INDIANAPOLIS — After letting the Big Ten championship get away to that school up north a couple weeks earlier, there was some extra determination among members of the Ohio State rowing team to make up for it in the NCAA national championships.
That they did.
With Logan High School graduate Grace Libben rowing with the First Varsity Eight, the Buckeyes recently finished fifth overall at the national event in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Libben, a junior at Ohio State, teamed with Anjali Fernandes, Leonie Heuer, Ida Petersen, Lexie Nothdurft, Ida Kruse, Jessy Vermeer, Alessandra Montesano and Sierra Tiede to finish sixth in the First Varsity Eight race with a clocking of 6:11.042 in the Grand Finals.
The OSU boat was seeded eighth entering the race.
Washington (132 points) swept every race to earn the national championship, followed by Texas (125), Michigan (119), Stanford (116), OSU (105) and California (103) out of 22 NCAA Division I teams.
“I am really proud of how we finished,” Libben said earlier this week. “We finished higher than we were seeded going into the championships. After Big Tens, my boat (teammates) and I made the decision to go out every day determined to have a good row.
“This mindset really helped us going into the championships,” she added. “Throughout this season, our team overall battled lots of sickness and injury so faced a lot of adversity. On top of that, we were a really young team, with only four seniors and only about nine or ten athletes that had been to NCAAs previously.”
According to the OSU athletic department, the fifth-place finish is the Buckeyes’ 12th top-five placing in program history, with their last top-five being a fifth in 2017.
The OSU Second Varsity Eight (6:20.449) and First Varsity Four (6:59.256) both finished fifth in their respective races to contribute to the team score.
Two weeks earlier, Michigan (186 points) held off Ohio State (171) to claim the Big Ten championship in Baraboo, Wisconsin, where the OSU First Varsity Eight was second (6:24.504) to Michigan (6:22.012) in its race.
Libben, a 2016 LHS graduate who did not expect to be extended an invitation to join the rowing team when she attended OSU freshman orientation a few years ago, has worked her way up from the novice program to the main boat.
Pretty good progress for someone who had basically never heard of the sport prior to going to Columbus. She was a two-year letter-winner as a cheerleader and lettered in volleyball as a senior at LHS.
“Rowing is a tough sport, there is no doubt about that,” she said. “Physically, it is probably the hardest thing I have done, but I respect the process of what we have to do to be successful. Waking up at 5 a.m. every day of the week isn’t exactly every college student’s idea of fun, but its what we have to do.
“Rowing or erging (which is using the indoor rowing machine called the ergometer) twice a day and lifting four times a week can start to get mentally and physically taxing,” she continued, “but when you are going through tough practices with the girls in front, behind, or beside you, you know you are all working towards something bigger than yourself.”
This fall, Grace will be entering her senior year at Ohio State, where she is carrying on a long-standing tradition of producing Buckeye alums on the Skinner side of her family.
Jim and Mary Skinner of Union Furnace have five children — John, Janet, Jim, Joe and Jean, Grace’s mother — and all of them are OSU graduates. They are not only the proud parents of five OSU alumni, but they are also proud grandparents of four grandchildren who will be attending The Ohio State University this fall, including Grace’s brother, Dawson, who will be a freshman.
Two other Skinner grandchildren have already graduated from OSU as well.
Grace is studying public health on the environmental track with a minor in health, environment, risk, and science communications. After graduation she plans to go into the public health field and still possibly pursue something in the healthcare field.
She’s certainly busy enough for now, and rowing is a huge part of her life.
“Even though it is a lot of hard work, I love it and would encourage anyone to try it if they have the chance, even here locally,” she said. “There is no better feeling than having a strong and powerful row on a beautiful day.
“Actually, we had the chance to row on Lake Las Vegas this past season, and it was one of the most beautiful venues that we have rowed at,” she added. “It was crazy because we were on a lake in the middle of the desert and all around us, you could see mountains and the houses. It was just beautiful.”