May 18, 2013
The Sooners, in their fifth season as a varsity program, won their first C-USA title with a wins in three races and second-place finishes in the other two events. OU earned a total of 63 points, ahead of Tennessee's 57 and Texas' 56 on Melton Hill Lake.
"I am so incredibly proud of this team and all that we've achieved this year," OU head coach Leeanne Crain said. "It will be an honor to represent the Big 12 and Conference USA at the NCAA championship later this month."
Crain was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year, while senior captain Nikki Furmanek earned Rower of the Year honors for the second straight season. Freshman Taylor Gillespie was named the Newcomer of the Year. Both Crain and Furmanek also earned Big 12 Coach and Rower of the Year accolades.
"We were very clear about our goals early on this year," Furmanek said. "Everyone worked extremely hard to make them a reality. Every boat rose to the challenge and embraced the dedication needed to be successful. I am so proud of our team and everything we have accomplished."
Furmanek and fellow seniors Meghan Farrell, Ashley LaFollette and Rebecca Staff were named to the Conference USA All-Conference Team.
The Sooners won conference titles in the second varsity eight, varsity four and open four with runner-up finishes in the varsity eight and novice eight. Before this season, OU had only claimed one individual boat conference title in the previous three C-USA championships.
With five Big 12 schools sponsoring rowing, the conference is one team shy of an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Championship. Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas and West Virginia also compete in the 11-team Conference USA with Alabama, Old Dominion, SMU, Tennessee, Tulsa and UCF. 2013 is the first season in which the winner of the C-USA Championship earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
"We are grateful to Conference USA for hosting this championship," Crain said. "Their sponsorship and inclusion of the Big 12 and SEC schools has allowed us the opportunity to advance and we appreciate all that they've done to make that dream a reality for us."
With the Conference USA title, the Sooners earned their first appearance in the NCAA Championship. OU will join a 22-team field in Indianapolis on May 31-June 2 to race for a national title.
The Championship began in the morning with heat races in all five events. The Sooners posted first-place finishes in all but the varsity four race, where they finished second.
In OU's first grand final of the afternoon, the open four notched an open-water win with a time of 7:33.30. The Sooners finished over six seconds ahead of Tennessee to claim the conference title.
The varsity four followed suit with a 1.59 second victory over Tennessee to finish in 7:39.40 for Oklahoma's second conference championship-winning boat.
The Sooners made it a perfect three-for-three in the second varsity eight. A 6:45.81 mark beat the Lady Vols by nearly five seconds and gave OU 33 points in the championship, good for first place with one event remaining.
Oklahoma held a three point lead over Tennessee going into the varsity eight race. A second place finish in 6:36.47 was over a second faster than UT, which secured OU's first championship. Texas claimed the victory, but it left the Longhorns one point behind the Vols in the overall team standings.
The final race of the day was the novice eight event, which featured a seven boat final and did not count towards the championship scoring. OU's runner-up finish came in 6:58.45, just 1.33 seconds behind Texas.
The complete NCAA Championship field will be announce Tuesday at 4 p.m. CT on NCAA.com. The Sooners will join 10 additional automatic qualifiers and 11 at-large teams in Indianapolis to compete for a national championship.
For complete news and behind-the-scenes updates on the Sooners, follow them on Twitter at @SoonerRowing and Instagram at Instagram.com/OU_Rowing. Additional updates through the NCAA Championship can be found on the Championship Central page.
Second Varsity Eight
C: Ashley Middaugh
4: Cassie Preskitt
3: Heather House
2: Brooke Holleman
1: Jenny O'Grady
C: Haleigh McAnally
8: Meredith Thornton
7: Reagan Collins
6: Daisy Beals
5: Jenny Franklin
4: Samantha Legler
3: Callie Kinsey
2: Allison Kwiecinski
1: Megan Szukala