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    April 4, 2022 Marlborough, Mass. RSS |

    The nine competitors from Liberty University’s taekwondo team who traveled to Marlborough, Mass., for the National Collegiate Taekwondo Association (NCTA) National Championships racked up three color belt medals on Saturday and three black belt medals — including two national championship golds — on Sunday.

    “We know we have a small team, but we ended up as far as our medal count a lot higher than teams that brought a whole lot more people,” Head Coach Tom Childress said, noting that there were well over 400 competitors in the tournament. “They were willing to go out there and put it all on the line and their hard work and dedication payed off. It was a really strong showing, and we were very competitive in every single division we competed in.”

    Junior Jenna Greene defeated Cornell’s Jodie Gao in the women’s black belt lightweight class championship match after winning her quarterfinal bout against UNC Chapel Hill’s Amy Xu in the quarterfinals and her semifinal match against the University of Washington’s Aidi Ma.

    In the men’s black belt middleweight division, Flames freshman Leonardo Chang advanced to the gold medal match with a semifinal victory over UNC Chapel Hill’s Zachary Johnston before capturing his national title with a win over Colorado Boulder’s John Lacey.

    “Jenna breezed through everybody, and never trailed in any match,” Childress said. “Leo was only behind in one match and that was the final, when he trailed 6-2 by the end of the first round. It was just a dominant performance by both of those athletes.”

    Reyna Collazo received a bronze medal in the women’s black belt fin weight class after losing her semifinal match to Yesmin Chua from the University of Texas Austin, the overall team champion which brought 47 color belt competitors.

    In Saturday’s color belt competition, Katherine Rioux (women’s yellow/white belt middle/heavyweight) captured a silver medal after falling to Aspen Kimlicko of the University of Colorado Boulder in the final. She had beaten NYU’s Bradi Washington in the quarterfinals before defeating Vermont’s Alexandra Bakhareva in the semifinals.

    Stephanie Yuen also struck silver after dropping her women’s blue belt middle/heavyweight final match to the University of California Davis’ Yuerui Wu.

    Sophomore Chyanne Armes was awarded a bronze medal in the women’s fin/flyweight division of the women’s green belt bracket after being ousted by Washington’s Lauren Ng in the semifinals.

    “For everybody, this was literally their first collegiate competition, and none had been to nationals before,” Childress said. “I couldn’t ask for a better performance from anyone. It was absolutely amazing. They did an outstanding job.”

    “We had gone so long without competition, but the great thing was we have been preparing for competition, so it wasn’t unexpected,” he added. “We knew the caliber of athletes we had and what they were capable of. True to form, with their character, they were so ready to go. I had court-side seats to watch it, and I would stand in awe of them all the time. It was a blessing to see.”

    In the women’s white/yellow belt lightweight/welterweight division, junior Sophia Adams lost a 2-0 decision in overtime to NYU’s top-seeded Nikol Uribe Guiza in the round of 16.

    “She put up one heck of a performance,” Childress said. “Our only other two competitors who didn’t medal — freshmen Ashton Moger and Noah Butcher — lost to the eventual divisional champions.”

    Butcher was eliminated in the round of 16 of the men’s white/yellowbelt bantam/featherweight division by Arizona State’s Phillip Donnelley before Moger defeated Brown’s Ivan Sung and was beaten in the men’s blackbelt featherweight round of eight by Washington’s Jeremy Fredricks.

    With a few hours of free time after Sunday’s final round of competition, the team went to an adventure park and rode go-carts and tried their hands at high-rope adventures to celebrate their performances.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer

    Yellow/white belt middle/heavyweight silver medalist Katherine Rioux (from left), Head Coach Tom Childress with blue belt silver medalist Stephanie Yuen, and black belt women’s lightweight and men’s middleweight gold medalists Jenna Greene and Leo Chang pose at the podium.