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    May 25, 2023 Oak Ridge, Tenn. RSS |

    Liberty University’s rowing team entered an eight-seat boat at this past weekend’s ACRA National Championships in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for the first time in Head Coach Debbie Prowse’s eight seasons at the helm, and the Women’s Novice 8 experienced the strongest showing of the four boats the Flames and Lady Flames rowed.

    That team, which had rowed to a silver medal behind only Purdue at the April 15-16 SIRA National Championships, reached Sunday’s Grand Final and placed sixth out of 13 boats in the division with a time of 7 minutes, 47.08 seconds on the 2,000-meter course on Melton Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

    Liberty’s Women’s Novice 8 celebrates its sixth-place performance in Sunday’s Grand Final.

    “That was a highlight finish for our team, after they made it to the A final by beating out Georgia Tech (by 0.3 seconds in 7:38.76) in (Saturday’s) repechage to advance to the A final,” Prowse said. “That was a neck-and-neck race all the way down the course. Our strategy was to get out fast and hold them off and they did put up a little bit of a fight into the last 20 strokes, when they got ahead of us, but we were able to come back and get the win. That was the best race of the weekend for them, which was awesome.”

    The Lady Flames were paced by rising junior Alaina Schaefer at coxswain, rising senior Devyn Bayle at stroke, and rowers Kayleigh Yohn, a rising junior, rising senior Alyssa Horne, rising sophomores Rebecca Kardoes, Allie Reed, Emily Tait, and Evelyn Edwards, and rising junior Faith Hartle.

    Overall, Liberty’s rowers faced challenging tests in their final regatta of the year, with the Flames’ Novice 4 placing 10th out of 31 entries in 7:20.787, capped by a fourth-place showing in Sunday’s extremely tight petite final; the Lady Flames’ Varsity 4 finishing 16th out of 24 boats in 8:25.95, which was the second-fastest time in Saturday’s C/D Final; and the Men’s Double rowing to a 16th-place showing out of 25 entries.

    The Flames’ Novice 4, featuring rising sophomore Kyle Meeker at coxswain, recent graduate Kody Herbert in the bow, rising sophomores Travis Hogan in the 2 seat and Gideon Abbott in the 3 seat, and rising junior John Bailey at stroke, finished fourth in the petite final behind only boats from Michigan (7:15.67), Bucknell (7:18.66), and Boston College (7:19.81) and ahead of crews from Florida State (7:21.15) and Georgia Tech (7:21.88).

    Complete results are available online.

    “There was some great racing, and a lot of great competition,” Prowse said. “We were prepared for that, knowing that everyone’s bringing their A game.”

    She was extremely satisfied with the strides the team as a whole made this season.

    “The kids are doing great, and are on a good trajectory,” Prowse said. “Our Women’s 8 had a phenomenal year this year and we are looking forward to moving up to the varsity level next year, as we are excited about the novice men adding to our varsity men.”

    With 20 of the 23 rowers and coxswains the Flames and Lady Flames took to nationals returning for next season, Prowse would like to add 12 or more for next season to raise the roster to 32.

    “If I had 50 kids try out, I would take them (because) the more you have, the more you have to pull from to fill those top boats, and the better quality you can get overall,” she said. “Big teams with 50-60 people deep have more people to pull from and compete for those top seats, and we are looking to build that intrasquad competition.”

    She has issued returning rowers workout plans to follow over the summer months to stay in condition for the fall semester, when the regattas will extend to 5,000-meters in length.

    “We are adding in some cross-training, things they enjoy doing on their free time, aside from erging and running,” Prowse said. “We want them to be staying active, fit, and set goals over the summer, keeping up with their strength training as well as their cardio, through biking or hiking or swimming or running.”

    She is also meeting with Club Sports administrators to seek a closer practice location than Smith Mountain Lake, where the team currently has its boathouse, with a 40-minute commute each way.

    “Finding somewhere closer to campus where we could practice on water five days per week is critical for the advancement of our athletes,” Prowse said. “I feel we are doing amazingly well for the size of our team on a national level, but competing against teams twice our size that have twice the number of days on the water, we may have maxed out our performance levels working with what we have.”

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer

    The Flames and Lady Flames brought more than 20 rowers to nationals and look to expand their roster to more than 30 in the fall.