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Liberty Natatorium Grand Opening Set for Friday

January 24, 2018  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty Natatorium Grand Opening Set for Friday

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A bevy of activities highlight the Liberty Natatorium Grand Opening Meet, held Friday and Saturday at Liberty Natatorium. The tri-meet between Liberty, George Mason and VMI also features senior day and an alumnae reunion on Saturday.

Grand Opening festivities begin at 5:45 p.m. on Friday, featuring comments from Liberty President Jerry Falwell, Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance CEO Meghan Lucas, Liberty Women's Swimming & Diving Head Coach Jake Shellenberger and Liberty Director of Athletics Ian McCaw. Following a dedicatory prayer by Dr. Ed Gomes will be a ribbon cutting ceremony.

On Saturday morning will be an alumnae reunion, highlighting the women who helped build the program into a success. Just prior to Saturday's 11 a.m. start time, Liberty will honor its seven swimming & diving seniors – Danielle Boothe, Rachel Hoeve, Morgan Noonan, Chelsea Pond, Prudence Rooker, Ashlee Sall and Christine Young.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
Friday night's action will be available through a live video stream on the Big South Network. Fans can follow live results by downloading the MeetMobile app.

The Facility
The Liberty Natatorium is one of the top collegiate swimming & diving venues in the nation. Located beneath the LU monogram at the base of Liberty Mountain, the facility features a nine-lane, 50-meter pool with a movable bulkhead. A separate 17-foot-deep diving well includes 1- and 3-meter springboards and a three-column tower, featuring 1, 3, 5, 7.5 and 10-meter platforms.

The facility has a seating capacity of 1,414 with wraparound, three-sided bowl seating along the 25-yard racing portion of the pool. Other features include a 13.6' x 43' main swimming video board, a secondary 6' x 10' diving scoreboard, 21-foot decks, a 720-square-foot athletic training room, varsity locker rooms, a 1,600-square-foot team lounge, a 1,400-square-foot wet classroom and an Elite Model Endless Pool.

Liberty opened the facility Dec. 1-2 with the Central Virginia Duals, defeating Campbell. The Lady Flames own a 3-0 record inside Liberty Natatorium, also downing UNC Asheville and Marshall.

The Liberty Natatorium is located adjacent to the Liberty Indoor Track Complex, beneath the LU monogram off of Candlers Mountain Road. The road leading back to the facility may be found directly across the street from the Fairfield Inn & Suites. The hotel's address is 3777 Candlers Mountain Road, Lynchburg, VA 24502.

Liberty's women's team will compete against both VMI and George Mason, while VMI and George Mason will also go head-to-head in men's swimming & diving. George Washington will enter its divers at this weekend's meet.

Liberty is 4-0 all-time against VMI, including a 215-35 victory over the Keydets at the Virginia Tech Sprint Challenge on Oct. 20, 2017, while the Lady Flames will meet George Mason for the first time in program history.

So far this season, Liberty holds a 9-2 record, including 5-0 against CCSA opponents. The Lady Flames nearly knocked off defending Big 12 runner-up Kansas and have picked up conference wins over Campbell (twice), Gardner-Webb, Georgia Southern and UNC Asheville. Liberty has won each of its last seven dual meets, beginning with a win over Queens at the Virginia Tech Sprint Challenge on Oct. 20, and has a chance to tie the program in-season winning streak record of nine, set at the end of both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.

Weekly Honors
Senior Prudence Rooker was named CCSA Women's Swimmer of the Week each of the last two weeks, becoming the first athlete in program history to be named Women's Swimmer of the Week in back-to-back weeks. Liberty has now had at least one CCSA Swimmer of the Week each of the eight seasons in program history.

Earlier this season, junior Amy Schools was named CCSA Women's Diver of the Week on Oct. 10 and again on Dec. 5. Schools is the fourth Lady Flame to earn CCSA Diver of the Week honors, and first since teammate Jenna Joyal, Oct. 11, 2016.

In last Saturday's meet at Marshall, Rooker won the 100 breaststroke (1:03.99), 200 breaststroke (2:18.91) and 200 IM (2:06.06), all three serving as the fastest times by a Lady Flame in that respective event this season. Hannah Baker won the 200 freestyle in a team season-best 1:52.24, while Lindsey Cohee claimed victory in both the 100 fly and 200 fly.

Liberty placed second at the FGCU Triple Distance Classic, Jan. 5 in Fort Myers, Fla. For the meet, the Lady Flames won seven individual events and one relay. Liberty got three wins from Rooker (50 breaststroke, 100 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke), and two from junior Alicia Finnigan (50 fly, 100 fly). Finnigan was named the meet's butterfly triple-distance champion, while Rooker was named the meet's breaststroke champion. Baker won the 200 free, while Brittany Weiss claimed victory in the 100 backstroke.

Finnigan led the way for Liberty with three individual-event wins (200 fly, 500 free, 1000 free) at the Central Virginia Duals, Dec. 1-2 in Lynchburg. She swam a season-best 2:02.09 to win the 200 fly. Finnigan won the 200 fly at the 2017 conference meet, before setting a conference record, with a time of 1:56.15 at the Bulldog Last Chance Meet to qualify for the NCAA Championships. She then tied for 10th place in the 200-meter butterfly at the Phillips 66 National Championships in the summer.

Rooker has won each of the last nine individual events she has entered, beginning with the 200 breaststroke at the Central Virginia Duals. Rooker is a five-time podium finisher at the conference level, including three medal performances in 2017. Last season, she placed second at the CCSA Championships in the 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke and 200 IM. Rooker swam B cuts in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM.

Starting last season, Rachel Hoeve has been dominant in the 50 free. She won the event 11 straight times in dual-meet action, including a season-best 23.30 on Dec. 1. Hoeve's streak was broken on Jan. 13, placing second by .01 of a second. She made three A Finals appearances at the 2017 CCSA Championships, highlighted by a fourth-place finish in the 50 free in a NCAA B cut, personal-best 22.76. Her 22.76 50 free is tied for third in program history.   

Weiss' 54.59 to win the 100 back at the Frank Elm Invite is the fastest 100 backstroke by any CCSA swimmer so far this season. She has won the 100 back seven out of eight times she has entered it this season, including six straight. Weiss earned Most Outstanding Freshman of the CCSA Meet in 2017. She won the CCSA 100 back in program-record, NCAA B cut time, 53.42. She also swam a B cut in the 100 fly, placing fifth in 54.15.

Hannah Baker has won the 200 freestyle in each of the last four meets, including a team season-best 1:52.24 last Saturday. She edged teammate Hoeve, 23.60 to 23.61, on Jan. 13, ending Hoeve's 11-race winning streak in the 50 free.

Liberty's relays had great performances at Virginia Tech. The 200 free relay of Hoeve, Colleen Donlin, Weiss and Baker won in 1:33.79, .01 seconds ahead of Virginia Tech's A team. Liberty's 200 medley relay placed third, but their time of 1:43.07 was the third-fastest regular-season 200 medley relay time in program history.

Freshman Cohee has been impressive early on in her career, posting three wins each in both the 100 fly and 200 fly. She is already fifth on the program's all-time top 10 performers list in the 200 fly (2:02.02), seventh in the 100 fly (55.93) and 10th in the 400 IM (4:39.14). Cohee has posted the fastest 100 fly and 200 fly time on the team in both events.

Payton Keiner has claimed victory in the 200 back five times this season. Her season-best 2:01.50 at the Frank Elm Invitational ranks sixth all-time in program history for the event. She is also ranked fourth in program history in the 50 backstroke (26.49), eighth in the 1000 freestyle (10:26.52) and ninth in the 100 back (55.99).

A pair of additional freshmen have entered the program's top 10 this season, in Kiah Francis (400 IM – 5th in 4:32.59; 100 IM – 9th in 1:01.08; 200 IM – 10th in 2:07.54) and Emily Manly (400 IM – 6th in 4:33.13).

Two Lady Flames have scored over 200 points in one-meter diving this season, led by Amy Schools' 216.15 at the Central Virginia Duals. Jenna Joyal scored 206.11 on Saturday, and she ranks third all-time in program history for one-meter diving with a 223.25 on Nov. 20, 2016. Schools is fifth in program history in both one-meter (216.15) and three-meter (184.35) diving.

Head Coach Jake Shellenberger is in his eighth season at the helm, guiding the program since the inaugural 2010-11 campaign. He has posted an 82-30 dual-meet record, twice being named CCSA Women's Swimming Coach of the Year. His teams have gone 47-14 against CCSA competition.

George Mason
George Mason finished seventh at the 2017 Atlantic 10 Championships, scoring 306.5 points. The Patriots have posted a 5-5 overall record this season, including 2-4 against A-10 opponents. Most recently, GMU went 2-1 at a home quad meet, defeating American and Boston University while falling to Army West Point.

A founding member of the CCSA in 2007, VMI made its final appearance as a conference member at the 2017 CCSA Championships. The Keydets have joined the America East Conference, starting this season. VMI is in search of its first victory of the 2017-18 season, with an 0-11 record.

This weekend's meet will bring Liberty's regular-season schedule to a close. The Lady Flames will next compete at the 2018 CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships, held Feb. 14-17 at Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens, Ga. Liberty will aim for its second conference championship and first since 2014.