Kansas wins third-straight Sunflower Showdown regatta in thrilling fashion

Video Highlights
Photos Photo Gallery

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Senior Day proved to be a happy ending for Kansas rowing on Friday evening as an incredible final push from the First Varsity Eight fueled the Jayhawks to a comeback victory over Kansas State in the Dillons Sunflower Showdown, 12-10.

Fans of both in-state rival schools packed the banks of the Kansas River on a brisk evening in Lawrence for the 20th annual Sunflower Showdown. Kansas State took victories in the Second Varsity Four (two points), Third Varsity Eight (two points) and Second Varsity Eight, while KU picked up a key win in the First Varsity Four (three points), to give the Wildcats a 10-3 lead.

The best race was saved for last.

First Varsity Eight coxswain Mallory Miller hoists the Sunflower Showdown trophy.

Kansas needed to win the nine-point First Varsity Eight race to keep the trophy at KU for the third year in a row. Seniors Mallory Miller, Jordan Helms, Maddie Irelan and Katherine Young gave all they had, to push past the Wildcats and take home the title.

Down by almost a full length of the boat midway through the race, Kansas rallied to come bow-ball to bow-ball with K-State down the stretch of the 1,950 meter course. The Jayhawks made one final push at the finish line and anxiously awaited the photo-finish announcement of the winner – Kansas by less than a second.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” First Varsity Eight senior coxswain Mallory Miller said. “K-State always comes and races really well against us. Coming into that last 500 meters of that race, I looked over at their coxswain and saw that she made a call to go up. That’s usually a little before we do, but I said to our boat that are prepared, we are going too. We just stayed so locked-in in our boat. We felt the momentum start to pick up. We kept the fire and the adrenaline going – our rowers gave all they had. We had nothing left in the tank when we crossed that finish line and I could not be more proud of them.”

The Jayhawks finished with a time of 6:00.01, just ahead of K-State’s 6:00.88 time. Joining the seniors in this victory were McKayla Ross, BriAnna Dittberner, Kaelyn Thierolf, Meghan Karoly and Peyton Anderson.

The Showdown began with the Second Varsity Four race where Kansas State got off to an early lead with a first-place finish. The Wildcats crossed the finish line clocking a time of 7:00.53, followed by Kansas B and Kansas with times of 7:09.09 and 7:23.23 respectively.

Kansas State added two more points to their lead in the Third Varsity Eight race as they finished in first place with a time of 6:23.22, with Kansas just 10 seconds behind.

In the third race of the evening, the Jayhawks raced the First Varsity Four to their first victory outlasting the Wildcats by just three seconds with a final time of 6:50.90. With just two races remaining, the score was 4-3.

In the Second Varsity Eight race, the Wildcats proved victorious. Similarly to the Third Varsity Eight race, Kansas State finished with a time of 6:07.14, nearly 10 seconds before the Jayhawks. Despite the seven-point Wildcat lead, Kansas still had a chance to take home the Sunflower Showdown with a First Varsity Eight win – which is exactly what they did.

The Jayhawks travel to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for the two-day Big 12 Championship regatta, May 13-14, with an automatic bid to the NCAA Rowing Championship on the line.


Team Points

  1. KANSAS 12
  2. K-State 10

First Varsity Eight + // 9 points

  1. KANSAS 6:00.01
  2. K-State 6:00.88

Second Varsity Eight + // 6 points

  1. K-State 6:07.14
  2. KANSAS 6:17.36

First Varsity Four + // 3 points

  1. KANSAS 6:50.90
  2. K-State 6:53.41

Third Varsity Eight + // 2 points

  1. K-State 6:23.22
  2. KANSAS 6:33.10
  3. KANSAS B 7:01.69

Second Varsity Four + // 2 points

  1. K-State 7:00.53
  2. KANSAS B 7:09.09
  3. KANSAS 7:23.23


First Varsity Eight + (1V8+)
Coxswain: Mallory Miller
McKayla Ross
BriAnna Dittberner
Katherine Young
Maddie Irelan
Kaelyn Thierolf
Meghan Karoly
Jordan Helms
Peyton Anderson

Second Varsity Eight + (2V8+)
Coxswain: Kenzie Obrochta
Kayla Stubblefield
Allison Schaaf
Angie Allen
Lilly Stewart
Reese Arnold
Kylee Dewey
Bailey Blood
Morgan Kottas

First Varsity Four + (1V4+)
Coxswain: Bailey Coolidge
Margret Winter
Lexie Lanphere
Emily Ruble
Brittney Railsback

Third Varsity Eight + (3V8+)
Coxswain: Abigale Lane
Bailey Brandon
Kristen Underhill
Caitlyn McNulty
Valerie Swisher
Isabel Horosz
Madison Ruffalo
Kaitlyn Finger
Madison Hovis

Second Varsity Four + (2V4+)
Coxswain: Katie McWhirter
Aminah Reid-Brydon
Kalyn Blessing
Mackenzie Klaver
Kate Englander

Third Varsity Eight B + (3V8 B +)
Coxswain: Morgan Prieve
Celia Tise
Kate Mizell
Hannah Edelman
Moira Frakes
Baylee Page
Gabrielle Patillo
Hailey Hetzer
Hayley Fernandez

Second Varsity Four B + (2V4 B +)
Coxswain: Riley Varuska
Madison Wedderspoon
Alex Burns
Michaela Thies
Kelly Koenigsman

Twitter @KU_Rowing
Instagram @kansasrowing
Facebook /KansasRowing

KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.