Liberty’s crew team finds new practice facility at Smith Mountain Lake
Liberty University’s club sports crew team received a new practice facility southwest of Lynchburg — Smith Mountain Lake — providing the team with a larger and safer practice space.
In the past, the crew team practiced at Ivy Lake, located in Forest, Virginia, but the team had concerns with that location due to size.
The team then moved to Leesville Lake, which is on the other side of the Smith Mountain Lake Dam.
“The problem there was that the lake fluctuates too much so that you get a lot of shallow areas (and) you get a lot of floating debris when the lake does rise, so conditions down there weren’t suitable for the expensive crew shells that we row in,” Coach Debbie Prowse said. “Smith Mountain Lake is much cleaner, and the depth doesn’t fluctuate as much, so you know where shallow areas are, you know where deep water is and you don’t have as much floating debris.”
Some of the crew team’s boats hold up to eight people, making them almost too large for Ivy Lake.
“Rowing is a sport that involves a lot of distance, and we need to be in good depth,” Londoño said. “The lake needs to be very calm, and not every lake fulfills those conditions, but Smith Mountain Lake does.”
According to Londoño, the team encounters most of the boats during summer, but since crew season occupies fall, winter and spring, boat traffic is not as prevalent.
“We haven’t had any negative encounters while at Smith Mountain Lake,” Londoño said. “Whenever boaters see us, they keep a respectful distance, and because of traffic laws, we know where to get in and where to get out; there are also a lot of signals that indicate the depth, what you might encounter and where you are in the lake.”
Crew is made up of both male and female members, and there are usually around 14 team members.
“With 14 people, and everyone being so different, you get to learn a lot about different cultures and why these people are doing crew,” Londoño said. “It’s small enough that you can be vulnerable with people, and it’s the perfect blend of personal communication and a good team environment.”
Lodoño is originally from Colombia and never had the opportunity to practice crew until coming to Liberty.
“I’ve always been lured by the opportunity to do crew, but I had never had the opportunity because rowing is not big in South America,” Lodoño said.
Any student can try out for crew, and unlike most collegiate sports, no previous experience is required. Tryouts consist of three days, which include a series of rigorous physical exercises and technique training.
“I love how hard crew makes me push myself,” Lodoño said. “It’s one of those sports that, while you’re doing it, you feel so tired you want to pass out, but you’re constantly surprised at how much your body can endure and how good of a physical condition you can achieve.”
Lodoño believes crew has helped him become the best he can be.
“Rowing makes me realize how much my body can persevere, and it just makes me a better person: more balanced with my life, more balanced with my friends, more disciplined,” Lodoño said. “Rowing becomes a huge part of your life, and I am very grateful that through rowing, I have developed good team membership, and I can strive to be the best version of myself that I can be, every day.”
The crew team will be in Chattanooga, Tennessee Nov. 2 for their next race at the Head of the Hooch event.