Irelan, Kansas Set to Begin 2014 Season at Louisville Invite

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Joining a team or sport is a great way to have fun and meet new people. For Maddie and Bailey Irelan, rowing represented an opportunity to try something new, while enriching their relationship with one another.

Maddie, a freshman on the University of Kansas rowing team, is from Dublin, Ohio, and her sister, Bailey, is currently a sophomore on the Rutgers University rowing team. The two sisters have great passion for rowing, but this had not always been the case. In fact, neither girl began rowing until high school.

Bailey was a member of the swim team at Dublin Jerome High School while Maddie was a basketball player. Both girls were independent in their activities until their mother, Tanya, figured out a new way to keep her daughters active during the offseason.

“I took them to a Learn-to-Row event for Dublin Crew,” Tanya said. “After just one week of rowing, they were both hooked. By the end of the first season, they had both fallen in love with the sport.”

The Irelan sisters respected their new craft and logged countless training hours in order to excel above the other rowers. They reaped the rewards of their hard work and intense training by being named captain of the rowing team for their respective senior seasons.

Maddie believes that those rides to and from school, the 30-minutes trips to and from practice every day and the hours of conversation with her sister helped show her how to become an effective team leader.

“I paid attention to what Bailey did when she was the team captain in high school,” Maddie said. “She was always respectful in the way she communicated with everyone and made sure everyone knew they were on the team for a reason. She wanted them to feel like they were truly a part of something special.”

Bailey and Maddie started their rowing careers to stay in shape during the offseason, but they didn’t realize rowing could provide an avenue to a college scholarship.

“They didn’t know that college was a possibility through rowing,” Tom Irelan, father of Bailey and Maddie, said. “The girls were always involved and serious once they started rowing, but I think they took it up a notch when they realized they could get a scholarship to go to college.”

Bailey was the first to graduate and Maddie went on every college visit with her sister, going to schools such as Alabama, Rutgers, Temple and Tennessee. After visiting Rutgers, Bailey fell in love the campus, school and general proximity to New York City as an aspiring print-journalist.

Despite having a great relationship with her sister, Maddie did not want to follow her elder sibling to Rutgers. They wanted to forge their own separate identities and stand on their own two feet.

“We shared an amazing part of our lives together,” Bailey said. “Rowing was our rock, but we wanted our independence in college.”

“We were very open about not trying to attend the same school as the other,” Maddie said. “We wanted to be able to go do our own things. I think it is great that Rutgers and Kansas are two completely opposite schools. The KU campus is small and compact, while Rutgers has four campuses and you have to take buses everywhere. Rutgers was never a legitimate option for me.”

Thus, Maddie went on official visits to KU, Oklahoma and Temple. After visiting Kansas, it was a clear-cut decision that she would be attending school in Lawrence

Maddie is currently a freshman at KU studying broadcast journalism. The Irelan family has always had a saying that, “Bailey can write it and Maddie can speak it,” as far as their individual goals for journalism. Although they admit it would be fun to work together one day, they would settle for being in the same zip code again.

“We have always talked about how fun it would be to end up in the same city,” Maddie said. “My goal is to be on ‘The Today Show’ in New York City and Bailey’s dream job would be the editor of Glamour Magazine. We understand we might not ever work together, but we love the idea of just being close to one another.”

While the Irelan sisters hope to work together one day, they are both currently focused on the task at hand, which is the spring rowing season. Maddie and the Jayhawks will open the 2014 spring season on Saturday, March 15 at the Louisville Invite in Oak Ridge, Tenn.  The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.