Kansas Rowing Celebrates Season with Team Banquet
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Following a fourth-place finish at the Big 12 Championship, the KU rowing team had its 2014-15 season banquet Monday afternoon at the Kansas Boathouse.
A solid fall of competition set the tone for the annual winter training trip and carried into the spring season. With nine seniors and only five juniors, the Kansas roster was heavily comprised of underclassmen. In his 20th year at the helm of the program, head coach Rob Catloth was impressed with what a young squad could do.
“For as young of a team as we had, some of the times and finishes this year progressed really far, really fast,” said Catloth. “Some of that is a testament to the young talent we have on the team, but I really thought they rose to the occasion and bought into what we’re trying to do. We showed on the water for such a young team, that we could row to a high level.”
A Look Back
The Jayhawks had much to celebrate after a successful season on the water. Kansas began the spring slate on March 14, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee at the Cardinal Invitational. The First and Second Varsity Four boats began the season with a bang, claiming victories in both races.
Up next, Kansas headed to Dallas, Texas to square off with SMU. Though windy conditions forced the event to scrap the First and Second Varsity four competitions, the Jayhawks made the most of their other events. The Second Varsity Eight would claim first place over the Mustangs, winning the race by over seven seconds. Closing out the morning competition was the Third Varsity Eight race, where Kansas finished in second place behind Texas.
Kansas then prepared for the prestigious Knecht Cup, one of the largest regattas in the nation. KU had a strong opening day, advancing several boats to the semifinals with three qualifying for the Grand Finals. The Second Varsity Four placed second overall, the First Novice Four claimed fourth and the Third Varsity Eight finished second. The First Varsity Eight had success, as well, winning the Petite Final race by two seconds. The Petite Final victory gained KU’s First Varsity Eight attention from the conference as the Big 12 Boat of the Week. The league’s weekly winners were seniors Julia Alvey, Brooke Thuston and Claudijah Lever, juniors Maggie Duncan, Mary Slattery (coxswain), Tessa Scott and sophomores Olivia Loney, Allison Schaaf and Maddie Irelan.
On April 25, Kansas welcomed Big 12 foe Oklahoma and the Big Ten’s Iowa and No. 9 Wisconsin to Kansas City, Kansas for the Big 12 vs. Big Ten Double Dual. Facing its toughest competition of the season, the Jayhawks rowed tough against highly-ranked Wisconsin and two-time Big 12 champ Oklahoma, but couldn’t pull out a victory. Overall, the Big Ten defeated the Big 12 in the competition as Wisconsin proved to be worth its national ranking.
“If you look at our season, going into the Big 12 Championships, we were the only school to race every other Big 12 team during the regular season,” stated Catloth. “At the Knecht Cup, we raced a few teams who won their conference and made the NCAA’s. Then the Big 12 vs. Big Ten Double Dual was a pretty challenging event that we really learned a lot from.”
The Jayhawks bounced back in a big way on May 2 when KU squared off with Kansas State in the Sunflower Showdown. After winning the first three races, the Jayhawks had fallen behind Kansas State heading into the final race of the day: the First Varsity Eight. The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead in the first 500 meters, but Kansas kept pushing. Rowing in their last Sunflower Showdown, seniors Alvey, Jennifer Hartlzer, Lever and Thuston gave it their all, ignoring K-State’s lead and fighting to close the gap.
Coming down to the final strokes, Kansas caught the Wildcats and surged past. Every single push mattered as the Jayhawks finished the race with a time of 6:52.1 – while K-State finished in 6:52.46. Joining the seniors, who collected their first Sunflower Showdown victory, were juniors Duncan and Slattery (coxswain), sophomores Lexie Lanphere, Irelan and Allison Schaaf.
“I think it was a really good win, especially for such a young team,” Catloth said. “They got to celebrate the win, and I think it made them hungry for more races like that – and more wins.”
In their final regatta of the season, the Jayhawks finished in fourth place at the Big 12 Championship and tied for fifth in the automatic qualifier portion that included Tennessee, Alabama and Old Dominion. Kansas claimed three medals overall, finishing third in the First Varsity Four, second in the Second Varsity Four and third in the Third Varsity Eight.
“Texas made a big jump in what they were doing this year,” Catloth said. “But the rest of us are getting faster, too. If you look at the times that the Second Varsity Eight were running as a whole, two years ago those were the First Varsity Eight times. As a conference, everyone is getting faster every year and I also see that happening nationally.”
Season Sendoff – 2014-15 Kansas Rowing Team Awards
Along with the team banquet, the Jayhawks also honored its senior class that was unable to participate in the University of Kansas commencement on May 17 due to the Big 12 Championship. All dressed up in their caps and gowns, the seniors took photos and made their own graduation memories before everyone gathered for the announcement of team awards. The coaching staff votes on each individual award with the exception of the “Essence of a Jayhawk” award, which is selected by the senior class.
“I think Claudijah earned every bit of her award,” Catloth said of the team’s marquee Oarswoman of the Year award. “What she did on the water, on the erg machine and with the team, I think she definitely gave her all this year. This is a team sport, but you have to have those power people driving the boat.”
Oarswoman of the Year: Claudijah Lever, Senior, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Nikia Rosenberger Coxswain Award: Mary Slattery, Junior, Lenexa, Kansas
Most Improved Oarswoman: Kate Cropp, Sophomore, Lexington, Ohio
Most Improved Freshman: Angie Allen, Freshman, Waterloo, Iowa
Outstanding Freshmen Award: BriAnna Dittberner, Topeka, Kansas
Kaelynn Thierolf, Marion, Kansas
Newcomer of the Year: Mackenzie Klaver, Sophomore, Norwich, Kansas
“Essence of a Jayhawk”: Emily Ruble, Sophomore, Leavenworth, Kansas
The “Essence of a Jayhawk” award is special in that the individual embodies what it means to be a Jayhawk. The award is voted on by the senior class.