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    September 29, 2022 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Shifting from long-course to short-course training took some transition time for members of Liberty University’s men’s swimming relay teams in last Friday’s exhibition meet against the University of Lynchburg’s NCAA Division III program at the Liberty Natatorium. The Flames won the majority of the individual events but lost both the 200-yard freestyle and 200 medley relays to the Hornets.

    “That was the learning curve for us,” Liberty fourth-year Head Coach Heath Grishaw said. “We were training long-course for the last month, then the day before the meet we switched to short-course. What killed us was our transitions off the walls and transitions off the relay starts.”

    It was the fourth time the Flames have hosted the Hornets, setting the pace for an action-packed fall semester. Friday’s meet was held in conjunction with the Lady Flames’ NCAA Division I team’s exhibition showdown with Lynchburg.

    “This was the best year for us in terms of creating great races, individual swims against the University of Lynchburg,” Grishaw said. “We had quite a few winners. We ended up sweeping the 100 backstroke, going 1-2-3, which was awesome, and the 100 butterfly, which was great.”

    Wood made a splash in his debut with the Flames.

    Liberty showcased its deep and talented freshman class, with Colin Wood winning the 500 free in 4 minutes, 58.32 seconds, and tied Lynchburg’s Erik Witt for first in the 200 individual medley (IM) in 2:04.43. Jonah Rhodenizer (2:03.06) beat Wood (2:04.41) for a 1-2 finish in the 200 fly while fellow freshman Jimmy Blackstone led the Flames’ sweep in the 100 fly in 54.11, edging sophomore Trent Kolter (55.01) and freshman Jonah Black (55.07). Two more freshmen, Walker Orbke (2:01.35) and Whittman Brown (1:47.03), won the 200 back and 200 free, respectively.

    Meanwhile, senior captains Matt Davidson and Carter Helsby scored well in their events with Davidson, a three-event winner at last spring’s College Club Swimming (CCS) National Championships, won the 100 back in 52.38, the 50 free in 21.79, and the 100 free in 47.95. Helsby finished first in the 200 breast in 2:21.35, edging sophomore Tyler Suchyj (2:21.41), who also placed second in the 100 breast in 1:03.28 followed by Helsby in 1:04.72. Kolter was second to Davidson in the 100 back in 55.07, followed by Blackstone (third in 55.68).

    Brown anchored the Flames’ 200 medley relay that finished 0.39 seconds behind the Hornets in 1:37.86, swimming the freestyle 50 after Davidson (back), Suchyj (breast), and Kolter (fly) swam the first three legs of the meet-opening race. In the meet-ending event, the 200 free relay, Brown, Rhodenizer, Kolter, and Davidson touched the wall 1.76 seconds behind Lynchburg’s top foursome in 1:29.86.

    Junior Christian Dilena placed fifth in the 200 breast stroke in 2:31.77 and seventh in the 200 breast.

    Grishaw said there could be many lineup changes in the relays before nationals, set for March 31-April 2 at Ohio State University. The Flames had five top-10 relay teams to help rack up enough points for a fifth-place team finish at last spring’s national meet, hosted by Georgia Tech

    “We’ve got so many freshmen, who we were seeing in action for the first time, that it’s too early to tell who’s going to be on those relays in April,” he said.

    In practices leading up to the Oct. 15-16 Eastern Regionals at the University of Maryland, Grishaw will look to streamline the relays’ turns and transitions, building on good habits he helped them establish in the preseason.

    “We are still focusing on the details within the races,” he said. “National qualifying standards just came out this week and they have all gotten faster from last season, so we’re excited now to go after them. We had goals where we needed to be by this first meet, and (each swimmer) will have another one just for Eastern Regionals.”

    There, the Flames will contend for their third title in a row, after winning their first in 2019 at Maryland when this year’s senior class members were freshmen, and qualify as many swimmers for nationals as possible. Grishaw expects the University of Virginia to provide the biggest threat to a three-peat.

    Liberty has opted to pull out of its scheduled meet at George Mason on Oct. 29 and instead swim at the Southern Regionals, set for Nov. 11-12 at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.

    “That one, we’re really excited about,” Grishaw said, noting that powerhouse programs such as FSU, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama will all be there. “The Southern Region has great schools to swim against, so (Assistant Coach Ben Klipp) and I decided to make that change to see where we’re at against really big schools and programs.”

    The Flames will not be in contention for a team title, only for national qualifying times.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video edited by Micah Adams