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Rowing: OU hires coach

by Mike Sherman Modified: April 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm •  Published: February 14, 2008

OU has named Leeanne Crain as the first head coach of its new rowing program. Crain has spent the last four seasons as head coach at the University of Central Florida, following a 10-year stint as coach at the University of San Diego.

Crain’s appointment was announced Wednesday by OU Vice President for Sports Programs and Athletics Director Joe Castiglione.

Oklahoma’s varsity women’s rowing program will begin competing in the spring of 2009.

“Today’s announcement underlines the importance of rowing as a new varsity sport at OU,” said University President David L. Boren. “Coach Crain has established herself as one of the best rowing coaches in the nation. As the new team is being put together, we will also soon begin construction on the new Aubrey McClendon OU Boathouse along the race course of the Oklahoma River in Oklahoma City.”

The new coach appreciates her selection as the inaugural coach, especially in the Oklahoma City market.”

“I am thrilled to be given this tremendous opportunity as the first head coach of the women’s rowing program at the University of Oklahoma,” Crain said. “There is so much excitement in the rowing community over the revitalization of Oklahoma City’s Bricktown and the rowing venue that is being planned along the riverfront. I am grateful to Joe Castiglione for his trust in my abilities to build a national championship rowing program at OU. I am anxious to get underway.”

Castiglione cited Crain’s credentials and said her hiring to the position speaks well for the new Sooner athletics program.

“Leeanne’s credentials and experience are indeed impressive,” Castiglione said. “Moreover, hiring someone as highly regarded as Leeanne highlights the special opportunities we have to build a championship caliber program here at Oklahoma. We are excited to welcome her to the Sooner family and anxious to work with her at this exciting time in rowing’s history at OU.”

At Central Florida, Crain developed the Knights into one of the nation’s premier programs. During her four seasons, UCF rowers compiled two All-America honors and seven all-region honors, while 20 Knights earned Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) National Scholar-Athlete recognition, including a nation-leading seven honorees in 2006.

Her 2006-07 team recorded the best season in UCF history, opening the season with nine consecutive victories and earning the school’s first NCAA Championships berth. The squad also claimed the overall trophy at the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association (SIRA) Championships and earned UCF’s highest all-time national ranking (No. 9) in the US Rowing/ CRCA Coaches Poll.

Crain’s 2005-06 varsity eight team earned the program’s first top-20 ranking in the US Rowing/CRCA Coaches Poll and claimed the team’s ninth Florida Intercollegiate Rowing Association (FIRA) Championship while finishing fourth in its region at the South/Central Regional Championships. The Knights also claimed the program’s first All-American in Krystina Sarff.

During the 2004-05 season, Crain’s team received its first ranking in the NCAA South Region Poll, won the Petrakis Cup and Metro Cup regattas and won the overall points trophies at the FIRA and SIRA Championships.

In her first season at the helm, UCF’s varsity eight team earned a the silver medal at both the FIRA and SIRA Championships, while the lightweight eight finished third at the San Diego Crew Classic and advanced to the finals of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Championship.

Not only were Crain’s team successful in the competitive realm, they were strong academically too. Women’s Rowing had the highest grade point average of all 17 teams at UCF in 2006 (3.31 Avg.). In the fall of 2007, five of the team members carried 4.0 GPAs, while 14 were on the Dean’s List and 33 of the 44 listed on the varsity roster made Athletic Director’s Honor Roll.

Prior to her arrival at Central Florida, Crain spent 10 seasons as head coach at the University of San Diego where she was named West Coast Conference (WCC) Coach of the Year in 1997 and 2003. While at USD, she coached two All-Americans and had two rowers named to the CRCA All-Region Team.

Her student-athletes accounted for 15 All-WCC honors and six Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA) all-conference honors. In addition, 16 earned WCC All-Academic distinction, 13 received CRCA National Scholar-Athlete recognition and two were named All-Americans by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

At USD, Crain coached 2004 Olympic silver-medalist Ali Cox, a four-time U.S. National Team member who competed in the women’s eight at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Crain began her coaching career in 1990 as an assistant coach at UCLA, helping the Bruins to a Pac-10 title.

She joined the UCLA coaching staff after an outstanding four-year career as a member of the Bruins’ varsity team from 1985-88. As a senior, Crain was named team captain and was selected to the Pac-10 All-Conference Team. A two-time member of the U.S. National Team, she won a gold medal in the women’s four at the 1988 Cadbury International Regatta in Australia and was a grand finalist in the women’s pair at the 1990 World Championship Trials.

An active member of the rowing community, Crain served on the NCAA Rowing Committee from 2001-05, and has been chair of both the NCAA West (2001-03) and South (2003-07) Regional Advisory Committees. She also served as Vice President of the FIRA from 2003-04 and on the WIRA Board of Stewards from 2002-03, and currently sits on the SIRA Board of Directors.

Crain earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCLA in 1988. She received her Level III US Rowing Coaching Certification in 2001.

by Mike Sherman
Sports Editor
Mike Sherman is sports editor of The Oklahoman, where he has a combined 18 years of service during two stints as a writer and an editor. He covered high school sports for The Oklahoman from 1984-93. He also worked as a news writer for the...
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