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Verified & Recognized: Freshman Rower Beats World Records During Practice - Spring 2021

by Rod Jones and Rich Tortorelli

Photos by Josh Robinson

In fall 2020, Oklahoma City University rower Ruthie Lacy set official world records on the rowing machine for two timed categories in the 17–18 age group.

Lacy set the one-minute record on Sept. 28 and followed that up with the four-minute record on Nov. 19. The freshman soon-to-be nursing major posted a mark of 317 meters for the former and 1,116 meters on the latter.

Lacy established the records at Devon Boathouse, home of OCU rowing and canoe/kayak, while performing workouts on the indoor rowing machines. OCU rowing coach Hadzo Habibovic submitted videos of her attempts, and rowing machine manufacturer Concept2 recognized the marks.

“We were doing some short interval pieces one practice and realized Ruthie was pretty close to world-record speed, so we looked up the one-minute world record for her age category and saw it was attainable,” Habibovic said. “We planned on attempting the world record a few days later, and she happened to crush it. We are pretty proud of her, and this is just a clear product of her determination and the hard work she’s put into her rowing career. She’s an extremely driven athlete, and I’m truly excited to see what else she’s going to accomplish this year.”

Lacy said she didn’t realize she was capable of beating the records and didn’t change her training to achieve that accomplishment. “Breaking the records was secondary to actual practice,” she said, but “it felt pretty awesome!”

Lacy started rowing in middle school after a friend introduced her to the sport.

“She was naturally competitive, like me,” Lacy said. “On my birthday, I came down here (to the Oklahoma River) to watch a practice. It looked like a work of art, like a graceful dance on the water, so I thought I’d get into it, too.”

With two world records under her belt, the metro-area native is shooting for more. On her 19th birthday, she progressed to the next age category and started chasing those marks.

It’s no surprise to those she trains with that Lacy has Olympic aspirations. Even though much of her time is dedicated to training (waking up at 4 a.m. every weekday to start practice at 5:30, in addition to evening sessions on Mondays and Fridays), she’s somehow managed to condense her anticipated academic calendar to finish college a year early, just in time for a chance to train and compete in the 2024 Olympic games.

Athletes use indoor rowing machines to simulate the action of watercraft rowing to train. Although the actual boat is different, the machines are “all power. In a boat, there’s more of a technical side. It feels a little different but these ergs (rowing machines) really show your strength,” Lacy noted.

As a prep rower, Lacy competed for OKC RIVERSPORT. She captured the lightweight women’s title in the USRowing Youth National Championships last summer.

Born in Luther before moving to Oklahoma City, Lacy says she’d like to stay local after finishing her nursing degree.

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