Q & A with Rowing Head Coach, Leeanne Crain

Jan. 29, 2007

1.How have practices been going so far?
Practices are going well. The athletes are working hard. We are in the middle of the toughest segment of training. January and February can be grueling. The volume of training is high at this point of the year and our first race is still more than a month away. The team is doing a good job of focusing on improving fitness, strength, flexibility and technique.

2.What are your thoughts on hosting the Petrakis Cup?
We are looking forward to hosting the Petrakis Cup on March 24th. Mr. John Petrakis is a great supporter of UCF Athletics. This year, we have invited Jacksonville University, Miami, Tulane, and Embry-Riddle to compete. We now have a fully buoyed 2000-meter course on Lake Pickett and a new dock. If the weather cooperates, we should have a great day of racing.

3.How do you keep so many athletes focused during practices?
Having a large team naturally creates intra-squad competition which can be very healthy. The athletes push themselves to be at their best, and in doing so, push those around them. Even though we are a team sport, we do a lot of individualized training - especially on the ergs. That allows for individuals to set goals for themselves for each workout. That way, they can see their progress as they go through the season. If every individual is improving, we know collectively we will be stronger as a team on the water this spring.

4.Which team/teams are you most excited about competing against this spring?
Our spring race schedule is pretty impressive. We will be opening our season against Texas at the Longhorn Invitational in March. There we will face a handful of teams from the South region, so it should give us some indication of how we will stack up against our regional competitors. We will travel to Virginia to race UVA and Duke in early April. UVA looks to be one of the top teams in the country based on the fall results. I think it will be good for us to see them early in the season to get an idea of their speed. Duke finished just ahead of us at the end of last season, so we will have to be prepared for a tough weekend of racing. The following weekend, we will be in California at the Windermere Crew Classic, hosted by Stanford. It will be important for us to race well against the teams in the Pac-10. We are an up and coming program, and the best way to get recognition is to compete against the very best teams in the country.

5.What is the biggest challenge you will face during the season?
Repeating our top-20 national ranking in the varsity eight. We were ranked as high as No. 19 last year, which was a program best. I am confident that we are faster than we were last season, but it's always tough to get a spot in the top 20. We need to have some good early season results to get noticed. The challenge is that we really need to be at our best at the South/Central Regional in May. Last year, we showed speed in the early and mid-season, but fell short of our expectations at the season ending championship. We don't want to repeat that pattern this year. Our goal is to gain speed throughout the season and be at our fastest at Regionals in May.

6.What are some of your goals for the upcoming season?
I believe we have more depth this year, and I am hopeful that we will be fielding a competitive V8, 2V8, V4, and N8. I would like to see us finishing the regular season as one of the top three3 programs in the South region. It will be a challenge, but definitely something that we should be shooting for.

7.Who are some of the major leaders on the team and why?
We have a great group of team captains - Krystina Sarff, Melissa Westhoff, Robin Capers and Anne Marie Rossi. These young women are great ambassadors for the team and are positive role models for all of our student-athletes.

8.How have the practices helped prepare the team for the upcoming season?
I think every coach does everything within their power to prepare their team for competition. Our coaching staff works together to create a supportive environment for the team, but we also do our best to push our athletes to their limits and beyond. I'd like to think that if our athletes can make it through the training, that the racing will be easy. It's all about the preparation. If we do our jobs as coaches, the team should be ready to perform on the race course.

9.What are some changes that you have seen from last year's team to this year's team?
There is a different level of commitment with this year's group. Our 2005-06 squad raised the bar in many respects. They earned the program's first top-20 ranking in the V8, went undefeated against Syracuse, picked up a win against UCLA. Those were program firsts. The interesting thing was that they didn't really know what they were doing while they were doing it. Many of the returners this year now have an understanding of what it takes to be a nationally competitive rowing program. They have experienced it. That concept has become tangible. They have even more respect for the top programs this year than they did last. It's a pretty cool thing to see. Last year, they were a bit reckless - this year they are a bit more refined. Being nationally competitive used to be a dream and now it's become an expectation. The trick for this team will be striking a balance between maintaining the focus, but also having just enough recklessness to step out of the comfort zone at times so that we can achieve great things.