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Oklahoma rowing team ready for first NCAA Championships

A team that five years ago didn't have an oar or a river to race on will compete with the top teams in the country this weekend.
By Stephanie Kuzydym Published: May 30, 2013

—  A shopping cart lay on the barren riverbed. But all Leeanne Crain saw was potential.

Well, she did see the shopping cart, too. The Oklahoma rowing coach laughs at the memory of the day Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione drove her to the Oklahoma River and asked her to build a rowing program for the Sooners.

Five years later, her fourth year with actual recruits, Crain and her team are in Indianapolis to compete in their first NCAA Championship.

“I'm really proud of this group. It was a goal we set five years ago. It's nice to have achieved it,” Crain said. “Everyone bought into the plan and the training program to get to this point.”

Crain said deciding to accept Castiglione's offer was an “easy decision.”

“Starting a program at the University of Oklahoma, knowing the resources that would be available and the commitment that the president (David Boren) and Joe Castiglione made to our programs, when I interviewed and stepped foot on campus, I knew I wanted to be a Sooner,” she said.

As for that empty river?

“That was a little bit of a tough sell,” she said, laughing. “I knew the river would be full and knew about the plans for the riverfront and boathouse district. It was a work in progress when we came, and building a program would be the same.”

Crain started with nothing. No athletes, no facility, no boats. Not even an oar.

Crain took what she knew from years as head coach at established programs such as San Diego and Central Florida, threw in her own recruits, like current senior Nicole Furmanek, and set out to create a tradition of excellence.

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NCAA Rowing Championships

When: Friday-Sunday

Where: Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis

OU crews competing: Varsity eight, second varsity eight, varsity four


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