PHOTO AND STORY COURTESY UCF ATHLETICS
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ORLANDO – In its first season in the Big 12 Conference, UCF will race in five regattas in advance of the Big 12 Championship and a potential NCAA Rowing Championship berth as the Mara Allen era officially launches in 2023-24.
“I am excited for our racing schedule,” said Allen, who was named the Knights’ head coach in June. “We will face tough competition throughout the spring which should prepare us well for the Big 12 Championship in May.”
UCF is joining a conference that has been dominated by Allen’s previous stop, Texas, which has won two NCAA championships in the past three years (winning in 2021 and 2022 while finishing fourth in 2023). The Longhorns also have won the past eight Big 12 titles. Allen spent eight seasons in Austin.
Texas was the only Big 12 team to finish the season ranked in the Pocock Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) poll at number four. Other Big 12 opponents to receive votes for the Pocock CRCA poll include Tennessee and Alabama (Big 12 rowing affiliated members).
In addition to the Knights’ Big 12 opponents, nine of UCF’s 2023-24 opponents finished in the final Pocock CRCA poll. Those teams include Brown (sixth), Pennsylvania (eighth), American Athletic Conference Champion SMU (ninth), Big 10 Champion Michigan (11th), Ohio State (12th), Duke (14th), Rutgers (15th), Indiana (17th) and Iowa (20th).
UCF opened its season with a scrimmage Sept. 23 against Stetson at home on Lake Pickett at the UCF Intercollegiate Rowing Center. UCF will host its second and final scrimmage of the 2023-24 season against Iowa Feb. 10.
UCF officially will begin its racing season on March 15 with a Senior Day regatta against Jacksonville and Connecticut. Last season, the Knights hosted Jacksonville and UConn along with Miami. Both the I Four and II Four won their respective races.
Two weeks later, UCF will travel southwest to Sarasota for the Knights’ sixth-straight Sunshine State Invitational appearance at Nathan Benderson Park March 29 and 30. The Knights will face Miami, Stetson, Jacksonville, Michigan State, Tulsa, North Carolina, Old Dominion, Iowa, Massachusetts, Louisville, Boston College and Drexel. UCF will get an early look at Big 12 competition with Kansas State, Kansas and West Virginia also traveling to Sarasota.
UCF finished with two grand final wins from the II Eight and the I Four at the 2023 Sunshine State Invitational.
UCF will return to Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota on April 19 and 20 for the Big 10 Invitational. UCF will face off against Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State, Brown, Duke, Notre Dame, Clemson, SMU and UCLA. The Knights also will face current Big 12 opponents Tennessee, Alabama and Oklahoma.
The Knights’ only out-of-state trip will be the Lake Wheeler Invitational in Raleigh, North Carolina, on April 26 and 27 for their final regular-season regatta. This will mark the Knights’ fifth trip to Lake Wheeler. The Knights will race Boston, Boston College, Clemson, Georgetown, Iowa, Louisville, Miami, Navy, Pennsylvania, Syracuse, Tulsa and Washington State, plus host teams North Carolina and Duke. Joining the regatta are three Big 12 opponents in Alabama, Tennessee and Kansas.
UCF’s II Four received American Athletic Conference Boat of the Week honors after finishing with a second-place finish and two third-place finishes at the Lake Wheeler Invitational last spring.
On May 19, UCF will be back at Nathan Benderson Park for its first Big 12 Championship appearance with hopes of capturing its sixth conference title in program history. In the American Athletic Conference, UCF won five straight conference championships from 2015-2019.
The NCAA Rowing Championship will be held in Bethel, Ohio on Harsha Lake at East Fork State Park from May 31-June 2. The Knights hope to qualify for their seventh NCAA Championship appearance. The Knights previously competed at the NCAA Championship in 2006, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, capturing five top-20 finishes and a top-15 finish in 2019.
Last season, UCF finished third overall in its final AAC Conference Championship appearance. There will be 32 returning Knights for the 2023-24 season.