New conference, new experiences for rowing

State Hornet Staff

The Sacramento State women’s rowing team will be in Tennessee Saturday to compete in the program’s first-ever Conference USA Championships.

The upcoming 11-team regatta is clearly the biggest competition Sac State has ever raced in and both coaches and players are excited for the opportunity.

“Its nice to finally be competing in a race that means something,” said head coach Mike Connors. “Its exciting to be racing in the program’s first conference championship.

Senior Jessica Smith and junior Kim Gross used the words “awesome” and “honor” when describing what it felt like to be racing in this event.

Alabama, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Old Dominion, San Diego State, Tennessee, Texas, Tulsa, and West Virginia will all join Sac State on the water this weekend, with the Hornets having raced seven of these teams already this season.

“We’ve competed against so many of these schools and it’s great to finally race against them at a conference final,” Gross said.

The event will be a one day regatta with the heats taking place in the morning and the finals occurring in the afternoon. The competition is based off of a point system. The three boats that will be counted for points are the varsity eight boat, second varsity eight boat, and the varsity four boat. Boats will only receive points depending on how it finishes in the finals. No points can be gained in a heat. The school with the most points accumulated after the finals, not only wins the conference championship, but also earns an automatic bid to the National Championship in Indianapolis on May 30.

Because of the significance of the regatta, Connors is taking a slightly different approach to prepare his team. For most races,the team will train every day and get quite a bit of work on the water. For this race, Connors is still having the girls train, but it is a much lighter work load and they are not practicing every day.

“For a race this big, you don’t want to wear your athletes out,” Connors said. “It’s all about finding a medium where they are still getting work in and remaining focused.”

The mindset for the rowers has also changed due to the importance of this competition. Smith said she is feeling slight pressure but has remained focused.

“I would be lying if I said this race doesn’t feel a little bit different than other races, especially because I am a senior and this will be my last race of my collegiate career,” Smith said. “I feel a slightly heavier pressure because I do want us to do well. I believe we have a great opportunity to do really well in this race.”

The team will fly out Thursday morning and will arrive in Nashville in the late afternoon. The Hornets will then have an opportunity to practice on Friday before the heats begin on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.

“We are excited for the task at hand and we’ll give it our best shot,” Connors said.