Crew teams reach B Finals at SIRA Championships in Tenn.
April 19, 2014 | Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Liberty University's men's and women's crew teams entered a total of four boats in Friday and Saturday's Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association (SIRA) Championships on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn., with the Novice Men's 4 boat leaving competitors in its wake to advance to the B Finals.
"We only brought our strongest, best competitor rowers as this was our last prep race and the qualifying race leading into nationals," Liberty Head Coach Sarah Morris said, referring to the May 24-25 American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) Nationals in Gainesville, Ga. "It shows us the little things we need to fix over the next month or so, what we need to clean up now."
Crews from a total of 66 clubs competed, mostly from the southern and southeastern section of the United States, including Florida, Georgia, and Texas, with others traveling from as far north as Princeton (N.J.), Temple (Pa.), and Purdue (Ind.).
"All of our boats did really well, but the Novice Men's 4 was definitely the highlight," Morris said. "They came in as underdogs in their heat and I told them if they wanted to make it to the semifinals, they would have to give everything they had and they did."
Freshman Kevin Brown was in the stoke seat of that boat, backed up by Joshua Hurt, senior Kevin Gilmartin and box seat rower Kekoa Ellingson with Kristen Mallory serving as the coxswain. They finished second out of four boats in their preliminary heat in 7 minutes, 48.6 seconds.
"They did extremely well," Morris said. "In (Friday's) time trials, only the top three made it through, so making it into the semifinals was a huge deal. They were a really big surprise for us."
The Flames finished fourth out of seven entries in Saturday's semifinals in 7:50.3 to reach the B final.
Morris said just 12 seconds separated the six boats in the B final, where they finished sixth in 7:59.10, just a half-second behind Purdue.
"When they got to the finals, they got last in their heat, but they raced well and definitely tried to catch some boats," Morris said, noting the team placed 12th out of 22 boats overall. "It was a really good competition."
Liberty's Lightweight Men's 4 finished sixth out of seven boats in Saturday's final in 7:34.80, completing the course ahead of Purdue (7:58).
"There was a pretty strong crosswind on the course when the lightweight fours went out, which created a challenge for them," Morris said.
"They definitely raced competitively with some of the best rowing they've had this semester so far, so that was a good sign," Morris said. "It just wasn't enough to catch the boats at the end of the race. That whole heat was very tough. Someone would make a move and other boats would counteract that move."
In the Women's Pair competition, Liberty substituted in freshmen Carolyn Nascimento and Abby Sweeney, who advanced to the B final where they placed 10th in 8:24.80, just a half second behind a team from Tampa.
"It was a really good experience for Carolyn and Abby," Morris said. "They came in last place, but had a little incident on the course and had to come to a stop for about 30 seconds. They did really well to catch back up, just not quite enough to pass a boat."
The Women's Novice 4 team of freshmen Debbie Martin (stoke seat) and Emily Berguson, Kayla Simms, and Lauren VonCannon — who was subbing in for injured freshman Kathleen Lopp — and sophomore coxswain Rachel Williams placed sixth in its heat in 9:14.1.
Complete results are available online.