Sam Lee, Oklahoma City
Matthew Maddamma, Carnegie, Pa.
Matt Mahon, Chesterfield, Mo.
Blake Marley, Norman, Okla.
Drew McNichols, Fall Creek, Ore.
Mike Pitts, Oak Park, Ill.
Clay Puckett, Edmond, Okla.
Jeremy Seale, Edmond, Okla.
Brock Turner, Tulsa, Okla.
James VonPeters, Chattanooga, Tenn.
John Willems, Dallas
Rikki George, Seattle
Christina Hansen, Oklahoma City
Jane Imfeld, Grapevine, Texas
Emma Mansfield, Seattle
Lizzi Mathews, Wichita, Kan.
Kathryn Schiro, Huntsville, Ala.
Shantal Wagner, Oklahoma City
Kayla Yraceburu, Cascade, Wash.
Cedric Bond, Tacoma, Wash.
Jen Burke, San Diego, Calif.
Katie Hill, Gig Harbor, Wash.
Jared McArthur, Winder, Ga.
Kaitlyn McElroy, Bethel, Maine
Mia Overton, Seattle
Will Roszel, Georgia
Austin Schwinn, Goshen, Ind.