Club Sports News

Rowers strive to crest opponents' wakes at Occoquan Sprints

April 6, 2014  |  Occoquan, Va. 

Members of the crew team are pictured at Camp Hydaway over Candler's Mountain in Lynchburg, Va., on Feb. 28, 2014. test test test test
Members of the crew team are pictured at Camp Hydaway over Candler's Mountain in Lynchburg, Va., on Feb. 28, 2014.

Liberty University's crew team did some fine-tuning for the April 18-19 SIRA Championships in Oak Ridge, Tenn., at Sunday's Occoquan Sprints, hosted by George Mason University.

"It was some good last-minute preparation time to see what we need to change for SIRAs," Liberty Head Coach Sarah Morris said.

Sunday's regatta was considerably smaller than last weekend's John Hunter Regatta in Gainesville, Ga., with only 31 schools participating, some of them from area high schools.

"We got to race against William & Mary, Duke, Susquehanna, Duquesne, James Madison University, George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Naval Academy, and Loyola," Morris said. "Those were the major schools and they were really good competitors."

Liberty sent seven boats with mixed results. The Lady Flames' Novice Women's 8 entered the finals as the weakest boat by about 20 seconds, but closed the gap significantly, rowing a time of 8:20.99 to barely lose to Loyola (8:20.57).

"They actually really had a great race and to stick with boats that previously were about 20 seconds faster than them earlier in the morning, that was very impressive," Morris said.

She was forced to make an unexpected lineup shift in the Flames' Men's Varsity Lightweight 4 lineup when sophomore Joel Buckhalt came down with a 102-degree fever.

"One big, last-minute change was moving Novice (rower) Kevin Brown (a freshman) to replace Joel after he got sick 20 minutes before they were scheduled to get in the boat," Morris said. "They still did well all things considered. That was the first time they rowed in that lineup and we made the switch on the water because Kevin raced in the Novice Men's 4 moments before."

The team took about a 1,000-meter warmup lap before retreating to the starting line for the 2,000-meter sprint final and placed fifth out of six boats in 7:27.74.

"We weren't too sure what to expect because they had that last-minute flop in the lineup, but they did really well," Morris said.

Liberty's Novice Men‘s 8 didn't place very well in its heat (sixth in 8:00.78), but its rowing was greatly improved from the John Hunter Regatta.

"They looked very good and when they got off the water they said they felt more together and unified on the water, so it was encouraging to hear that from them," Morris said.

The Lady Flames also entered a pair, sophomore Rachel Williams and freshman Debbie Martin, in the Women's 2 final and they finished fourth out of five boats in 9:46.50.

"They did really well first time competing in a pair boat so that was exciting," Morris said. "Each person has just one oar so each person has to be exactly on or they have a really rough race. They just missed a podium finish."

Liberty's Men's Novice 8 placed fourth out of five in the Petite Final in 7:37:57 and its Men's Novice 4 finished fifth out of six in its heat in 7:53.74.

Complete results from the Occoquan Sprints are posted online.

Morris expects to compete against many of the same teams at the SIRA Championships. That two-day regatta will feature both club and NCAA teams, but they will be separated and Liberty will only race in the club category with the four or five boats it brings — one varsity 4, two novice 4s, a novice men's 8, and the novice women's pair of Martin and Williams.

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