Rowers hit the water for first regatta of spring semester
March 29, 2014 | Gainesville, Ga.
Liberty University's crew team brought eight boats — six novice and two varsity — to Saturday's 28th annual John Hunter Regatta on Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Ga., site of the rowing events in the 1996 Summer Olympics. A total of 56 schools competed in foggy, rainy, and sometimes windy conditions, with the top two finishers in most races advancing to the final heats.
"Overall, we did really well," Liberty Head Coach Sarah Morris said. "We had parents come in from Kansas and Canada so that was amazing to see the support of parents during this regatta."
It was the team's first outdoor event of the semester following two indoor ergometer races in February.
"It was good to be on the water again and the temperature of the air and water in Georgia were warmer so it definitely boosted their spirits," Morris said.
The team has been practicing on Leesville Lake, about a 40-minute drive south of Lynchburg, while the water level at Ivy Lake, their normal training location in Forest, is lowered to work on the dam.
Three of the boats that are primed to turn in some swift rows this semester are the Men's Varsity Lightweight 4 and Women's and Men's Collegiate Novice 4s, according to Morris.
Junior Taylor Hardin served as coxswain for the Men's Collegiate Lightweight 4 with sophomore captain Joel Buckhalt rowing in the stroke seat followed by senior vice captain Robert Newman, senior Mitchell Dieudonne, and sophomore Samuel Knauss in bow. The boat finished fourth out of five in its heat in 8 minutes, 39.1 seconds, the fifth-fastest time out of nine entries in two heats.
"This boat did particularly well," Morris said. "It was a fight the whole race trying to stay with Emory (University, 8:30.1), which pulled away in the last 750 meters, and with Northwestern (University, 8:41.9) chasing them down the whole race. It was a very exciting finish to watch."
In a 16-boat race, the Lady Flames' Women's Collegiate Novice 8 tied for fifth place with Northwestern University in 9:45.2. The freshman-loaded boat featured Linda Branch at coxswain and Debbie Martin in the stroke seat followed by Kathleen Lopp , Kayla Sims, Emily Berguson, Abigail Bingham, Lauren VonCannon, Abigail Sweeney, and Carolyn Olieirva Nascimento in bow.
"They are a strong group of girls who pushed through well in the race rowing together with some of the best rowing I've seen this semester from them," Morris said. "I have high hopes for them this coming season."
Liberty entered two Men's Collegiate Novice 4 boats in the same event, with the fastest led by coxswain Kristen Mallory and freshman Kevin Brown in the stroke seat followed by Josh Herts, Kevin Gilmartin, and Kekoa Ellingson in bow — placing 14th out of 30 boats in 8:38.7.
"This is another boat that I have high hopes for this season," Morris said. "Finishing in the top half of a group of rowers who have had a lot more time on the water than them is an incredible feat."
Morris also put two boats in the Women's Collegiate Novice 4 field, with the one featuring Branch at coxswain and Martin in stroke seat followed by Lopp, Sims, and Berguson in bow crossing the finish line fastest in 9:03.2.
"This boat was impressive finishing 16th out of 26 NCAA teams as well as club teams," Morris said. "This is a group of very strong and able rowers."
The Flames Men's Collegiate Novice 8 team was aided by a strong tailwind to finish 15th out of 20 overall boats in 7:47.2.
"Most of the rowers in this boat have only had seven days on the water so they held their own against some tough competition," Morris said.
Brian Natzke rowed in the stroke seat backed up by Kevin Brown, Christian Norris, Herts, Zachary Dehli, Linden Penner, Jacob Hillis, and Trevor Prescott in bow.\
The Women's Collegiate Varsity 4 lineup of Ron Beimel at coxswain and Kylie Peterson as stroke seat followed by Haley Halstead, Anna Claire Shcellenberg, and Rachel Williams in bow finished sixth out of seven in its heat and 16th out of 20 overall in 9:05.2.
Complete results are available online.
"This race has shown us where we stand among some of the largest names out there on the East Coast," Morris said. "Next weekend, as we look to Occoquan Sprints, a slightly smaller regatta on Sunday, I am excited to see what we can do among the schools closer to us."