Crew coach officially on board, gears up for Head of Charles
October 17, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Sarah Morris, a 2012 graduate and former coxswain, had just a year of assistant coaching experience last season before diving in as head coach of Liberty University's men's and women's crew team.
"It was definitely a quick turnaround," she said Tuesday, a week after being offered the coaching reins on more than an interim basis.
The exercise science fitness specialist major is going to great lengths to assure the program's future success as she learns the administrative side of running a program.
"It's definitely an exciting opportunity," Morris said as she prepared for Saturday's Head of the Charles in Boston, the largest crew regatta in the United States. "I'm excited to see what the team can do this semester. It will be a good weekend coming up. They're definitely rowing well."
Without a full-time assistant on her staff, Morris has relied on senior team managers Connor Houston and Mitchell Dieudonne — two of the top rowers on the Flames' men's team who plan to return to full-time rowing in the spring — for paperwork and logistical support. She also has received help from team captains Joel Buckhalt and Haley Halstead and assistant captains Robert Newman and Rachel Waldo.
This week, Morris has accepted additional assistance in early-morning training workouts from Mark Furler, her former coach who volunteered on the staff last season before moving to New Hampshire.
"Mark definitely gave me a good base knowledge of general training and taught me the expertise side of rowing, the technique, when I was under him as a student," Morris said. "It was good for him to come back and to be able to get the students to understand what needs to be done at Charles. Everyone's been there pushing each other to make sure those who are going will be ready, so it's been good to see."
Rowers also meet once a week with Club Sports strength and conditioning coach Joe Amberlock.
"A lot of them work out on their own in their extra time," Morris said. "They're self-motivated and really do strive to do better. There's always more work to be done. It's a good feeling."
Liberty will enter men's and women's open varsity 4 boats in Saturday's regatta, with the men's lineup featuring Buckhalt, Newman, Peter Eleutheriou, Sam Knauss, and coxswain Taylor Hardin and the women's team led by Kylie Peterson, Anouk Beuerle, Catherine Dyer, and Rachel Williams with Ron Beimel serving as coxswain.
"The women have tended to do pretty well at this regatta and if you can place in the top half of the field, you get a guaranteed entry next year," Morris said, noting only two of the four boats Liberty put into a Head of the Charles lottery were selected. "The men have a lot tougher competition, but are hoping they can push for that as well so next year we'll have that guarantee to get in and know well beforehand."
Members of both boats have pushed themselves particularly hard in practices since returning from Pittsburgh, Pa., site of the Oct. 5 Head of the Ohio.
"Since Ohio, we definitely have had more of a focus on getting more consistent power into our stroke, especially for the men," Morris said. "The women are upping their stroke rate for this race. They held a little bit back at the Ohio, and I think we can get a little bit more out of them and set a faster pace at the Charles."