Makenzie Storm’s knowledge of rowing was, you could say, non-existent leading up to July 2021.
It’s easy to see why. Rowing is not exactly a booming sport in southwest Missouri and not even MSHSAA affiliated during the high school sports seasons.
“I knew nothing about rowing,” Storm said with a laugh on Thursday night.
But here in a few short weeks, Storm will be uprooting her life to move to the Little Apple in Manhattan, Kansas, where she’s set to join the women’s rowing team at Division I Kansas State. Her move-in date is Aug. 19, and training for the sport she knew nothing about a year ago will be her full-time job as she starts her freshman season with the Wildcats.
Not bad for the 2022 Webb City graduate, who competed in volleyball and swimming during her high school career.
“It means a lot to represent Webb City at the Division I level,” Storm said. “I know all the sports I played in high school prepared me for this opportunity. My coaches and my teammates have helped prepare me to take on this D1 sport. I’m really thankful for this opportunity and ready to take it on.”
How did she get connected with rowing at K-State?
The Wildcats make it known they recruit gifted, multi-sport athletes and look to build them into competitive rowers on the water.
For Storm, it started with a letter she received in the mail at Webb City last year. The letter asked for just general information about Storm with the purpose of getting to know her.
Storm filled out the letter and sent it back to K-State. Just a few days later, the Wildcats’ coaching staff reached out and invited Storm up to Manhattan for an unofficial visit last July.
“K-State just really seemed right,” Storm said. “The night I went for my unofficial visit, the Olympics were going on. I actually watched rowing on TV to get an idea of what the sport actually was. I went up there again last October. I met a lot of the girls. I watched some of their practices. A day after that, it seemed like the right fit for me.”
Rowing is one of the oldest Olympic sports. Male rowers have competed since the 1900 Summer Olympics and women’s rowing was added 76 years later in the Olympic games. K-State added the sport on the women’s side in 1996-97.
Simply put, the sport is the racing of boats using oars — different from a paddle — used to propel a boat in the opposite direction from where the rower is facing.
Storm said she’s quickly learned rowing is not all about the upper body.
“It’s actually mostly the lower body that you work,” she added. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. They made it clear to me that there’s going to be hard days whenever I’m practicing. But the end result will be worth it.”
In the classroom, Storm is majoring in bakery science and management. She’s leaning towards being a product development scientist, which she hopes to learn more about once she gets to K-State next month.
Along with school is taking on a sport completely foreign to her just 12 short months ago.
“Everyone is excited and a little nervous because all the recruits except for one have never rowed before,” Storm said. “I’m looking to figure out what rowing is right now. The first couple of months we’re there is teaching us what the sport is, learning the proper technique of rowing and how to accomplish the goal of getting a better time overall.
“We’re all excited to see what we’re going to do and what opportunity we’ll have.”