NORMAN — Leeanne Crain made a promise. It’s something coaches do with recruits all the time. Whether it concerns playing time or an opportunity to start, coaches are known to make promises.
However, Crain’s promise was a little different. In her first season as Oklahoma’s new rowing skipper, she told Nicole Furmanek that by the time she graduated, the Sooners would be Big 12 Champions and make it to the NCAA tournament. At the moment Crain made that declaration, OU didn’t even have a full rowing team to call its own.
Yet, four years later, Crain has proven to be clairvoyant. The Sooners not only won the conference championship for the first time in the program’s short history, they also earned a spot in this weekend’s NCAA rowing championships, which begins today in Indianapolis.
“I am really proud of this group,” Crain said. “It was a goal we set five years ago. It’s nice to achieve it. It’s a credit to the team and all the hard work they have put in. We are excited.”
The path Oklahoma has taken to reach this point seemed unimaginable when it started five years ago. When Crain accepted the coaching job, the Oklahoma river didn’t even have water in it.
Despite that, Crain said she had faith in the school to provide what she would need to build a top-notch rowing team.
“That was an easy decision,” Crain said. “Starting a program at the University of Oklahoma, knowing the resources that would be available, knowing the commitment that the president would make to our athletic programs. When I interviewed on campus, I knew I wanted to be a Sooner.”
Convincing Crain to take the job was easy. Convincing recruits to come to a school just starting up a program was much harder. That first year the squad was made up completely of students who had never rowed before but Crain provided them a chance to compete.