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Creighton rowing entering its 25th season in Division 1

Posted: 7:10 PM, May 02, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-02 20:10:17-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Creighton women's rowing team has been competing in the division since 1994, and practices regularly at Carter Lake.

Many fans in the area don't know the team exists and even fewer know that they practice at 5:30 a.m.

"I set one at 4:30, 4:40, 4:45, 4:50, 5:00 and 5:10, because I will not wake up to just one" said Bernie Lyons, a freshman coxswain on the team.

Bernie Lyons looks less athlete and more student.

"I never played any sports, I wasn't athletic at all, and then rowing became something that relieved stress," Lyons said.

But don't mess with her on the water. Bernie's the coxswain, the woman in charge on board. The women on her ship react to her every command.

"I kind of relate it to jockeying on a horse, like you're not the power but you control how the power is put into place," Lyons said.

"Rowing a 2000-meter race, which takes a little under seven minutes, it's like playing two back-to-back basketball games in a matter of seven minutes," said Dan Chipps, the head coach of the program.

Chipps is in his 19th year as the Jays head coach.

"When your 25 and they say, 'you wanna be a head coach,' you're like when do I need to show up," Chipps said. "I've kept showing up."

Currently, there are 88 programs at the Division I level in the Midwest such as Kansas, K-State, Iowa, Oklahoma and Minnesota. It's only offered by the NCAA as a women's sport.

"Most big-time football schools use women's rowing as the Title IX counteraction to football," Chipps said.

Unlike almost every other NCAA sport, most are walk-ons, with the majority never stepping into a boat until their freshmen year.

"Most of them were a good athlete in high school but not good enough to do that sport in the Division I level, so they come and they try something new," said Chipps.

Whether they're new or not, the goal is the same as other sports where teamwork wins championships.

"It's basically like an art-form, there's not other sport like it," Lyons said. "You really have to focus in and everything has to be in line with the person in front of you."