By Elena Joseph
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
The perk of attending an in-state school is the luxury of being close to home. For senior and varsity member of the Kansas State Women’s Rowing team, Brittany Long from Sanger, California, hasn’t had the bonus of being able to drive home in just a few hours. She has adjusted to quite a bit since moving to Kansas prior to her junior year. Long is the only team member from out of state.
The very first adjustment Long to make came with the weather. Kansans are used to the drastic weather changes that occur throughout the year.
“In the same day, you get all four seasons. When people first told me that I thought, ‘no you’re lying.’ Then I experienced it. The first year I was here there was a blizzard in May. Why is there snow in May? It made no sense to me. In California, it’s flurried twice in my lifetime. And the snow doesn’t even stick,” Long said.
Long attended UC Davis her freshman year and Fresno City College her sophomore year, before transferring to K-State in 2012.
“My original plan was to transfer to Fresno State. The reason I came to Kansas was because they cut enrollment when I was ready to transfer. When I first found that out I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do because that put me a year behind. I contacted my sister who was living in Manhattan and she encouraged me to apply to K-State. I was hesitant at first because I thought why Kansas? But I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Long said.
K-State has always been known for its family-like atmosphere and approachability towards others.
“Everybody genuinely cares about you here and everyone is so nice and friendly compared to back home. People at home aren’t necessarily mean; they are just consumed in themselves and what they have going on. Here, people will hold the door open for you just because they can. They’ll ask how your day is going because they actually want to know,” Long said.
Not being involved in sports at UC Davis and Fresno City was what held Long back from coming out of her shell and thriving in a college atmosphere. After this experience, she was determined to make K-State a success. Having played three sports in high school, she has had athletic experience prior to her time at K-State.
“My biggest thing at Davis was that I didn’t really get to know anybody. I think that contributed to why I didn’t really like it there. When it came time for orientation at K-State, I really wanted to pay attention to the booths that they had set up. K-State has a booth for rowing and our graduate assistant, [Hanna Wiltfong], called me over. She told me about rowing and I thought this would be a good way to meet people. I love sports and I wasn’t involved at all at Davis. I just missed being a part of a team,” Long said.
Along with her desire to meet others and connect through athletics, Long brings a sense of calmness to the team. Teammate and friend, Ashley Houser, junior, admires Long for her ‘California-like’ personality.
“One thing I really enjoy about Brittany is that she is very relaxed about the sport. She doesn’t let the pressure get to her or affect her performance. She wants to do her best but she doesn’t let it consume her,” Houser said.
Head coach Patrick Sweeney shared Houser’s sentiments. Currently in his 12th year of leading the Wildcats, Sweeney said Long has grown considerably as an student-athlete since coming to Manhattan, competing on the 1st Varsity 8 boat this season that has been successful.
“I think she is very stable. She is very mature so that really rubs off seeing as we have a young team. She also wasn’t a big athlete when she came here. She had played sports before, but not at high level. She has become a very good athlete since starting here,” Sweeney said.
Long’s perspective of the sport generates a comfortable setting for the entire team. It is a combination of drive, dedication and a relaxation.
“Sometimes the sport can be really high intensity. In practice, we can be bad one piece and get it together in the next piece. It doesn’t define the entire practice just because we had one bad piece,” Long said.
Simultaneously being a full-time athlete and student comes with challenges, however, for Long, the benefits are worth the obstacles.
“Being a part of the rowing team has definitely helped me focus on time management. Having practice every morning, a second workout, going to class and studying really helped me focus on what I need to get done in the time I have each day. Overall, the rowing team has given me relationships and friends that I will have for the rest of my life. I’ve killed for them, they’ve killed for me and it has really united us. Especially since I’ve raced with the girls in my boat for three years,” Long said.
Long’s personality and passion for rowing has inspired her teammates to push themselves to reach their highest potential as athletes.
“She keeps all of us grounded. Brittany is one of my closest friends on the team, especially this year. She is someone I can talk to about practices, but it’s never negative. It’s how we think we can improve it. She has benefited the team as a whole because she is constantly thinking about what’s best for the team, not what’s best for her. She is very selfless and understands that it’s not one person performing; it’s an entire team,” Houser said.
Sweeney has seen a leader in Long throughout her time here. She has proven to be a rock and someone her teammates look to in times of panic.
“The team has to gel. It’s nice to have a stable influence. She is very rock solid and you can rely on her. When you deal with a young group, her calmness levels everything out. It’s a mixture. You don’t want everyone to be that calm, otherwise nobody gets fired up,” Sweeney said.
Rowing is a sport that continues even after each member graduates. The sport has given these women qualities and skills that they can carry throughout the rest of their lives.
“In the sport of rowing you have to be tough: mentally and physically. One of the things this sport does is teach you about yourself, more so than a lot of other sports because you really do rely on everybody in your boat, unlike other sports where you have a timeout and you can rest. You can also have a superstar that you can rely on. Rowing isn’t like that. Everybody is equal, everybody gets treated the same, but you all have to work your butt off. I think they can take that on when they leave here and go off and do anything else that they are doing,” Sweeney said.
Once Long graduates, she hopes to move back to California and be with her family. She plans on taking a year off and apply to graduate school in San Francisco where she hopes to study for a Doctorate in Child Psychology.