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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Can crew return to Top 25?

August 16, 2003

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Kansas University rower Casey Smith wants to go out with a splash her senior season, and that means getting the Jayhawks back into the Top 25.

"We're all really excited this year to turn things around," said Smith, a Kirkwood, Mo., native who remembers when the rowing team was nationally ranked. "I want to leave here in the Top 25 and get this program set up again."

So how can Kansas can get its oars back on top?

"We've tried to do it," Smith said. "It's something we dealt with all last year. We do have a lot of talent, and I believe it's just mental. It's a very mental sport, and lately we've definitely struggled with that confidence on race day."

Kansas coach Rob Catloth agreed, but said the only way his rowers could return to their racing past was -- surprise -- speed in the water.

"Getting everyone to perform the way they're capable of performing each time out is the key," Catloth said. "I don't know ... basically we've just got to be fast and the key will be doing that on race day."

As Catloth has done the past four seasons, he recruited a Canadian to help the Jayhawks. Jelayna DaSilva will extend the tradition of KU rowers coming from St. Catharines, Ontario.

"Up there rowing is such a competitive high school sport," assistant coach Jennifer Myers said. "Those girls come here and not only carry on the tradition which has been established with them at Kansas, but also seem to help the new rowers relate to that attitude of rowing excellence."

Last season the Jayhawks showed promise when their First Novice 8 crew won the Big 12 Invitational on the Kansas River, but whether those young rowers can make the jump to the Varsity 8 boat is unknown.

"I'm sure they'll be challenging and pushing," Catloth said. "But it's hard to make that kind of jump to varsity."

Yet that's exactly what Smith did her freshman season, jumping to the Varsity 8 squad and helping KU qualify for NCAA races.

With a senior class double the size of last year's and more motivation than ever, Smith said the Jayhawks can thrive again.

"It's really tough to pinpoint the problem," Smith said. "We've probably got as much talent as we had when we were in the Top 25.

"It really just about mental toughness, and proving that we're one of the top crews in the nation on race days."

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